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E N C Y C L O P E D I A OF

CONTEMPORARY LITERARY THEORY


Approaches, Scholars, Terms

The last half of the twentieth century has witnessed a revolution in literary studies.
Drawing on a vast network of other disciplines - such as philosophy, anthropology,
linguistics, political economy, sociology, women's studies, religion - the new literary
theories are not only changing traditional boundaries and issues of literary study, but
also questioning the very foundations of Western thought.
Irena R. Makaryk has compiled a welcome guide to this complex field. The Encyclo-
pedia of Contemporary Literary Theory surveys this enormous range of literary theories,
theorists, and critical terms, and provides lucid explanations of each.
A distinguished international group of 170 scholars has contributed to this three-part
volume. In Part i, forty-eight evaluative essays examine the historical and cultural con-
text out of which new schools and approaches to literature arose, the uses and limita-
tions of each, and the key issues they address. A bibliographical essay on theory and
pedagogy concludes this section; it suggests some of the ways that the theoretical is-
sues have altered and will continue to alter ways of teaching literature.
Focusing on individual theorists, Part 2 examines their achievements, influence, and
their place in the larger critical context.
Part 3 deals with the vocabulary of literary theory. It identifies significant, complex
terms, and explains their origins and use.
Accessibility is a key feature of the work. Bibliographies for each entry and extensive
cross-referencing throughout make the Encyclopedia of Contemporary Literary Theory an
indispensable tool for literary theorists and historians, and for all scholars of contem-
porary criticism and culture.

1 R E N A R. M A K A R Y K is Chair of Graduate English Studies at the University of Ottawa.


She is the author of Comic Justice in Shakespeare, editor of and contributor to 'Living
Record': Essays in Memory of Constantine Bida, and translator and editor of About the
Harrowing of Hell: A jyth-Century Ukrainian Play in Its European Context.
Advisory Board

Linda Hutcheon, University of Toronto


Patrick Imbert, University of Ottawa
Louis Kelly, University of Ottawa
Camille R. La Bossiere, University of Ottawa
Sheldon P. Zitner, University of Toronto

Editorial Assistant

Micheline White
ENCYCLOPEDIA
OF C O N T E M P O R A R Y
LITERARY THEORY

Approaches, Scholars, Terms

IRENA R. MAKARYK
General Editor and Compiler

U N I V E R S I T Y OF TORONTO PRESS

Toronto Buffalo London


www.utppublishing.com
© University of Toronto Press Incorporated 1993
Toronto Buffalo London
Printed in Canada

Paperback reprinted 1993,1994,1995,1997, 2000


Hardcover reprinted 1995

ISBN 0-8020-5914-7 (cloth)


ISBN o-8o20-686o-x (paper)

Printed on acid-free paper

Theory/Culture
General editors: Linda Hutcheon and Paul Perron

Canadian Cataloguing in Publication Data


Main entry under title:

Encyclopedia of contemporary literary theory

(Theory/culture)
Includes index.
ISBN 0-8020-5914-7 (bound)
ISBN o-8o2o-686o-x (pbk.)

i. Criticism - Encyclopedias,
i. Makaryk, Irena Rima, 1951-
ii. Series.

PN8i.E63 1993 801'.95 C92-095270-4

University of Toronto Press acknowledges the


financial assistance to its publishing program of
the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario
Arts Council.

University of Toronto Press acknowledges the


financial support for its publishing activities of
the Government of Canada through the Book
Publishing Industry Development Program
(BPIDP).
Canada
Contents

Introduction vii

Contributors xi

1 APPROACHES 3

Theory and Pedagogy 218

2 SCHOLARS 223

3 T E R M S 503

List of entries 653


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Introduction

'A man with one theory is lost. He needs several of them, or lots!
He should stuff them in his pockets like newspapers.'
Bertolt Brecht

One hundred and seventy eminent scholars not meant to be complete, this volume is in-
from around the world have helped create this tended to suggest something of the immense
book. Gathered from various departments - scope of current theoretical approaches. In es-
Religion, Philosophy, Sociology, Psychology, tablishing the list of entries, the editor con-
Linguistics, Women's Studies, English, Modern sulted a variety of sources, including the
Languages, French, Political Science, Compara- PMLA annual bibliographical listings under lit-
tive Literature, Slavic Studies, Translation, erary criticism and theory, the most-cited au-
Administration - the contributors to this ency- thors in the Arts and Humanities Citation Index,
clopedia suggest, by the very diversity of their Current Comments, and an array of mono-
affiliations, the rich variety of contemporary graphs and bibliographies on contemporary
theory. theory. The schools, approaches and theorists
Yet this book in itself may be perceived as a were generally selected on the basis of their
kind of literary paradox - a strange platypus - most-frequently cited status. In a few other
for the beast described here not only resists cases, such as Quebec feminism and some Eu-
classification (not an uncommon characteristic ropean approaches, the decision for inclusion
of any discipline) but even rejects the very was based on the desire to make more widely
nature of this task. Simply by being, this en- known to an anglophone audience the work of
cyclopedia is an offence to some of the very lesser-known but important theories.
subject-matter with which it deals - the 'new At the core of this volume is the attempt to
new theory' which questions the apparent tra- delineate the different kinds of approaches
dition into which this genre of work falls: the and schools since New Criticism, that is, the
encyclopedia. Many schools, approaches and trends, tendencies and critics who have com-
theorists discussed here attack such 'magister- manded attention over the past 50 years. Yet
ial' products, as well as presuppositions con- many of these approaches are grounded in
cerning the neutrality and disinterestedness of earlier theoretical work. For this reason, a
scholarship, the idea of literary canons, the number of important precursors appear in this
transparency of language, and even the notion volume - Virginia Woolf, Sigmund Freud,
of clarity itself as a desirable or necessary fea- Wilhelm Dilthey, Friedrich Nietzsche, among
ture of argument. Issues discussed reappear others - and a number of schools, such as the
from a variety of points of view, some that Neo-Aristotelians, the Russian formalists, the
overlap, others that contradict each other; all Prague School. While the original list of en-
in combination suggest the contestatory nature tries for this volume was considerably shorter,
of the current critical and theoretical scene. expansion and revision have occurred after
extensive correspondence with scholars from
Selection of entries around the world. Unfortunately, some entries
had to be abandoned either when it proved
The present-day field of literary theory and impossible to find a contributor who could
criticism is as vast as it is varied. Though it is prepare an entry within the time constraints of
Introduction
the project, or, in much rarer cases, when the students may encounter these terms or their
entry did not meet the standards of the vol- centrality to an understanding of a particular
ume. theory or approach. Throughout the volume,
the contributors have attempted to make the
Evaluation language as straightforward as possible, recog-
nizing that here literary scholars are speaking
Each of the entries has undergone a rigorous to each other and thus are still heavily de-
evaluation procedure. In some cases, this has pendent upon their own dialect. Thus, the im-
meant that as many as nine readers com- plied reader to whom this book is directed is
mented on a single article. Revisions following not the general reader, but the advanced stu-
these numerous reports were often extensive. dent of literature, the reader already engaged
The contributor alone, however, is responsible in literary criticism, and often either on the
for the final version of the entry. way to or already in the profession. In some
cases, where the very nature of the material
Organization deliberately confounds logic, and where the
theorists themselves refuse linearity of argu-
Constructed as both dictionary and analytic ment and espouse what used to be called a
compendium, this book includes three sections more poetic manner of writing, the density
designed to serve as either building blocks or and flavour of the work have been retained.
as separate points of entry. Each section is al- While some uniformity of style has been
phabetically arranged. imposed on the entries, the individuality of
Part i of this volume, 'Approaches' - 48 the scholars has not, I hope, been entirely
evaluative essays - examines the great variety suppressed.
of schools and approaches to literary studies,
providing a sense of their historical, social and Transliteration
cultural contexts, an overview of the basic is-
sues and of their major practitioners. Some of The transliteration of Slavic languages follows
these essays examine large, systemic theories the Library of Congress system, except where
shared by scholars working in different parts bibliographical information provides alterna-
of the world. Others are affiliated with parti- tive spellings, or when a more commonly used
cular schools (and hence with specific geogra- spelling would be more readily identified by
phical locations) which have developed a the reader.
common point of view. Still others merely
share some general assumptions but employ a Directions for use
plethora of different methodologies. This sec-
tion concludes with a bibliographical essay on 1 Articles are arranged alphabetically within
the connections between theory and pedagogy. each of the three sections.
In particular, it examines the nature of the ev- 2 Asterisks refer the reader to another article
olution of English studies as a case study of in the volume.
the development of literary theory. 3 Bibliographies at the end of each entry sug-
Part 2, 'Scholars,' focuses on those who gest material for further study.
have helped transform the study of literature.
The list includes not only literary theorists and Acknowledgments
critics but also historians, philosophers, lingu-
ists, social scientists, theologians, polemicists, This volume is unusual in having received all
authors. Not always neatly pigeon-holed into of its support from the University of Ottawa.
any particular school or approach, the work of The Research Committee of the School of
these theorists and critics is explored and as- Graduate Studies and Res'earch provided the
sessed. initial funding for the project in late 1986.
Part 3, 'Terms,' deals with the vocabulary of Subsequently, the Committee's additional
literary theory. A selected list, it encompasses grants were augmented by the generosity of
what Oswald Ducrot and Tzvetan Todorov three consecutive deans: Dr. Marcel Hamelin
have called both methodological and descrip- (now Rector of the University), Dr. Nigel
tive concepts. These have been chosen on the Dennis, and Dr. Jean-Louis Major, who
basis of difficulty, the frequency with which

