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Viitorul istoriei literare: trei provocări în secolul XXI

Publication: Analele Universității din București. Limba și literatura română, LVII
Publisher:Editura Universității din Bucureşti
Abstract:How literary history develops will largely depend on the modifications of the wider framework in which its evolution takes place. Understanding these modifications seems to me to be an essential first step. In this paper I concentrate on three factors (the nation state; the media; the evolution of society and the idea and institutions of university education under the pressure of demographic changes), and seek to elucidate and weigh their importance for literary history. The origins of literary history as an institutionalized discourse are closely interwoven with the fortunes of nationalism and the nation state after the French Revolution. However, Eurocentrism itself has been losing ground since World War I, and with it also the European model of nation-centred literary history. This process was exacerbated by the arrival of globalisation on the crest of revolutionary discoveries in information technology in the 1950s, which coincided with the swift dismantling of the colonial system. The ensuing growth of diasporic cultures, on the one hand, and the process of European integration in the context of a globalised economy, on the other, gave rise to occurrences best described as the gradual ‘hollowing-out’ of the nation state in the West. A single unified canon, on which to base literary history, also became increasingly untenable. Within the nation-state, there emerged a string of parallel canons called upon to rectify the social injustices of the past. Today we witness a transition to either regional, and even ‘pan-European’, histories, serving a different set of political goals from those so familiar from the recent past, or trans-national, often also trans-continental, narratives heeding not the monolithic projects of the nation state but rather the processes of exile, emigration, creolisation, and hybridisation. The business of literary history has changed dramatically also due to the changing media of appropriating and consuming literature. First of all, the pattern of the consumption of literature underwent a significant alteration, placing the texts of the canon within easy reach through numerous visual adaptations, thus destabilizing their very nature as canonic works of art and erasing the boundary between high and popular. Moreover, modern media, in particular the interactive technologies, have brought about an unprecedented openness of the text to simultaneous modification by the recipient. The status of the text has changed beyond the comfortable manageability on which traditional literary history rests. The disobedient text that emerges from the process of electronic interaction is open-ended, mobile as never before, and truly boundless. The author/reader boundary is totally erased, and so are the foundations of reception theory and the traditional literary history. With an ever growing life expectancy and the corresponding attempts at managing it through various economic and administrative techniques, three of the essential cornerstones of literary history – indeed of any history – will be heading for dramatic transformation: the concept of generation; the notion of period; and that of novelness (what constitutes novelty in the literary and ideological life of society). The real issue here is the changing lifespan of generations, and with this the changing rhythms of the production of meaning. Public consent over key events underlying the narrative of the historian is likely to be reached in an ever more complicated and mediated fashion, because the constitutive voices of the generational ensemble will each have a temporality, duration, and therefore force, different from those informing the practice of (literary) historiography at present. In addition, what we see today, precisely as part of the economic and social techniques of demographic control, is the introduction of a totally new concept of education. The so-called ‘continuing education’, or ‘life-long education’, which is now part of the educational landscape throughout Europe and North America, slowly but securely redefines the philosophy of education, leaving behind the idea of clear-cut disciplinarity.
Language: Romanian

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