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Essay about The Culture of Nova, by Samuel Delany

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From the start Nova works hard to convince readers the society presented to us has no culture. Set in 32nd century Nova’s message The characters explicably tell us there is no culture but they show us evidence to the contrary. Culture is inevitable. I would like to focus on three supporting arguments; that Nova is a culture of appropriation, that work itself can create culture, and that cultural capital persists even when the applicable societies think otherwise. These layers blend together to create the unique culture presented in the novel.
Nova has clearly appropriated elements from 20th century Earth culture and Vegan culture. Cultural appropriation is when a culture adopts elements of another culture. Cultural appropriation is different from cultural exchange in that exchange is a mutual and unforced process. There can be no mutual exchange in Nova as the cultures they pull from are long dead. The novel refers repeatedly to a historic “Vega Republic," which flourished several centuries prior to the novel’s beginning. At some point in the past the Republic staged an uprising. During those years the Vegans created a new style in furniture, fabrics, and architecture. The uprising was suppressed but the styles created by the Republic persist on. The intellectual upper class views these remnants as a novelty. The 20th century is the dominant contributing timeframe. Throughout readers are dazzled by excess of the upper class that echoes American culture before the stock market crash of 1929. Prince Red throws a party reminiscent of Gatsby’s party in The Great Gatsby. Prince even goes as far as to have incandescent light bulbs run on an ancient generator. The word “airy” is used throughout, “…beautiful party. Per...


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...spects of society such as class, artistic tastes, and economic motivations have been passed down from generation to generation to form 32nd century culture.
The fate of culture is not to be worried about. The future of culture in Nova is an optimistic one. Lorq Von Ray’s quest will produce a major shift in culture for humanity. As readers we can only speculate on the future that is waiting for the inhabitants of Nova’s worlds. Culture is an inevitable and persisting force. Work, appropriation, reproduction, and cultural capital combine into one “inchoately modern” culture. As long as humanity is in existence culture in one form or another with persist and grow.



Works Cited

Delany, Samuel R. Nova. New York: Vintage, 2002. Print.
Farmer, John S., and William Ernest Henley. A Dictionary of Slang and Colloquial English. London: Routledge, 1905. Print.



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