viii
Introduction
chaired the Research Committee of the Faculty Manganiello (Ottawa), Reed Merrill (Washing-
of Arts. ton), Heather Murray (Toronto), Bernhard Rad-
Such assistance would not be possible with- loff (Ottawa), David Raynor (Ottawa), Ronald
out the unflagging enthusiasm and encourage- de Souza (Toronto), and John Thurston (Ot-
ment of Dr. Frank Tierney, then Chair of the tawa).
Department of English, who first listened to The English Department's Secretariat - espe-
the idea many years ago, and then convinced cially Mrs. Marie Tremblay-Chenier, Mrs. Julie
the appropriate committees of the necessity of Sevigny-Roy and Mrs. Paula Greenwood -
their financial support. With similar zeal, Dr. passed on the great many faxes, telephone
David Staines, his successor, helped see the messages and photocopying orders with
project to its completion and, like Dr. Tierney, equanimity and good humour.
supplied the project with much-needed gradu- Roy Gibbons, then of Research Services, set
ate assistants, and with larger office space for up the computer program for the project. Ad-
the growing number of files. ditional programing and a great deal of techni-
A number of colleagues provided very help- cal troubleshooting were graciously handled
ful suggestions and criticisms. In the first few by Professor George White of the Computer
years of the project Dr. Peter McCormick was Science Department. Mr. Roland Serrat, Com-
particularly invaluable in areas where the liter- puting and Communications Services, authori-
ary crossed with the philosophical. Also, much tatively directed the preparation of the
profit was derived from conversations with machine-readable copy for the University of
Professors Ina Ferris, David L. Jeffrey, Sheldon Toronto Press.
P. Zitner, Linda Hutcheon, and, especially, Finally, an enormous amount of credit must
Camille R. La Bossiere. be given to our University of Ottawa English
Instrumental to the success of this book has Department graduate students, especially
been the work of the members of the Advisory Anne-Louise Gibbons, who acted as my re-
Board: Linda Hutcheon (Toronto), Louis Kelly search assistant for over three years, inputting
(Ottawa), Patrick Imbert (Ottawa), Camille R. material and making helpful suggestions of her
La Bossiere (Ottawa), and Sheldon P. Zitner own. Marilyn Geary took upon herself the task
(Toronto), who read all of the material and of making our relatively orderly filing system
made valuable comments and suggestions. truly so. Rhonda Waukhonen, Steven de Paul,
They have also helped encourage this harm- Debbie James, and Chris Maguire were all at
less drudge when my resolution became slug- one time or another involved in the tedious
gish, and my patience dull. business of photocopying, checking and dis-
The difficult and very important task of patching materials. Sandra Schaeken and
reading and evaluating the entries fell to Cheryl Ringor (from Law) acted as inputters in
Naomi Black (York), William Bonney (Missis- the last months of the project. But most thanks
sippi), Donald J. Childs (Ottawa), J. Douglas are due to the diligence, astonishing cheerful-
Clayton (Ottawa), Andrew Donskov (Ottawa), ness, patience, and professionalism of Miche-
David Dooley (Toronto), Ina Ferris (Ottawa), line White, the assistant who conquered the
Len Findlay (Saskatchewan), Terry Goldie computer and in the last year of the project
(York), Rosmarin Heidenreich (St. Boniface), brought the whole volume together. The task
John S. Hill (Ottawa), Nina Kolesnikoff (Mc- literally could not have been done without
Master), Peter McCormick (Ottawa), Dominic her.

ix
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Contributors

Adamson, Joseph (McMaster): deconstruction, signified/signifier/signification, structural-


differaiu'c/differciice, grammatology, meta- ism, Norman N. Holland, John R. Searle
physics of presence, supplementarity, white Capozzi, Rocco (Toronto): Umberto Eco
mythology, Jacques Derrida Carr, David (Emory): Hayden White
Adey, Lionel (Victoria): C(live) S(taples) Lewis Cavell, Richard (UBC): spatial form, Antonio
van Alphen, Ernst (Utrecht): narratology (with Gramsci
Marie-l.aure Ryan) Chaitin, Gilbert D. (Indiana): metonymy/meta-
Allen, Douglas (Maine): Mircea Eliade phor
Anderson, Roland (Alberta): liminality (with Chamberlain, Daniel (Queen's): Oswald
Linda Woodbridge) Ducrot, Maurice Merleau-Ponty
Balfour, Ian (York): synecdoche Childs, Donald J. (Ottawa): New Criticism
Barasch, Frances K. (Baruch): theories of the Chisholm, Dianne (Alberta): Toril Moi
grotesque Clark, Michael (California, Irvine): Michel
Baross, Zsuzsa (Trent): poststructuralism Foucault
Barsky, Robert (McGill): discourse analysis Cleary, Jean Coates (Victoria): Carl Gustav
theory Jung
Baxter, John (Dalhousie): mimesis Collins, Robert G. (Ottawa): Cleanth Brooks
Beddoes, fulie (Saskatchewan): recuperation Cooke, Nathalie (McGill): closure/dis-closure
Belleguu, Thierry (Queen's): dialogical criti- Cuddy-Keane, Melba (Toronto): Virginia
cism (with Clive Thomson) Stephen Woolf
Best, Steven (Texas): Jean Baudrillard Cunningham, Valentine (Oxford): logocentrism
Biron, Michel (Ottawa): sociocriticism Danesi, Marcel (Toronto): semiosis
Bonney, William (Mississippi): J(oseph) Hillis Diedrick, James (Albion): heteroglossia, poly-
Miller phonic novel
Bonnycastle, Stephen (KMC): Roland Barthes Dimic, Milan (Alberta): polysystem theory
Bowen, Deborah (Ottawa): W(illiam) K(urtz) Dolezel, Lubomir (Toronto): Semiotic Poetics
VVimsatt, Jr. of the Prague School (Prague School)
Boyman, Anne (Barnard): Jean-Francois Dooley, David J. (Toronto): Jacques Maritain
1 .yotard Dopp, Jamie (Victoria); ideologeme, materialist
Brady, Kristin (Western): Simone de Beauvoir criticism, metalanguage
Bristol, Michael D. (McGill): subversion Eggers, Walter (New Hampshire): Ernst Alfred
Brown, Russell (Toronto): theme Cassirer
de Bruyn, Frans (Ottawa): genre criticism, Eldridge, Richard (Swarthmore): Ludwig
Terry Eagleton, Fredric R. Jameson Wittgenstein
Buitenhuis, Peter (Simon Eraser): Lionel Emerson, Caryl (Princeton): Mikhail Mikhail-
Trilling ovich Bakhtin
Burnham, Clint (York): Pierre Macherey Endo, Paul (Toronto): anxiety of influence,
Camden, Vera J. (Kent): psychoanalytic theory Harold Bloom
Campbell, Gregor (Toronto): imaginary/sym- Falconer, Graham (Toronto): genetic criticism
bolic/real, latiguc/parole, mirror stage (with Faraday, Nancy (Ottawa): Claude Levi-Strauss
Gordon E. Slethaug), Name-of-the-Father, Fekete, John (Trent): Raymond Williams
Contributors
Ferns, John (McMaster): William Empson, Jones, Heather (Mount Allison): patriarchy,
(Arthur) Yvor Winters phallocentrism
Findlay, Len (Saskatchewan): Paul Ricoeur Jones, Manina (Waterloo): textuality
Fizer, John (Rutgers): Alexander A. Potebnia Keith, W.J. (Toronto): F(rank) R(aymond)
Fortier, Mark (Toronto): Pierre Felix Guattari Leavis
Gallays, Francois (Ottawa): disnarrated, ideal Kellner, Douglas (Texas): Marxist criticism
reader, Gerald Prince Kelly, Louis G. (Ottawa): theories of transla-
Gamache, Lawrence (Ottawa): D(avid) tion, Erich Auerbach
H(erbert) Lawrence Kerby, Anthony (Ottawa): hermeneutics
Garrett, Julia M. (California, Santa Barbara): Kidder, Richard (Toronto): Roman Jakobson
Clifford Geertz King, Ross (University College): interpellation,
Gelfand, Elissa (Mount Holyoke): French fem- reification
inist criticism Kneale, J. Douglas (Western): Geoffrey H.
Godard, Barbara (York): intertextuality, Helene Hartman
Cixous, Luce Irigaray Kolesnikoff, Nina (McMaster): defamiliariza-
Goellnicht, Donald C. (McMaster): Black criti- tion, Russian formalism, story/plot, Boris
cism, Houston A. Baker, Jr., Henry Louis Mikhailovich Eikhenbaum, Vladimir lakov-
Gates, Jr. levich Propp, Viktor Borisovich Shklovskii,
Goldie, Terry (York): ideological horizon, Boris Viktorovich Tomashevskii, lurii Niko-
post-colonial theory (with Jonathan Hart), laevich Tynianov
Edward W. Said Kompridis, Nikolas (York): Theodor Adorno
Goodwin, David (Western): rhetorical criticism La Bossiere, Camille R. (Ottawa): irony, para-
Harris, Wendell V. (Penn. State): E(ric) dox, (Herbert) Marshall McLuhan, Friedrich
D(onald) Hirsch, Jr., Robert Scholes Wilhelm Nietzsche
Hart, Jonathan (Alberta): post-colonial theory Lacombe, Michele (Trent): carnival
(with Terry Goldie) Latimer, Dan (Auburn): Paul de Man
Harvey, Elizabeth (Western): gynesis, trope Lawall, Sarah (Massachusetts): Geneva School,
Harvey, Robert (Stony Brook): Jean-Paul Sartre Rene Wellek
Hatch, Ronald B. (UBC): David Bleich Lee, Alvin A. (McMaster): archetypal criticism,
Hauch, Linda (Ottawa): diegesis archetype, myth, Northrop Frye
Havercroft, Barbara (Quebec, Montreal): enon- Leenhardt, Jacques (EHESS): Lucien Goldmann
ciation/'enonce, Gerard Genette Le Grand, Eva (Quebec, Montreal): kitsch, var-
Hebert, Pierre (Sherbrooke): Claude Bremond, iation, lurii Mikhailovich Lotman, Jan Muka-
Jean Rousset fovsky
Heble, Ajay (Guelph): trace Lehmann, Winfred P. (Texas): Ferdinand de
Heidenreich, Rosmarin (St. Boniface): Saussure
Wolfgang Iser Leps, Marie-Christine (York): discourse
Henderson, Greig (Toronto): J(ohn) Loriggio, Francesco (Carleton): Emile Benven-
L(angshaw) Austin, Kenneth Duva Burke, iste, Benedetto Croce
T(homas) S(tearns) Eliot, I(vor) A(rmstrong) Loughlin, Marie H. (Queen's): bracketing, in-
Richards tention/intentionality, Lebenswelt, subject/
Henricksen, Bruce (Loyola): Murray Krieger object
Hill, John Spencer (Ottawa): Wilhelm Dilthey McCallum, Pamela (Calgary): Walter Benjamin
Holub, Robert C. (Berkeley): Constance School McCance, Dawne (St. John's College): chora,
of Reception Aesthetics (Reception Theory), genotext/phenotext, signifying practice, Julia
horizon of expectation, implied reader, inde- Kristeva
terminancy, Hans Robert Jauss McCracken, David (Washington): Rene Noel
Hutcheon, Linda (Toronto): postmodernism, Girard
Charles Mauron McGee, C.E. (St. Jerome's): performance criti-
Imbert, Patrick (Ottawa): Charles Grivel cism
Jeffrey, David Lyle (Ottawa): Frank Kermode, Magnusson, A. Lynne (Waterloo): speech act
Durant Waite Robertson, Jr. theory
Jirgens, Karl E. (Toronto): Jacques-Marie Emile Merrill, Reed (Washington): M.H. Abrams,
Lacan, Walter Jackson Ong Henry James, S0ren Aabye Kierkegaard,

