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In Bluebeard's Castle: Some Notes Towards the Redefinition of Culture
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In Bluebeard's Castle: Some Notes Towards the Redefinition of Culture

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  358 ratings  ·  31 reviews
“Four impressive lectures about the culture of recent times (from the French Revolution) and the conceivable culture of times to come. Mr. Steiner’s discussion of the break with the traditional literary past (Jewish, Christian, Greek, and Latin) is illuminating and attractively undogmatic. He writes as a man sharing ideas, and his original notions, though scarcely ...more
Paperback, 154 pages
Published September 10th 1974 by Yale University Press (first published 1971)
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Jul 31, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's quite remarkable to wend through this one hundred-plus page essay by Steiner—a brilliantly erudite and precisely expressive man whose prose both demands close attention and rewards such with epistemic and aesthetic wonders—and discover that back in 1971 he was exploring, in fittingly bidirectional fashion, many aspects of what he labeled Western Post-culture—its societal and psychological roots, forms, and functions, its evolutionary tendencies and cicatricial remnants, its immanence in ...more
Sep 19, 2013 marked it as to-read
Available online:
Part 1 ("The Great Ennui")
Part 2 ("A Season in Hell")
Part 3 ("In a Post-Culture")
Part 4 ("Tomorrow")
Jim Coughenour
Jul 13, 2007 rated it really liked it
George Steiner, the polysyllabic polymath, is easy to make fun of — and I have to confess, I can hardly read him any more. But for at least 20 years I bought everything he wrote, immersed myself in his Deep Thoughts (always expressed in his over-determined, comically qualified, trademark apocalyptic syntax) — and he gave me many hours of learned pleasure. At bottom he's an entertainer, a dramatist, a great teacher — someone who even as he overwhelms you with his obvious erudition, makes you feel ...more
John Pistelli
Steiner is a wonderful writer; his prose is rich with allusion, concisely learned, grave in its movements. It does sometimes approach a self-serving melodrama, as James Wood once famously noted; it could stand to be aerated by some humor--even, in keeping with its classical bearings, if only of high wit. This lapse indicates a flaw in Steiner's argument: the fault in much culturally conservative discourse is in construing tradition as a kind of monolith, titanic and marmoreal. Steiner is too ...more
Daniela S.
Oct 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I took too much time reading this, but I have a reason for that: I have to write an essay (5 pages) about this book, so I really had to take some time. BUt, overall, what a fantastic book! I usually am "afraid" of reading non-fictional books, but I really liked this one! I just hope I write a good essay for college :p
Jun 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bu incecik kitap bir günde bitti. George Steiner'i ilk kez okudum, bazı fikirleri gerçekten çok ilginçti, özellikle Avrupa'daki antisemitizmin nedenine dair yaklaşımı. İş Kültür'de hep gördüğüm Tragedyanın Ölümü kitabını da almayı düşünüyorum artık. Karşılaştırmalı edebiyatçıların çalışma tarzını seviyorum.
Samuel Weitekamp
Mar 10, 2017 rated it did not like it
I found this book to be similar in content to Two Cultures by C.P. Snow except for it was published later. Perhaps I'm missing a good deal of Steiner's point but it seems to me to be merely a slightly revised version of of Snow's text except it deals with a wider (Western European rather than only British/American) cultural context.

Most of what I can derive from the writing is a sort of harumphy negativity toward the then-present. Perhaps I'm wrong and somewhere in this is a valid theoretical
Τροφή για σκέψη. Και τι τροφή. Θαυμαστικό.
Oct 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Wow if culture is dying because of moving images and music in 1970, I can’t wait to have Steiner show off how many authors, philosophers, scientists and artists he can name drop now. Although I’d be surprised if he is still alive.
Dec 08, 2007 rated it really liked it
A TKO of a cultural probe. I feel like I need to read this at least two more times to really understand what is so captivating/unsettling about this investigation of the decomposition of contemporary Western culture. I don't know if I concur with certain aspects of the argument (can we reduce the 20th century to a "nightmarish joke"?), but it's hard not to be swept away by Steiner's eloquent dissection of that "archival pseudo-vitality surrounding what was once felt life." His discussions of ...more
Matthew Humberstone
Exploring this one of Steiner's 'Rarities and B-sides', you get a genealogy of conservatism, a critique of secularism, a defence of Western exceptionalism and a review of the 1971 moment that could have been written in our own present. The timeliness of the argument suggests that current conditions are built on a structures of thought and feeling that could be discerned some 50 years ago. We remain knock, knock, knockin' on Bluebeard's doors.
Smith Abbott
Aug 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
George Steiner identified in 1970 as “a dominant cliché of the contemporary mood” — the age-old (biblical, no less) belief in a “squandered utopia”: “Our experience of the present, the judgments, so often negative, that we make of our place in history, play continually against what I want to call the ‘myth of the nineteenth century’ or the ‘imagined garden of liberal culture’”....
Joshua Johnson
Aug 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
A bit inscrutable, at least for me. Steiner's literary grasp is far more sure than my own and that makes his allusions difficult to follow. Which seems ironic, given this is the gyst of much of his argumentation. An intriguing read.
Aug 02, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow, I had forgotten all about this book! I remember liking it a lot, but the fact that I'd forgotten all about it sort of knocks it down a bit in stars.
Existential Investigator
Apr 02, 2019 rated it did not like it
The blind spot which motivates the argument in this book is so extreme that one might suspect the author of dishonesty.

