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Sample essay topic, essay writing: History Of Popular Culture - 1199 words
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.. om their struggle to earn a living. They weresomething to look forward to and were a celebration of the community and adisplay of its ability to put on a good show. It is said that the mockingof outsiders (the neighbouring village or Jews) and animals might be seenas a dramatic expression of community solidarity. Some rituals might be seen as a form of social control, in a sense that itwas a means for a community to express their discontent with certainmembers of the community (charivari).
The ritual of public punishment canbe seen in this light, as it was used to deter people from committingcrimes. Professor Max Gluckman used the African popular culture to explain thesocial function of the ritual of reversal of roles as it happened duringrituals as Carnival. Similar rituals still occur in certain regions inAfrica. Gluckman explains this ritual as an emphasis of certain rules andtaboos through lifting them for a certain period of time. The apparentprotests against the social order were intended to preserve and even tostrengthen the established order. As a counter example Gluckman statesthat: '..in regions where the social order is seriously questioned, 'ritesof protest' do not occur.' Riots and rebellions frequently took place during major festivals. Rebelsand rioters employed rituals and symbols to legitimise their actions.Inhibitions against expressing hostility towards the authorities orindividuals were weakened by the excitement of the festival and theconsumption of large quantities of alcohol
If those factors were combinedwith discontent over a bad harvest, tax increases or other calamities, thissituation could get out of control. It could prove a good opportunity forpeople excluded from power to try and enforce certain changes.It is hardly surprising that members of the upper classes often suggestedthat particular festivals ought to be abolished. They felt threatened bythe populace who during festivals tried to revolt against the rulingclasses and change the economical situation they were in. The reform of popular festivals was instigated by the will of some of the'educated' to change the attitudes and values of the rest of the population(' to improve them'). This reformation took on different forms in differentregions and it took place at different moments in time.
There were alsodifferences in the practices that were being reformed. Catholics andProtestants opposed to different elements of popular festivals and they didso for different reasons. Even within the Protestant movement, the viewstowards reformation of festivals and popular rituals varied. Missionaries on both sides worked in Europe to install their religiousvalues in the local people. Reformers on both sides objected in particularto certain elements in popular religion. Festivals were part of popularreligion or were at least disguised as an element of popular religion. Thefestival of Martinmas (11 November) was a good example of this. What were the objections of the authorities against these elements ofpopular culture in general and popular religion in particular? There weretwo essential religious objections.
Firstly, the majority of festivals wereseen as remnants of ancient paganism. Secondly, the festivals offered thepeople an occasion to over-indulge in immoral or offensive behaviour, atmany occasions attacking the establishment (both ecclesiastical and civil). The first objection meant that reformers disliked many of the popularcustoms because they contained traces of ancient customs dating frompre-Christian times. Protestant reformers went very far in theirobjections, even denouncing a number of Catholic rituals as beingpre-Christian survivals, considering the saints as successors of pagan godsand heroes, taking over their curative and protective functions. Magic wasalso considered a pagan remnant: the Protestants accused the Catholics ofpractising a pagan ritual by claiming that certain holy places held magicalpowers and could cure people. The reformers denounced the rituals they didn't find fitting as beingirreverent and blasphemous.
Carnival and the charivaris were considered'the work of the devil', because it made a mockery of certain godlyelements the Church held sacred. The reformers thought people who didn'thonour God in their way to be heathen, doomed to spend their afterlife ineternal damnation. Flamboyance was to be chased out of all religiousaspects of culture, and, where possible, out of all other aspects of life,according to the Protestant doctrine. In some areas, gesturing duringchurch services was banned, as was laughter. All these things were seen asirreverent, making a mockery of religion. All these changes were introduced in order to create a sharper separationbetween the 'sacred' and the 'profane'. The ecclesiastical authorities wereout to destroy the traditional familiarity with the sacred because'familiarity breeds irreverence.' The objection against popular recreations stemmed from the idea that theywere 'vanities', displeasing God because they were a waste of time andmoney and distracted people from going to church.
This objection was sharedby both the ecclesiastical and civil authorities. The latter mainlyobjected because it distracted the populace from their work, which in turnaffected the revenues of the leading upper classes, or from otheractivities that were benefiting the rich, reasons that would vary perregion. Catholic and Protestant reformers were not equally hostile to popularculture, nor were they hostile for quite the same reasons. Protestantreformers were more radical, denouncing festivals as relics of popery andlooking to abolish feast-days as well as the feast that came with it,because they considered the saints that were celebrated during thesefestivals as remnants of a pre-Christian era. Many of these Protestantreformers were equally radical in their attacks on holy images, which theyconsidered 'idols'. During the end of the 16th and the first half of the17th century Dutch churches were pillaged by Protestants trying to destroyall religious relics and images (de Beeldenstorm). Catholic reformers weremore modified in their actions; they tried to reach a certain modificationof popular religious culture, even trying to adapt certain elements to theCatholic way of worshipping and incorporating popular elements into theirreligion.
They insisted that some times were holier than others, and theydid object to the extend to which the holy days were celebrated with foodand drink. Some argued that it was impossible to obey the rites of Lentwith proper reverence and devotion if they had indulged in Carnival justbefore. Catholic reformers also installed rules in order to regulatecertain popular festivals and rituals, such as a prohibition on dressing upas a member of the clergy during Carnival or a prohibition on dancing orperforming plays in churches or churchyards. Contrary to the Protestantreformers however, the Catholic reformers did not set out to abolishfestivals and rituals completely.Civil authorities had their own reasons to object to popular festivals inEarly Modern Europe. Apart from taking the people away from work or otherobligations, the authorities feared that during the time of a festival, theabundance of alcohol could stir up the feelings of discontent the peoplehad been hiding all throughout the year. Misery and alcohol could create adangerous mix that would give people the courage they needed to rebelagainst authorities. This was a good reason for the authorities to try andstop, or at least control, popular festivals.
BibliographyPopular Culture in Early Modern Europe; P. BurkeThe Reasons of Misrule: Youth Groups and Charivaris in 16th century France;N.Z.Davis, Past and Present 1971Order and rebellion in Tribal Africa; M. GluckmanThe waning of the Middle Ages; J. HuizingaLevend Verleden; Prof. Dr. H.P.H. JansenBlood, tears and Xavier-water: Jesuit missionaries and popular religion inthe 18th century in the Upper Palatinate; T. Johnson Popular religion inGermany and Central Europe 1400-1800.
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