xii
Contributors
Arthur Koestler, Mario Praz, Edmund Sexton, Melanie (Ottawa): code, self/other
Wilson Shea, Victor (York): New Historicism, Jonathan
Moyal, Gabriel (McMaster): Michael Riffaterre Dwight Culler
Moyes, Lianne (York): Sandra Mortola Gilbert Siemerling, Winfried (Toronto): margin, praxis
and Susan David Gubar Slethaug, Gordon E. (Waterloo): centre/de-
Mozejko, Edward (Alberta): constructivism, centre, demythologizing, desire/lack, float-
Hrvatsko filolosko drustvo [Croatian Philo- ing signifier, game theory, mirror stage (with
logical Society], Nitra School, Polish struc- Gregor Campbell), parody, theories of play/
turalism freeplay
Murphy, Timothy S. (California, Los Angeles): Solecki, Sam (Toronto): ideology, David John
Gilles Delcuze Lodge, George Francis Steiner
Murray, Heather (Toronto): theory and peda- Springer, Mary Doyle (St. Mary's College):
gogy Wayne C. Booth
Nielsen, Greg (York): communicative action, Steele, James (Carleton): expressive devices,
critical theory, Frankfurt School, literary in- poetics of expressiveness, Tzvetan Todorov,
stitution Boris Andreevich Uspenskii, Alexander K.
Noland, Richard W. (Massachusetts): Sigmund Zholkovskii
Freud Stout, John (McMaster): semiotics
Nostbakkon, Faith (Alberta): cultural material- Straznicky, Marta (Queen's): authority, power
ism Thomson, Clive (Queen's): dialogical criticism
O'Grady, Walter (Toronto): Percy Lubbock (with Thierry Belleguic)
O'Quinn, Daniel (York): episteme Thurston, John (Ottawa): hegemony, Ideologi-
O'Nan, Martha (SUNY): Jean Starobinski cal State Apparatuses (ISAS), overdetermi-
Ouimette, Victor (McGill): lose Ortega y nation, problematic, social information,
Gasset structural causality, symptomatic reading,
Paryas, Phyllis Margaret (Ottawa): character Louis Althusser
zones, double-voicing/dialogism, embed- Tome, Sandra (UBC): Leslie A. Fiedler
ding, monologism, polyphony/dialogism Totosy de Zepetnek, Steven (Alberta): Empiri-
Paterson, Janet M. (Toronto): Tartu School cal Science of Literature (Constructivist
de Paul, Steven (Ottawa): phenomenological Theory of Literature)
criticism Trussler, Michael (Toronto): misprision
Perron, Paul (Toronto): A(lgirdas) J(ulien) Turner, Hilary (McMaster): Maud Bodkin
Greimas Ungar, Steven (Iowa): Maurice Blanchot
Prado, C.G. (Queen's): Richard Rorty Valdes, Mario J. (Toronto): aporia, binary
Radloff, Bernhard (Ottawa): hermeneutic circle, opposition, concretization, intersubjectivity,
text, Martin Heidegger, Roman Ingarden reference/referent, Hans-Georg Gadamer,
Ray, William (Reed College): affective stylis- Jurgen Habermas
tics, Stanley Fish, Georges Poulet Vandendorpe, Christian (Ottawa): actant,
Rinehart, Hollis (York): pluralism, Elder Olson classeme, isotopy, seme
Rivero, Maria-Luisa (Ottawa): competence/ Van de Pitte, Margaret (Alberta): Edmund
performance, Noam Avram Chomsky Husserl
Ross, Trevor (Dalhousie): aura, canon, litera- Vigneault, Robert (Ottawa): Gaston Bachelard
ture Vince, Ronald W. (McMaster): Neo-Aristotelian
Ryan, Marie-Laure (California): code, narratee, or Chicago School, R(onald) S(almon) Crane
narrative code, narratology (with Ernst van Vulpe, Nicola (Leon): Pierre Felix Bourdieu,
Alphen), narrator Galvano della Volpe
Saim, Mirela (McGill): Georg Lukacs Walker, Victoria (Ottawa): Anglo-American
St. Jacques, Kelly (Ottawa): E(dward) M(organ) feminist criticism (with Chris Weedon), Que-
Forster bec feminist criticism
Savan, David (Toronto): C(harles) S(anders) Wallace, Jo-Ann (Alberta): Elaine Showalter
Peirce Walton, Priscilla L. (Carleton): totalization
Schellenberg, Elizabeth (Simon Eraser): reader- Waring, Wendy (University of Technology,
response criticism Perth): essentialism
Seamon, Roger (UBC): Ernst Hans Josef Gom- Weedon, Chris (Cardiff): Anglo-American fem-
brich inist criticism (with Victoria Walker)

xiii
Contributors
Whiteside-St. Leger Lucas, Anna (McMaster):
communication theory, hypogram, icon/
iconology, index, sign
Wilson, Barrie A. (York): metacriticism
Woodbridge, Linda (Alberta): liminality (with
Roland Anderson)
Zichy, Francis (Saskatchewan): pleasure/bliss,
readerly/writerly text
Zitner, Sheldon P. (Toronto): universal

xiv
1
APPROACHES
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Archetypal criticism

Anglo-American feminist criticism: tent not the source or origin of drama, because
dramatists know that ritual is the best way of
see Feminist criticism, Anglo- holding an audience's attention.
American Archetypal criticism had a second extra-
literary source in addition to cultural anthro-
pology. It developed in part from Jung, partic-
Archetypal criticism ularly the Jungian idea of a 'collective uncon-
scious' underlying the production of myths,
Archetypal criticism focuses on the generic, re- visions, religious ideas, and certain kinds of
curring and conventional elements in "litera- dreams common to numerous cultures and pe-
ture that cannot be explained as matters of riods of history. For Jung one major product of
historical influence or tradition. It studies each the unconscious is the hero myth, an exposi-
literary work as part of the whole of literature. tion in the language of fairy tale of a child's
This kind of criticism accepts as its informing development from infancy to adulthood. The
principle that archetypes - typical images, details of this archetypal myth vary from cul-
characters, narrative designs, themes, and ture to culture but the essentials are common.
other literary phenomena - are present in all In Jung's writings the archetypes are not inher-
literature and so provide the basis for study of ited by individual human beings. Rather what
its interconnectedness. Sometimes called 'myth is passed on in the human species is a predis-
criticism,' archetypal literary criticism emerged position to fashion meaningful myths and
in the 19305, 19405 and 19505 in the work of symbols from the common experience of each
*Maud Bodkin, Robert Graves, Joseph Camp- individual life.
bell, G. Wilson Knight, Richard Chase, Francis For Jung archetypal situations, figures, im-
Fergusson, Philip Wheelwright, *Northrop ages, and ideas are thought to have powerful
Frye, and others. It made extensive use of the emotional meaning and to be expressions of
ideas of social scientists, especially James G. typical human experience raised to a level of
Frazer and *Carl G. Jung. (See also *archetype, immense importance. In the 20 volumes of
*myth.) Jung's collected works numerous archetypes
Frazer was one of the so-called Cambridge are mentioned or described but five have par-
School of anthropologists, classicists and Mid- ticular prominence. The archetypal mother and
dle East specialists. His massive 12-volume father figures, caused by the child's experience
The Golden Bough (1890-1915) traces archety- of parents, are paralleled by images underlying
pal patterns of myth and ritual in the tales and the individual's experience of the opposite sex.
ceremonies of diverse cultures. Importantly for The anima is the name Jung gives to a man's
literary criticism, Frazer tended to the view, a image of a woman, the animus to a woman's
matter of controversy for many decades, that image of a man. On one level these are simply
myth is an offshoot or projection of ritual, a personifications of erotic desire but, on an-
narrative following or accompanying the ritual other, they take on a wide range of connota-
action. More recently *Claude Levi-Strauss tions. Another archetypal figure, not clearly
(1908) set aside the question of which comes distinguished by Jung from the father figure
first, ritual or myth. For him they were closely but described as separate is the 'wise old man,'
associated, with myth functioning on the con- symbolizing intelligence, knowledge and supe-
ceptual level and ritual on the level of action. rior insight. The 'shadow' archetype, never
Frye went further and saw The Golden Bough fully delineated in Jung, designates the nega-
as a 'kind of grammar of the human imagina- tive or dark side of the individual human
tion/ 'a study of unconscious symbolism on its being, those grasping, mean, malicious, lustful,
social side' complementing what *Sigmund or even devilish aspects of the individual that
Freud and Jung did with the private symbol- are usually held in abeyance in mature, sane
ism of dreams. For Frye the question of the or- people but are given full scope in rituals,
igin of myth or ritual is unimportant; Frazer's myths, religion, literature, and other art forms.
work embodies an archetypal ritual from The most important archetype for Jung is the
which the literary critic may logically but not '*self/ central to the process of individuation,
chronologically derive the structural principles which is his main contribution to analytic psy-
of naive drama. For the critic, ritual is the con- chology and pertains to the second half of the
individual's life, succeeding the 'hero myth'