I was actually with him at the beginning as he described how a disillusionment swept Europe after the French Revolution. Great hopes were placed in a total reorganization of society into something expected to be revelational. The powerful spirit of Napoleon swept the people along as much of Europe was reorganized. Then it all came to a halt and a new status quo reigned. The
Jul 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Solid work here from Steiner, especially on an incredibly difficult topic. Though it was written forty years ago, it still retains value, even in the end as he looks forward to tomorrow. Steiner's begins with the 19th century, arguing that a malaise (or to use his word, ennui) fell upon the West after the divisive career of Napoleon. In this newly created world of peace--Steiner is speaking broadly here, recognizing smaller conflicts and exceptions--people found that something was lacking. ...more
John Kemp
Prof. Steiner describes, from the point of view of one steeped in the Western literary tradition, the condition we have come to recognise as postmodern. This brief, dense book, massively erudite, anatomises a culture burdened with disquieting intimations of fracture and decline. Yet, forty years later, when much that he discusses- the privileged discourse of science over religion, the collapsed domains of high and low culture- seems to have come to pass, the barbarians either remain still at the ...more
Jul 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
An extremely interesting essay by one of the -supposedly- greatest minds of the XXth century, trying to analyze the western world's culture and education system through modern history, with the events of the second world war as a turning
point - with no possible way back - : how the rise of science and the "fall" of God (to briefly summarize it) during the past centuries led to the Shoah, how culture has evolved since then (the book was written in the 70s) compared to what it was before and
Danny Byrne
Apr 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Lucid, wide-ranging and absorbing discussion of the decline of western humanism and our subsequent state of scientific 'post-culture' - though the bits about the latter are somewhat less impressive/interesting. Brilliant discussion probing the relationship between the holocaust and the history of western humanism, including the provocative notion that it originated in a kind of semi-conscious Freudian backlash against Jewish utopianism (ie monotheism, primitive Christianity, and messianic ...more
Ada Shehu
Nov 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
E gjeta mes leksioneve të Bachelorit. E kam lexuar 6 vjet më parë për herë të parë, por ktë herë më "hapi sytë". Jua sugjeroj ta lexoni, keni dhe linkun për ta lexuar online.

Në shqip është: "Në kështjellën e mjekërkaltrit" dhe e ka përkthyer Bashkim Shehu. (Jo nuk e kam fis, nuk e njoh fare faktikisht)
Feb 23, 2015 rated it it was ok
Den vierten Teil hätte er sich ja mal sparen können. So stark bis dorthin und dann kommt er an mit der bösen Popmusik, die die Kultur zerstört und hört sich mit Anfang vierzig plötzlich an wie jemand, der zu alt und verbittert geworden ist.
Apr 03, 2015 added it
The establishment embodied gives the Universe a speech. Decay, decay, decay... Unworthy mortals, you are doomed. Your classic Greek and Latin knowledge is null. As such, you look dumbly at the great works of mankind.
Apr 13, 2014 rated it liked it
Steiner's writing style is very academic so this book is difficult to read. Despite it's jumbled style, I'm glad I read it because of a few important ideas that were new to me.
Sep 09, 2011 added it
Another one of my favorite stylists. Two sentences suffices to clearly identify Steiner's elegiac, authoritative tone. Even when he's wrong, you hesitate to argue with him.
Will Daly
Aug 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Good. The part from Essay 4 ("Tomorrow") about the loss of the classic tradition is excellent.
Charles Cowherd
Section: "Season in Hell" was amazing. Other three lectures were hard to grasp.
Richard Epstein
Nov 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
One of my favorite books, the perfect companion to Bate's Burden of the Past, and it's short, too.
Feb 07, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: joshbooks
Someday I hope to write a book with a subtitle like "Some Notes Towards the Redefinition of Culture."
rated it really liked it
May 18, 2008
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See also: George A. Steiner, author on Management and Planning.

Dr. Francis George Steiner is an essayist, novelist, philosopher, literary critic, and educator. He has written for The New Yorker for over thirty years, contributing over two hundred reviews. Among his many awards, he received The Truman Capote Lifetime Achievement Award from Stanford University 1998. He lives in Cambridge, England,