Marc Fumaroli, defender of French culture, died at 88

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An excerpt from this book reproduced in “French Cultural Policy Debates: A Reader” (2002), edited by Jeremy Ahearne, wondered why the French Ministry of Culture, despite boasting of “putting chefs-d ‘ work available to the vast majority of people, “was not using this most populist medium, television, which was then in 94% of French households. And, said Fumaroli, the ministry was also more interested in promoting cultural treasures as tourism than in teaching people about these treasures in depth.

“He sprinkles his audience with information, attractions, shows of cultural varieties”, he writes; “He does not educate him because his animation practices, like those of leisure clubs, are too ephemeral and superficial to replace this long and patient work of method and love that constitutes true education”.

In an interview with The International Herald Tribune in 1996, Mr. Fumaroli wondered if the French system of subsidizing the arts with public money worked, especially at a time when cultural wars tended to oppose traditional arts avant-garde and culture against pop culture – “snobs against mods”, as the article says. He deplored the disappearance of what he considered to be the circumstances that fueled great art.

“There was a premium given to contemplation, to a kind of detachment,” he said, “whether it be aesthetic, philosophical or moral, and it created in Europe great writers, artists, historians, architects who took the time to feed on a tradition and who addressed an audience who had the time to learn about these things.

“It seems to me to have disappeared,” he continued, “not only in Europe and America, but in Asia. We have the feeling that in this area there are no longer the great figures that we had at the end of the 19th century or at the beginning of the 20th. “

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