3
Archetypal criticism
and its concerns with the way the individual cording to Frye, the critic need not be con-
establishes himself or herself in the world. cerned with ultimate sources in primitive ritual
Jung placed the production of works of art or a primordial unconscious, nor with ques-
on a lower level than the emergence of reli- tions of historical transmission. Archetypes are
gious ideas and he was reluctant to apply his present in literature however they come to be
concepts to literature. Many others, who place there. The literary critic accepts this as a fact
a high value on art and literature, have made and goes on to use the archetypal perspective
extensive use of the ideas of Jung, and Frazer as one part of a comprehensive critical meth-
as well, and have tried to show how archety- odology.
pal myths lie behind all literature. Maud Bod- The archetypal interconnectedness of litera-
kin, in Archetypal Patterns in Poetry (1934), ture has implications for considerations of an
interpreted Coleridge's The Ancient Manner author's originality. The greatness in a literary
and *T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land as poems work arises more often from the themes and
about the myth of rebirth. Robert Graves (The images it shares with other texts than from the
White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic author's own originality. The first English poet
Myth 1948 and Greek Myths 1958) attempted known by name, Caedmon, was initiated, ac-
to demonstrate that many of the myths known cording to the Venerable Bede, into a Ger-
to the modern world are misconstructions of manic 'word-hoard' and a biblical mythology,
pictures and sculptures of earlier myth and both of which existed prior to his career as a
that an archetypal myth of a primordial Earth poet. Without both of these he had no signifi-
Mother served by males underlies all subse- cance as a poet. His new compositions were
quent myths. Joseph Campbell, with a Jungian born into an already existing order of words.
emphasis, considered the myth of the questing Because that order existed, his listeners under-
hero as the all-encompassing monomyth (The stood and were deeply moved by the poems
Hero with a Thousand Faces 1949). G. Wilson he fashioned. A new poem, from the perspec-
Knight, interpreter of Shakespeare and several tive of archetypal criticism, manifests some-
other major English poets, made extensive use thing that is already latent in the order of
of myth, ritual and archetypal symbols. In words. It communicates meaning because both
Fearful Symmetry (1947) Northrop Frye inter- poet and audience are members of a commu-
preted Blake's poetic prophecies as coherent nity in which that order already exists. Arche-
myths. In The Quest for Myth (1949) Richard typal criticism, then, is concerned with texts as
Chase declared that 'myth is literature and social facts, as involved in techniques that give
must be considered as an aesthetic creation of imaginative focus to an existing community.
the human imagination.' Francis Fergusson's Archetypal criticism has been criticized as
The Idea of a Theater (1949) pointed to the rit- reductionist, as a reading of all literature in
uals behind dramas from the classical Greeks terms of a few monotonous patterns. It has
until the 2oth century. Philip Wheelwright also been judged negatively as blurring the
used myth criticism to interpret the Oresteia of boundaries between art and myth or between
Aeschylus and Eliot's The Waste Land (The art and religion or philosophy. The most
Burning Fountain 1954). knowledgeable practitioners, however, like
By the time of Frye's Anatomy of Criticism: Frye, use archetypal concepts and methods as
Four Essays (1957) the theory and practice of part of a larger critical and humanistic enter-
archetypal criticism were well established and prise. So used, archetypal criticism is a valua-
were capable of being placed in the context ble complement to other kinds of inquiry. It
both of other schools of criticism and of a 'po- need not compete with historical criticism and
lysemous' theory of literary meaning. So far as its preoccupation with sources, influences and
Frye's account of archetypal criticism is con- social context, or with biographical criticism's
cerned, it is important to recognize that he dis- concern with the facts of a writer's life, be-
engaged the concept of the literary archetype cause like these kinds of criticism it recognizes
from its anthropological and psychological be- the importance of learned associations in liter-
ginnings. For him Frazer's work is a study of ary experience. It may be of major assistance
the ritual basis of naive drama and Jung's in the study of literary genres, which is based
work makes possible an understanding of the on analogies of form and proceeds on the hy-
dream basis of naive romance. In learning pothesis that whatever connections a literary
from either of these pioneering thinkers, ac- work has with life, reality, the physical world,

4
Black criticism
society, or philosophy for its content, it is not Frazer, James G. The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic
fashioned from these things. (See *genre criti- and Religion. 12 vols. London: Macmillan, 1890-
cism.) The literary work takes its form or 1915. Abr. in i vol., 1954.
shape or design from other literature, thus il- Frye, Northrop. Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays.
Princeton: Princeton UP, 1957.
lustrating a central principle of archetypal criti-
- Fearful Symmetry: A Study of William Blake. Prince-
cism: works of literature imitate other works of ton: Princeton UP, 1947.
literature. Graves, Robert. Greek Myths. London: Cassell, 1958.
Archetypal criticism complements close - The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic
reading of texts as things in themselves, the Myths. Amended and enl. ed. New York/London:
special concern of the *New Criticism that de- Vintage Books/Faber and Faber, 1961.
veloped from the 19205. It sits, less easily, be- Jung, Carl G. Collected Works. 20 vols. London: Rout-
side Leavisite evaluative criticism (see *F.R. ledge and Kegan Paul, 1953-79.
Leavis) since archetypal criticism easily in- Knight, G. Wilson. The Imperial Theme: Further Inter-
cludes the popular and the naive as well as pretations of Shakespeare's Tragedies, including the
Roman Plays. 3rd ed., repr. with minor corrections.
the complex sophisticated works of the tradi-
London: Methuen, 1963.
tional *canon. In a major sense, archetypal - The Starlit Dome: Studies in the Poetry of Vision.
criticism, especially as articulated and practised London: Methuen, 1959.
by Frye, anticipates or prepares the way for - The Wheel of Fire: Interpretations of Shakespearean
*structuralism. When the work of the French Tragedy. 4th rev. and enl. ed. London: Methuen,
structuralists emerged, saying that language in 1959.
fact constructs our reality rather than reflects Wheelwright, Philip. The Burning Fountain: A Study
it, it had much in common with archetypal in the Language of Symbolism. New and rev. ed.
criticism. Similarly, the recognition in archety- Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1968.
pal theory that the author does not control the
whole meaning of his or her text prepared the
way for what has come to be called '''reader- Black criticism
response criticism, with its emphasis on the
reader as a source of meaning-giving, a source Black criticism in its narrowest sense encom-
conditioned by cultural experience, conscious passes the study of African American litera-
or unconscious, by social and sexual roles, by ture, culture and theory, but in its broadest
ideological assumptions, and so on. Now, late includes the study of certain post-colonial liter-
in the 20th century, archetypal criticism is still atures and cultures (African and Caribbean)
widely used, especially in genre criticism and and overlaps with the feminist concerns of
in those intertextual and comparative studies women of colour. (See *post-colonial theory,
that include recognition and analysis of per- *feminist criticism, ""literature.) Underlying all
sistent, recurrent literary phenomena that can- black criticism is the assumption that 'race' is a
not be adequately explained in terms of one fundamental category of literary and cultural
particular historical tradition. analysis (just as the broad range of feminisms
ALVIN A. LEE takes gender to be a fundamental category of
analysis). But exactly what constitutes race is
Primary Sources not agreed upon; increasingly, it is viewed as
less an essential or biological category than a
Bodkin, Maud. Archetypal Patterns in Poetry: Psycho- social construct in which 'blackness' becomes a
logical Studies of Imagination. London: Oxford UP, subject position in relation to the cultural
1934- dominant ('whiteness' or Euro-Americanism).
Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Paces.
New York: Pantheon Books, 1949. Valerie Smith's definition of black feminist
Chase, Richard. The Quest for Myth. Baton Rouge: theory can usefully be adapted to define black
Louisiana State UP, 1949. theory: 'a way of reading inscriptions of race
Day, Martin S. The Many Meanings of Myth. Lanham, (particularly but not exclusively blackness) ...
New York, London: University Presses of Amer- in modes of cultural expression' ('Black Femin-
ica, 1984. ist Theory' 39).
Fergusson, Francis. The Idea of a Theater, a Study of
Ten Plays: The Art of Drama in Changing Perspec-
tive. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1949.

