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Faculty symposium Humanities: The Myth of High and Low Culture

Thursday 5 April 2018
Humanities' Faculty Symposium
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden

For whom

All students, staff and alumni of the Faculty of Humanities and also non-university-affiliated people are welcome to join the celebration of Humanities in Leiden! Scroll down for more information on Registration, our Theme and our Lecturers.


Not required! You can just simply pick out the lectures that interest you and walk in at the indicated time at the indicated location. At the 5th of April an information stand will be available where you can get an answer to all your questions. If there are any questions now, we refer to Facebook or mail.

Please pay attention that registration is mandatory for the free lunch or evening meal via this form: https://form.jotformeu.com/80722747258362

For further questions

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/faculteitssymposiumhumanities/
Mail: facsymp@hum.leidenuniv.nl

The Myth of High and Low Culture

King Willem Alexander does a dab. Bill Nye tells his audience about scientific phenomena in his television program Bill Nye the Science Guy. Banksy criticizes our contemporary culture with his graffiti works. Disney is inspired by the Ancient Greeks to create the animated film Hercules. In many different ways, the meeting and blending of so-called “high” and “low” – or popular – culture can be observed on a daily basis. How did these cultural concepts come into existence? What does the difference between the two entail, and in what way is this reflected in our society? What kind of effect do they have on our daily lives and the persistent continuity of a class-oriented society? To what extent is the academic world influenced by high and low culture? On the fifth of april, we are going to discuss these (and many more) questions by means of lectures and discussions at the Faculty of Humanities

Traditionally, there is a huge gap between high and low culture, between the patricians and the plebs, between the aristocracy and the ‘commoners’. This gap isn’t only visible in a political power imbalance, it also presents itself on a cultural level in the general belief that expressions of high culture are superior to expressions of low culture. Notions of art and civilization fit seamlessly with the ideals of the higher classes, and as a result, both through politics and art, this (artificial) gap and their power structures are maintained. For a long time, the worlds of art and science were impenetrable, institutional strongholds only accessible to a small elite.

But could we be dealing with a case of increasing unclarity when it comes to the boundaries of high and low culture? The end of the Second World War marks the beginning of youth culture, and with it the beginnings of “cultural omnivores.” The reasoning of researchers is that there is little difference between visiting a museum and attending a pop concert. If such a cultural relativistic tendency were to manifest itself in our contemporary society, which consequences would this have? An increasing accessibility of formerly different cultural institutions? And what role does the pivotal year of 1965, in combination with increasing globalization, play in the process of culture mixing? It seems evident that low culture is invading high culture at all angles in order to expel it. After all, the elite is making much use of music and design, as a form of communication, that would generally be attributed to pop culture. Finally, the most important question: how does science relate to the aforementioned cultural relativism?


We offer our visitors 16 different speakers and don’t you doubt the fact that we did actually think about our international friends! Half of the lectures will be held in English and although our schedule is too big to fit on this page we refer to our Facebook-page and mail to receive the full schedule. Moreover you’ll find posters with the schedule in all the Humanities Buildings!

The day will be opened by author Benjamin B. Roberts who wrote Sex, drugs and Rock 'n’ Roll in the Dutch Golden Age’. Do you always hear the Dutch bragging about their highpoint in history being the 17th century? Well, besides the many famous painters, politicians and tolerance of that era in Dutch history, Roberts stresses the fact that famous painters like Rembrandt van Rijn, born in Leiden by the way, were a rebel generation of bad boys in their time. Does that seem like a symbiose of high and low culture to you? It certainly does if you’d ask me! Visit his lecture at 10.15 A.M. in Lipsius-019 and the lecture will of course be held in English!

Concluding our day, Bas Haring will hold a lecture titled ‘High culture is for Cowards’ but unfortunately for internationals, the lecture will be held in Dutch. But don’t fear, we have a lot in store for you, like: Street Art in Greece in Crisis Time, Boredom and Play in Popular Culture, Street Philosophy, Popular Religion in a Galaxy far, far away, the Ancient Egyptian Mortuary Business, the Power in Low Culture and two case studies about the Myth of High and Low Culture in China. See you there!

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