Universitatea „Transilvania” din Braşov, Facultatea de Litere „Transylvania” University of Brasov, Faculty of Letters
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3-4 / 2011
Literary history in the Perspective of Undecomposable Temporal Unity
Literary history, a field within the humanities having its own respectable tradition, has traversed throughout the past century a crisis generated by the formalist, structuralist and semiotic doctrines. Significant theoretical and philosophical voices, from Benedetto Croce to Roland Barthes and Foucault, have launched a harsh attack towards the discipline, questioning its legitimacy. Nevertheless, nowadays the field seems to be reestablished. However, in an age marked by reassessments, the question concerning what will be preserved of the constants that structured past literary history still stands. Such a constant was represented by the idea of organicity, unity and continuity that is supposed to characterize literary development.
It cannot be denied that the defenders of the idea of the singularity of the valuable literary work are able to provide arguments against the linear perspective on history. However, as paradoxical as it may seem, the differences and particularities that distinguish the work of art do not preclude continuities or universals. They are most probably bound to remain fundamental themes of literary history, as contemporary examples have also shown. As it appears, the restructuring of the field was unable to diminish the importance of the idea of the continuum, one of the basic principles of the discipline.
Keywords: literary history, theoretical foundations, philosophical legitimacy, Benedetto Croce, Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault
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