5
Black criticism
Origins and development 68-112). The first stage, from the mid-1950s to
the early 19603, Baker labels a period of 'inte-
Black criticism, albeit without this title, has a grationist poetics/ characterized by a faith that
fairly long tradition in American letters. Early recent landmark legislative and judicial deci-
examples include the work of the historian- sions in the United States signalled the advent
sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois, whose concept of of social equality in America. In such a soon-
the 'double consciousness' of the African to-be raceless, classless, pluralistic, democratic
American remains influential today; Alain society, according to these optimistic critics,
Locke (editor of the journal The New Negro) black American cultural forms would be inte-
and the theorists of the Harlem Renaissance, grated into the artistic mainstream; accord-
who supported Pan-Africanism and saw art as ingly, any sense of a separate black tradition
a way of defining a black identity and foster- would rightly disappear, along with the belief
ing racial pride; Zora Neale Hurston, whose that separate forms of cultural expression
collecting and championing of black folklore might call for separate standards of critical
when others were predicting its demise pro- judgment. The proponents of 'integrationist
vided an invaluable service to American cul- poetics' included Richard Wright ('The Lit-
ture; and Ralph Ellison, whose Shadow and Act erature of the Negro in the United States'),
still elicits responses from more recent critics. Arthur P. Davis ('Integration and Race Lit-
Black criticism as practised under that desig- erature') and Sterling Brown; even James Bald-
nation began to flourish in the 19605 'along win, no simple 'integrationist,' claimed at the
with the radicalization of the word "Black" time that black writers needed to appropriate
and the emergence of the Black Power philos- the Western white cultural heritage in order
ophy' (Henderson 'The Question of Form' 24). to make their own romantic voyage of self-
Since then, black criticism has taken a variety discovery.
of forms, often grounding itself in other ap- The obvious failure of legal and political de-
proaches but always revising them according cisions and of the peaceful civil-rights move-
to its own concerns and agendas. As *Henry ment in the American South to bring about
Louis Gates, Jr., observes: 'The challenge of meaningful social change resulted by the mid-
black literary criticism is to derive principles of 1960s in the adoption of a much more militant
literary criticism from the black tradition itself, stance against the dominant white "ideology
as defined in the idiom of critical theory but and the development of a decidedly revolu-
also in the idiom which constitutes the "lan- tionary, Afro-centred ideology known as 'Black
guage of blackness" ... The sign of the success- Power.' As defined by Stokely Carmichael and
ful negotiation of this precipice of indenture, Charles V. Hamilton, Black Power 'is a call for
of slavish imitation, is that the black critical black people in this country to unite, to recog-
essay refers to two contexts, two traditions - nize their heritage, to build a sense of commu-
the Western and the black' (Black Literature nity. It is a call for black people to begin to
and Literary Theory 8). To explore black cul- define their own goals, to lead their own orga-
tural difference, critics must redefine 'theory' - nizations and to support those organizations'
which is not neutral - by turning to the black (Black Power 44). The cultural wing of the
vernacular tradition for models (Gates 'Canon- Black Power movement was the Black Arts
Formation' 28). Barbara Christian argues that Movement, led by artists like Amiri Baraka
'people of color have always theorized - but in (formerly LeRoi Jones) who founded the out-
forms quite different from the Western form of door Harlem Black Arts Repertory Theater
abstract logic. And I am inclined to say that School in 1965 as a way of fostering and pro-
our theorizing ... is often in narrative forms, in moting the expressive forms, the art, of black
the stories we create, in riddles and proverbs, Americans (jazz, blues, field hollers, work
in the play with language' ('The Race for The- songs, spirituals, folk tales, and so on). Art, ac-
ory' 226). (See ""theories of play/free-play.) cording to activists like Baraka, was to be used
Although the variety of African American to further the social and political aims of Afri-
criticism practised at any given time makes it can Americans. As Larry Neal states in his
difficult to trace a simple historical develop- now-famous essay 'The Black Arts Movement':
ment, "Houston A. Baker, among others, has 'the Black Arts Movement proposes a radical
sketched broad 'generational shifts' in this crit- reordering of the western cultural aesthetic. It
icism over the past 40 years (Blues, Ideology proposes a separate symbolism, mythology,

6
Black criticism
critique, and iconology' (The Black Aesthetic After 1975 - ironically at the very time for-
272). Baraka's theatre school and Neal's rheto- malism in both its guises of *New Criticism
ric provided the model for revolutionary black and ""structuralism was coming under attack in
cultural groups which sprang up across urban the academy - a concern with the 'literariness'
America and found outlets for their voices in or formal properties of African American writ-
such journals as Black Scholar, Umbra, Black ing achieved the ascendancy, as scholars
Dialogue, and Journal of Black Poetry. The ad- sought a solid theoretical ground for black ex-
vent of wide interest in a distinctly black cul- pressive culture. This shift coincided with the
tural heritage also gave rise to the establish- movement of much African American literary
ment of Black Studies programs at many study out of interdisciplinary Black Studies
American universities in the late 19605. programs (where it had been treated like his-
The theory of the Black Aesthetic reached a tory or sociology) into mainstream English de-
high point in Stephen Henderson's essay 'The partments, where its existence needed to be
Form of Things Unknown/ which claims that justified in formal terms and where, through
the 'commodity "blackness" ' is most evident the 19805, it replaced black history as the
in black poetry and that such poetry can be dominant area of Black Studies. Scholars now
truly appreciated only by a black-reference examined the 'blackness' of texts through their
public or audience: 'the ultimate criteria for uses of language; political and ideological con-
critical evaluation must be found in ... the cerns were deliberately subordinated to for-
Black Community itself (66). Such 'folk/ by malist issues, leading some radical scholars to
virtue of being in touch with their 'ethnic view this move towards professionalism as a
roots/ are fully immersed in and cognizant of capitulation to the standards of white acade-
the cultural codes (the 'Soul Field') necessary mia by an emerging black middle class more
to comprehend and judge black poetry. These concerned with higher education than with
notions of cultural relativity, borrowed in part revolutionary change. The 'reconstruction of
from anthropology, deny the existence of any instruction/ as it came to be called, was initi-
'universal' standards of literary judgment. (See ated by a number of significant conferences
""universal.) and resultant books. Three especially influen-
Like its predecessor 'integrationist poetics/ tial texts were Minority Language and Literature
the Black Aesthetic was overtaken by failure to (1977), edited by Dexter Fisher, Afro-American
achieve its own goals: despite the surge of in- Literature: The Reconstruction of Instruction
terest in black history, culture and expressive (1979), edited by Dexter Fisher and Robert
forms, no separate black 'nation' came into Stepto, and English Literature: Opening Up the
being. The Black Arts Movement did not ulti- Canon (1981), edited by ""Leslie Fiedler and
mately move audiences to revolutionary action Houston Baker.
and by the mid-1970s critics were accusing the These books brought together the work of a
movement of chauvinism, introspection and new generation of scholars, including Mary
Marxist rhetoric. Neal himself was one of the Helen Washington, Generva Smitherman,
first to recognize that art had failed to bring Houston Baker, Robert Stepto, Kimberly Bens-
about social and political change. In a reas- ton, Addison Gayle, Henry Louis Gates, Sher-
sessment of the movement, 'The Black Contri- ley Ann Williams, and Arnold Rampersad. All
bution to American Letters/ he claims that the three volumes sought to revise the narrow
Black Aesthetic is a 'Marxist literary theory in *canon of American literature so as to make it
which the concept of race is substituted for the more inclusive and representative of a plural-
Marxist idea of class.' (See *Marxist criticism.) istic, multicultural society, while Addison
He concludes that 'through propaganda alone Gayle's 'Blueprint for Black Criticism' called
the black writer can never perform the highest for the creation of 'positive' black characters
function of his art: that of revealing to man his who could combat 'the stereotypes of blacks'
most enduring human possibilities and limita- (44). The Fisher-Stepto collection also focused
tions' (783-4). Neal had come full circle to on 'a "literary" [formalist-structuralist] under-
Baldwin's romantic idealism; at the same time, standing of the literature' (vii). The Fiedler-
he called for more rigorous attention to the Baker collection went a step further, however,
uniqueness of expressive form in black art, a by attacking the notion that the English lan-
call later echoed by Stephen Henderson in guage itself is a neutral container of cultural
'The Question of Form and Judgement.' forms; language is marked as a political tool

7
Black criticism
with ideological ramifications that need to be tions of African American autobiographies,
exposed and explicated, so that the study of especially slave narratives; The Schomburg Li-
black literature begins to move once more brary of lyth-Century Black Women Writers (Ox-
from a formalist to a poststructuralist stage ford) series, under the general editorship of
sometimes referred to as a 'new black aes- Henry Louis Gates, who is also the editor of
thetic' (Gates PMLA 21). (See *poststructural- G.K. Hall's African American Women Writers se-
ism.) ries, the director of Chadwyck-Healey's Black
As Gates observes, in the work of these re- Periodical Fiction project, and the chief editor
cent critics 'an initial phase of theorizing has of the Norton Anthology of Afro-American Liter-
given way to the generation of close readings ature; and new editions of the works of many
that attend to the "social text" as well ... Black older black women writers, as well as more
studies has functioned as a strategic site for general anthologies, edited by feminist schol-
autocritique within American studies itself. ars like Mary Helen Washington (editor of
No longer, for example, are the concepts of Black-Eyed Susans, Midnight Birds and Invented
"black" and "white" thought to be preconsti- Lives), Deborah E. McDowell (editor of the
tuted; rather, they are mutually constitutive Black Women Writers series for Beacon Press),
and socially produced' (PMLA 21). Gates him- Gloria T. Hull (co-editor of All the Women are
self has been at the forefront of promoting this White), and Barbara Smith (editor of Home
type of criticism, both in his own work like Girls). These projects - together with critical
The Signifying Monkey - which traces the rela- studies like Andrews' To Tell a Free Story, Ber-
tionship between African and African Ameri- nard Bell's The Afro-American Novel and Its
can vernacular traditions and cultural forms - Tradition, and Barbara Christian's Black Women
and in his numerous editorial projects like Novelists - have been instrumental in estab-
Black Literature and Literary Theory and 'Race/ lishing alternative literary histories within
Writing, and Difference. Gates raises such ques- American culture.
tions as the relationship between African cul-
tural and Western mainstream cultural Black feminist criticism
traditions, the relationship between the black
vernacular and the black formal traditions, and One of the most active areas - some might
the applicability of contemporary literary the- claim the most active area - of recent black
ory - particularly poststructuralism - to the criticism is black feminist criticism, which has
reading of black texts. experienced an explosion of theory and prac-
The only other male critic to rival Gates' po- tice over the past 20 years, and especially dur-
sition of dominance in contemporary black ing the last decade, as a direct result of the
criticism is Houston Baker who, while adopt- growing critical acclaim for African American
ing strategies he finds useful from the 'recon- women writers such as Alice Walker, Toni
struction' project, nevertheless clings strongly Morrison and Gloria Naylor (who, between
to a neo-Marxist insistence on the contextualiz- them, have won Pulitzer Prizes and National
ing of literature. In Blues, Ideology, and Afro- and American Book Awards), Paule Marshall,
American Literature, Baker builds what he calls Gayl Jones, Ntozake Shange, Toni Cade Bam-
an anthropology of art which insists 'that bara, and Jamaica Kincaid, and the poets
works of Afro-American expressive culture Gwendolyn Brooks, Nikki Giovanni, Audre
cannot be adequately understood unless they Lorde, and Rita Dove. Black women writers
are contextualized within the interdependent have themselves played prominent roles in
systems of Afro-American culture' (109). Mod- such criticism: Alice Walker has fought hard
ernism and the Harlem Renaissance and Afro- for the recuperation and recognition of a long
American Poetics are further instalments in this tradition of black women writers within which
project. she can discover a theory of black female crea-
None of this theorizing would be possible, tivity (In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens),
however, without the painstaking archaeologi- while Audre Lorde - before it became widely
cal work that has, over the past decade, un- accepted - remarked, in essays like 'The Mas-
earthed a host of 'lost' texts that now form the ter's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's
canon of African American literature. Examples House,' on the importance of developing and
- by no means exhaustive - of such recupera- valorizing female language and emotional
tive projects include William L. Andrews' edi- knowledge.

8
Black criticism
Black feminist criticism and theory emerged have been influenced, even co-opted, into
in the 19805 from the complex and conflicted speaking a language and defining their discus-
relationship of black women to black men dur- sion in terms alien to and opposed to our
ing the Black Power and civil-rights movement needs and orientation' (226). Joyce A. Joyce
of the 19605, and of women of colour to white has attacked Gates and Baker for moving into
women during the Women's Liberation Move- the sphere of ivy-league elitism, where the
ment of the 19705. Many black women recog- former is too influenced by *deconstruction
nized that while the Black Power movement (*Jacques Derrida and *Paul de Man) and the
was radically Afrocentric, it also remained latter by poststructuralist Marxism (*Michel
powerfully androcentric, with the liberation of Foucault, *Jean Baudrillard, *Louis Althusser).
women within the group being subordinated Still, some of the best recent black feminist
to the aspirations of the group as a whole. The criticism is what we would call highly theoreti-
feminist movement seemed to offer some re- cal; examples include the work of Hortense
dress but women of colour increasingly saw Spillers, Hazel Carby, Susan Willis, and Debo-
that the concerns and standards of the move- rah McDowell. Warning against the simplifi-
ment were those of white, middle-class cations of a linear historiography, Spillers chal-
women who tended to ignore the different lenges the notion of a unified, intertextual 'tra-
needs and desires of women of colour and dition' of African American women's writing,
Third World women. Powerful expressions of which she retheorizes as 'a matrix of literary
these arguments are found in bell hooks' Ain't discontinuities' (Conjuring 251). (See *intertex-
I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism and tuality.) Similarly, Carby advocates that 'black
Michelle Wallace's Black Macho and the Myth of feminist criticism be regarded as a problem,
the Superwoman. Perhaps the most influential - not a solution, as a sign that should be interro-
certainly the most galvanizing - work of black gated, a locus of contradictions' (Reconstructing
feminist criticism to date has been Barbara Womanhood 15) in which the identity and ex-
Smith's essay 'Toward a Black Feminist Criti- perience of black womanhood must be seen as
cism' (1977). Lamenting the fact that 'Black polyvalent, shifting, even self-contradictory.
women's existence, experience and culture and (See *sign.) She examines the material condi-
the brutally complex systems of oppression tions under which black women intellectuals
which shape these are in the "real world" of produced their work in order to explore how
white and/or male consciousness beneath con- they represented the sexual ideologies of their
sideration, invisible, unknown' (168), Smith times. McDowell also sees black women's *dis-
proclaimed that 'a Black feminist approach to course as supremely dialogical, while Willis
literature that embodies the realization that the brings poststructuralist theories of ""cultural
politics of sex as well as the politics of race materialism to bear in establishing historical
and class are crucially interlocking factors in contexts for black women's literature. (See also
the works of Black women writers is an abso- *double-voicing/dialogism.) As Valerie Smith
lute necessity' (170). points out, all of these approaches view black
Despite the essentialist flaws in her argu- women's oppression as specific and complex
ment - black feminist criticism is now prac- and their methodologies examine the variables
tised by a number of critics who are neither of race, gender and class without proclaiming
female nor black - Smith's essay gave a name the centrality of any one. At the same time,
and a direction to this literary movement; it they challenge the traditional conceptions of
also championed the cause of black lesbian literary study by making such questions im-
writing. Following Smith's lead, black feminist portant to literary analysis ('Black Feminist
criticism has become increasingly theoretical Theory' 46-7).
and more sophisticated, although the whole The significance of black/African American
question of theory versus practice remains a criticism and of black feminist criticism is man-
contentious one in black feminist circles. Bar- ifold. As well as providing close readings of
bara Christian, for example, in 'The Race for individual texts and the works of individual
Theory' argues passionately against critical authors, black criticism has been instrumental
theory, which she claims now dominates the in questioning the American canon and pro-
academy in hegemonic fashion: 'some of our viding alternative lines of literary inheritance
most daring and potentially radical critics (and and literary tradition. Together with feminism,
bv our I mean black, women, Third World) it has launched an assault on traditional ways

9
Black criticism

of studying English and has thus repoliticized Black American Literature Forum (a journal).
the 'institution' of English itself. Black feminist Brown, Sterling, Arthur P. Davis, and Ulysses Lee,
critics have also been in the vanguard of those eds. The Negro Caravan: Writings by American Ne-
challenging the totalizing tendencies of West- groes. New York: Dryden P, 1941.
Cade, Toni, ed. The Black Woman, An Anthology.
ern academic feminism (see ""totalization).
New York: Signet, 1970.
They have demonstrated that the very concept Callaloo (a journal).
of woman is far more various than the main- Carby, Hazel V. Reconstructing Womanhood: The
stream may have thought and have presented Emergence of the Afro-American Woman Novelist.
black women's experience as an exemplary site New York: Oxford UP, 1987.
both for rematerializing black critical theory Carmichael, Stokely, and Charles V. Hamilton. Black
and for examining the shifting positionality of Power: The Politics of Liberation in America. New
the female subject. Finally, the acceptance of York: Vintage, 1967.
black literature and criticism as valid and im- Christian, Barbara. Black Feminist Criticism. New
portant enterprises has paved the way for the York: Pergamon P, 1985.
- Black Women Novelists: The Development of a Tradi-
introduction of a host of other ethnic and/or
tion, 1892-1976. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood P,
'minority' literatures - Asian American, Chi- 1980.
cano, Native American, gay, Third World - - 'The Race for Theory.' In Gender and Theory: Dia-
into the academy. logues on Feminist Criticism. Ed. Linda Kauffman.
DONALD C. GOELLNICHT Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1989, 225-37.
Davis, Arthur P. 'Integration and Race Literature.' In
Primary Sources The American Negro Writer and His Roots. New
York: American Society of African Culture, 1960.
Andrews, William L. To Tell a Free Story: The First Du Bois, W.E.B. The Souls of Black Folk: Essays and
Century of Afro-American Autobiography, 1-760- Sketches. 1903. Greenwich, Conn.: Crest, 1965.
1865. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1986. Ellison, Ralph. Shadow and Act. 1964. New York:
Awkward, Michael. Inspiriting Influences: Tradition, Signet, 1966.
Revision, and Afro-American Women's Novels. New Evans, Mari. Black Women Writers, 1950-1980: A
York: Columbia UP, 1989. Critical Evaluation. New York: Anchor P, 1984.
Baker, Houston A., Jr. Afro-American Poetics: Revi- Fiedler, Leslie, and Houston A. Baker, Jr., eds. Eng-
sions of Harlem and the Black Aesthetic. Madison: lish Literature: Opening Up the Canon. Baltimore:
U of Wisconsin P, 1988. Johns Hopkins UP, 1981.
- Blues, Ideology, and Afro-American Literature: A Fisher, Dexter, ed. Minority Language and Literature:
Vernacular Theory. Chicago and London: U of Retrospective and Perspective. New York: MLA,
Chicago P, 1984. 1977.
- The Journey Back: Issues in Black Literature and - and Robert B. Stepto, eds. Afro-American Litera-
Criticism. Chicago and London: U of Chicago P, ture: The Reconstruction of Instruction. New York:
1980. MLA, 1979.
- Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance. Chicago Gates, Henry Louis, Jr. 'Canon-Formation and the
and London: U of Chicago P, 1987. Afro-American Tradition.' In Afro-American Liter-
- and Patricia Redmond. Afro-American Literary ary Study in the 19905. Ed. Houston A. Baker, Jr.,
Study in the 19903. Chicago and London: U of and Patricia Redmond. Chicago and London: U of
Chicago P, 1989. Chicago P, 1989, 14-39.
Baldwin, James. Nobody Knows My Name: More Notes - Figures in Black: Words, Signs, and the 'Racial' Self.
of a Native Son. New York: Delta, 1962. New York: Oxford UP, 1987.
- Notes of a Native Son. 1955. Boston: Beacon P, - The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of Afro-American
1961. Literary Criticism. New York: Oxford UP, 1988.
Baraka, Amiri. 'The Myth of a "Negro Literature." ' - ed. Black Literature and Literary Theory. New York:
In Home: Social Essays. New York: William Mor- Methuen, 1984.
row, 1966. - ed. PLMA 105 (Jan. 1990). Special issue on African
- and Larry Neal, eds. Black Fire: An Anthology of and African American Literature.
Afro-American Writing. New York: William Mor- - ed. 'Race,' Writing, and Difference. Chicago and
row, 1968. London: U of Chicago P, 1985-6.
Bell, Bernard W. The Afro-American Novel and Its - ed. Reading Black, Reading Feminist: A Critical An-
Tradition. Amherst: U of Massachusetts P, 1987. thology. New York: Meridian, 1990.
Bell, Roseann P., Bettye J. Parker, and Beverly Guy- Gayle, Addison, Jr. ed. 'Blueprint for Black Criti-
Sheftall, eds. Sturdy Black Bridges: Visions of Black cism.' First World (Jan.-Feb. 1977): 41-5.
Women in Literature. Garden City, NY: Anchor, - The Black Aesthetic. Garden City, NY: Doubleday,
1979. Anchor, 1972.

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Communication theory
Henderson, Stephen. 'The Form of Things Un- - Self-Discovery and Authority in Afro-American Nar-
known.' In Understanding the New Black Poetry. rative. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 1987.
New York: William Morrow, 1973, 1-69. Soyinka, Wole. Myth, Literature and the African
- The Question of Form and Judgement in Contem- World. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1976.
porary Black American Poetry, 1962-1977.' In A Spillers, Hortense }., and Marjorie Pryse, eds. Con-
Dark and Sudden Beauty: Two Essays on Black juring: Black Women, Fiction, and Literary Tradition.
American Poetry by George Kent and Stephen Hen- Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1985.
derson. Ed. Houston A. Baker, Jr. Philadelphia: Stepto, Robert B. From Behind the Veil: A Study of
Afro-American Studies Program of the University Afro-American Narrative. Urbana: U of Illinois P,
of Pennsylvania, 1977. 1979.
Hernton, Calvin C. The Sexual Mountain and Black Tate, Claudia, ed. Black Women Writers at Work. New
Women Writers. New York: Doubleday, Anchor, York: Continuum, 1983.
1987. Walker, Alice. In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens.
hooks, bell. Ain't I a Woman: Black Women and Fem- New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1983.
inism. Boston: South End P, 1981. Wall, Cheryl A., ed. Changing Our Own Words: Es-
Hughes, Langston. 'The Negro Artist and the Racial says on Criticism, Theory, and Writing by Black
Mountain.' Nation, 23 June 1926, 692-4. Women. New Brunswick and London: Rutgers UP,
- and Arna Bontemps, eds. The Book of Negro Folk- 1989.
lore. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1958. Wallace, Michelle. Black Macho and the Myth of the
Hull, Gloria T., Patricia Bell-Scott, and Barbara Superwoman. London: Calder, 1979.
Smith, eds. All the Women Are White, All the Washington, Mary Helen, ed. Black-Eyed Susans:
Blacks Are Men, But Some of Us Are Brave: Black Classic Stories by and about Black Women. Garden
Women's Studies. Old Westbury, NY: Feminist P, City, NY: Doubleday, Anchor, 1975.
1982. - Invented Lives: Narratives of Black Women, 1860-
Hurston, Zora Neale. Dust Tracks on a Road. 1942. 1960. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1987.
New York: Lippincott, 1971. - Midnight Birds: Stories of Contemporary Black
Joyce, Joyce A. ' "Who the Cap Fit": Unconscious- Women Writers. New York: Doubleday, Anchor,
ness and Unconscionableness in the Criticism of 1980.
Houston A. Baker, Jr. and Henry Louis Gates, Jr.' Willis, Susan. Specifying: Black Women Writing the
New Literary History 18 (1987): 371-84. American Experience. Madison: U of Wisconsin P,
Locke, Alain, ed. The New Negro. 1925. New York: 1987.
Atheneum, 1968. Wright, Richard. 'Blueprint for Negro Writing/ New
Lorde, Audre. 'The Master's Tools Will Never Dis- Challenge 2 (Fall 1937): 53-65.
mantle the Master's House.' In Sister Outsider. - The Literature of the Negro in the United States.'
Trumansburg, NY: Crossing P, 1984, 110-13. In White Man, Listenl Garden City, NY: Anchor,
McDowell, Deborah E. 'Boundaries: Or Distant Rela- 1964, 69-105.
tions and Close Kin.' In Afro-American Literary
Study in the 1990$. Ed. Houston A. Baker, Jr., and
Patricia Redmond. Chicago and London: U of
Chicago P, 1989, 51-70. Chicago School: see Neo-
- 'New Directions for Black Feminist Criticism.' In Aristotelian or Chicago School
The New Feminist Criticism. Ed. Elaine Showalter.
New York: Pantheon, 1985, 186-99.
Neal, Larry. 'The Black Arts Movement.' In The
Black Aesthetic. Ed. Addison Gayle, Jr. New York: Communication theory
Doubleday, 1971.
- 'The Black Contribution to American Letters: Part A vast subject, communication theory deals
II, The Writer as Activist - 1960 and After.' In The with systems and models of communication
Black American Reference Book. Ed. Mabel M. ranging from communications engineering to
Smythe. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1976, psycholinguistics and is related to a host of
781-4. far-ranging fields (such as cybernetics, com-
Smith, Barbara. 'Toward a Black Feminist Criticism.'
puter science, telemetry, *semiotics, neurol-
1977. In The New Feminist Criticism. Ed. Elaine
Showalter. New York: Pantheon, 1985, 168-85. ogy). The linguistic models are most relevant
- ed. Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology. New to literary theory.
York: Kitchen Table/Women of Color P, 1983. Communication, as defined by the linguist
Smith, Valerie. 'Black Feminist Theory and the Rep- John Lyons, is 'the intentional transmission of
resentation of the "Other." ' In Changing Our Own information by means of some established sig-
Words. Ed. Cheryl A. Wall. New Brunswick and
London: Rutgers UP, 1989, 38-57.

11
Communication theory
nailing-system.' All communications models on staying, may first appear to defy the sense
account for the transmission of a signal or of the communication and, subsequently, to
message between a sender and a receiver in communicate that this departure is metaphysi-
some mutually decipherable *code. Shannon cal rather than physical, that she does not
and Weaver's now classic model represents mean what she says; in short, she may com-
communication as a signal transmitted from a municate, even if it is not the message we
source by a transmitter through a channel. The originally thought it was.
signal is received by a receiver which relays it Despite interference, meaning may be retro-
to its destination. The signal may be altered by actively restored. Thus a poem of seemingly
'noise' (defined as any information loss occur- unconnected sentences which at first fails to
ring in the channel of communication). In connect or communicate anything may, by the
*Ferdinand de Saussure's model, the source is time we reach its end, communicate as the
the brain, where the concept occurs before pieces fall into place in a recognizable pattern
being translated into a sound image and trans- of meaning. Then, at last, we may see them as
mitted by the voice. The ear is the receiver variants of the same matrix, as the expression
and the destination the brain, which decodes of a *hypogram.
the signal into concepts. Transmitter and re- The model of linguistic communication most
ceiver may be far more complex. For example, frequently used in literary analysis is probably
an actor saying 'Is this a dagger which I see *Roman Jakobson's. It comprises six elements:
before me ...?' involves a transmitter which an addresser sending a message in a particular
adds the conversion into a *text and the ac- code and implying a context, to an addressee by
tor's articulation of it; the receiver is here means of some form of contact. For Jakobson
expanded to include the deciphering of the meaning resides in the total act of communica-
written text. The ultimate destination in this tion. Otherwise, how do we know what deic-
case would be the audience or rather the mind tics and shifters such as 'this,' 'here/ 'now,'
of each spectator-listener. One might also add 'then,' 'she,' 'it,' 'I,' refer to? How are we to
a further level of encoding and decoding to ac- interpret, for example, 'red'? Is it part of a
count for a producer's particular interpretation; traffic code addressed by a traffic operator to
lighting effects, make-up, costume, accent and highway users, by sailors to show their port?
inflexion, and sound effects would further add Or is it part of a different code used in a dif-
to the complexity of transmission, as would ferent context to signify danger or passion? To
translation into another language. In the latter account for all the factors which contribute to
case the original sender (the author) and the communication, Jakobson describes six func-
ultimate receiver (the listener) do not share the tions corresponding to the six elements of his
same linguistic code. communication model: emotive, phatic, refer-
The more levels of encoding and decoding ential, metalinguistic, conative, poetic. The
added, the greater the possibility of 'noise' in- emotive function dominates when the addres-
terfering with communication, since communi- ser or implied T expresses his emotions, as in
cation implies meaning for the sender and for a first-person narration or lyric poetry. If con-
the receiver (even if these meanings do not co- tact is being established, tested or maintained
incide). 'Noise' may be a gap, a distortion, cre- without there being any substance to the mes-
ating confusion as to sound, code, context, or sage, then the phatic function dominates. Such
meaning. For example, communication in a is the case when we say 'Hello/ 'How are
novel may be temporarily suspended by a gap you?/ or make comments about the weather:
between chapters or a sudden switch in point we are primarily establishing or maintaining
of view, place or time, forcing the reader to contact, rather than wanting to communicate
deduce what is missing. In a thriller, conflict- any message. lonesco's cliche-ridden empty
ing versions may upset communication. Ambi- dialogue makes extensive use of the phatic
guity or polyvalence may give rise to parallel function, showing how his characters are no
levels of communication which may vie with longer capable of true communication. The re-
or mutually enhance each other: an actress ferential function identifies the context so that,
who says she is leaving, but signals by her for example, we know that 'bat' refers in a
movements or tone of voice that she is intent

12
Communication theory
given instance to a flying mouse-like animal Austin distinguishes three speech acts: (i)
and not to a baseball bat. The code is en- locutionary (the spoken act); (2) illocutionary
hanced when the metalinguistic function (the act performed in saying something, e.g.
comes to the fore, as it would if, for example, asking, ordering, asserting); and (3) perlocu-
one wished to determine that 'bat' is an Eng- tionary (the act performed indirectly by saying
lish word here, and not, say, French. If com- something; e.g. 'it's cold in here' could be a
munication centres on the addressee, the way of persuading someone to shut the door
conative (or vocative) function dominates, as or turn up the heat).
in expressions like 'Look here,' 'Listen!' 'You French speech act theorists tend to represent
there!' When communication accentuates the relationships between utterer and utterance,
message, the poetic (or aesthetic) function is utterer and receiver, receiver and utterance in
uppermost. This poetic function is paramount terms of four concepts: (i) distance (the
in literary texts and accounts for the special speaker may distance himself from his utter-
self-conscious quality of literary discourse, ance by using the third person; e.g. 'He did
drawing attention to itself as form to further it.'); (2) adherence (the utterer indicates his at-
enhance the message, so that the form is the titude by means of modalisors; e.g. 'doubtless/
message. Verbal art, says Jakobson, is not a 'horrifying/ 'it seemed .../ 'perhaps/ and other
transparent window on the outside world, but indications of judgment); (3) transparency or
is opaque and self-referential: it is its own sub- opaqueness (the receiver's absence from or
ject. *Roland Barthes goes a step further by presence in the utterance - the more intimate
saying that form is the ultimate literary refer- the utterance [e.g. a letter to a friend] the more
ent. (See ""reference/referent.) opaque it will be); and (4) tension (the dynam-
*Speech act theory is yet another aspect of ics between utterer and receiver).
communication theory, and deals primarily Communication theory inevitably implies
with speech production. In literary theory it many related fields. Among these *structural-
accounts for the factors associated with dis- ism, semiotics, poetics and *discourse analysis
course production, the way these are encoded theory are some of the most obvious of inter-
in the text, the signs by which the receiver dis- est to scholars of ""literature.
cerns them, and how they influence reception. ANNA WHITESIDE-ST. LEGER LUCAS
(See *discourse, *sign.) *John L. Austin, *Emile
Benveniste and Peter Strawson were among Primary Sources
the first to show how speech act theory could
be applied to textual analysis. *John Searle has Austin, John L. How to Do Things with Words. Cam-
developed their ideas. bridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 1961.
Important aspects of speech act theory are Benveniste, Emile. Problemes de linguistique generate.
the central role of T (the utterer producing the 2 vols. Paris: Gallimard, 1966, 1974.
Genette, Gerard. Figures III. Paris: Seuil, 1972.
utterance), the relationship between the utterer
Jakobson, Roman. 'Closing Statements/ In T.A. Se-
and ( i ) what he is talking about, and (2) the beok, Style and Language. New York: Technology
person to whom he is talking. Speech act the- P of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and
ory takes into account situational (spatio-tem- John Wiley and Sons, 1960.
poral) factors, mood and types of utterance. Lyons, John. Semantics. 2 vols. Cambridge: Cam-
According to Austin these types are constative bridge UP, 1977.
(statements) or performative (they accomplish Searle, John. Expression and Meaning. Cambridge:
an act: e.g. '1 promise'). Utterances can be seri- Cambridge UP, 1979.
ous or non-serious (fictional). Fictional utter- - Speech Acts: An Essay in the Philosophy of Lan-
ances seem to have all the attributes of non- guage. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1969.
Strawson, Peter F. Logico-Linguistic Papers. London:
fictional ones, except for the understanding
Methuen, 1971.
between writer and reader that the fictional
utterance is a 'non-deceptive pseudo-perform-
Secondary Sources
ance,' to use Searle's expression. Within this
framework, *Gerard Genette examines the re- Culler, Jonathan. Structuralist Poetics. Structuralism,
lationship between different levels of fictional Linguistics and the Study of Literature. Ithaca: Cor-
utterances, as when tales are told within tales nell UP, 1975.
and between their concomitant narrators
and narratees. (See *narrator, narratee.)

13
Constance School

Constance School of Hans Robert Jauss and the aesthetics of


reception
Reception Aesthetics
[Reception Theory] Reception theory dates from the 1967 inaugu-
ral lecture by Hans Robert Jauss, the newly
The Constance School is commonly used to appointed professor of Romance languages.
designate a direction in literary criticism devel- His title echoed the famous inaugural essay by
oped by professors and students at the Univer- Friedrich Schiller at the University of Jena on
sity of Constance in West Germany during the the eve of the French Revolution. Schiller's
late 19605 and early 19703. In general the 'Was heisst und zu welchem Ende studiert
members of the Constance School turned to man Universalgeschichte?' ['What is and for
the reading and reception of literary texts in- what purpose does one study universal his-
stead of to traditional methods that emphasize tory?'] was modified by Jauss who substituted
the production of texts or a close examination the word Literatur [literary] for 'Universal.'
of texts themselves. (See *text.) Their approach This alteration did not diminish the impact.
is therefore related to *reader-response criti- Jauss suggests, as Schiller had in 1789, that
cism in the U.S.A., although for a time the the present age needed to restore vital links
Constance School was much more homogene- between the artefacts of the past and the con-
ous in its theoretical presuppositions and gen- cerns of the present. For literary scholarship
eral outlook than its American counterpart. and instruction such a connection can be es-
Commonly known as reception theory or the tablished only if literary history is no longer
aesthetics of reception (Rezeptionsasthetik), the relegated to the periphery of the discipline.
approach developed by the Constance School The revised title of this lecture, 'Literaturge-
dominated literary theory in Germany for schichte als Provokation der Literaturwissen-
about a decade but was not well known in the schaft' ['Literary History as a Provocation to
English-speaking world until around 1980, Literary Scholarship'], captures Jauss' innova-
when the most seminal works were translated. tive challenge.
*Hans Robert Jauss and *Wolfgang Iser are the The approach to literary texts outlined in his
two most original theorists of the school, al- lecture became known as Rezeptionsasthetik
though several of Jauss' students, among them and was an attempt to overcome what Jauss
Rainer Warning, Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht and viewed as limitations in two important and
Karlheinz Stierle, also made important contri- putatively opposed literary theories: *formal-
butions. In response to the writings of Jauss ism and Marxist criticism. In general, Marxism
and Iser, scholars from the German Demo- represents for him an outmoded approach to
cratic Republic such as Robert Weimann, "literature related to an older positivist para-
Manfred Naumann and Rita Schober raised digm. Yet Jauss also recognizes in this body of
objections to some propositions and suggested criticism, especially in the writings of less or-
Marxist alternatives, with the result that the thodox Marxists like Werner Krauss, Roger
most productive East-West postwar dialogue Garaudy and Karel Kosik, a fundamentally
in literary theory involved issues of reception correct concern with the historicity of litera-
and response. (See also *Marxist criticism.) ture. The formalists, on the other hand, are
The Constance School arose at a time of credited with introducing aesthetic perception
great turbulence in West Germany society. At as a theoretical tool for exploring literary
universities throughout the country the student works. However, Jauss also detects in their
movement agitated for educational reform and works the tendency to isolate art from its
advocated a basic questioning of traditional historical context, a I'art pour I'art aesthetics
methods and educational standards. The ex- which supposedly values a 'timeless' formal
perimental University at Constance, founded organization over the historicity of the literary
in 1967, was at the forefront of educational work. The task for a new literary history,
reform and hence fostered an atmosphere in therefore, becomes to merge the best qualities
which new ideas in literary theory and aes- of Marxism and formalism. This can be accom-
thetics flourished. plished by satisfying the Marxist demand for
historical mediation while retaining the for-
malist advances in the realm of aesthetic per-
ception.

14
Constance School
The aesthetics of reception propose to do the critic can then proceed to determine the
this by altering the perspective from which we artistic merit of a given work by measuring the
normally interpret literary texts. Traditional distance between the work and the horizon.
literary histories were composed from the Basically Jauss employs a deviationist model:
perspective of the producers of texts; Jauss the aesthetic value of a text is seen as a func-
proposes that we can truly understand litera- tion of its deviation from a given norm. If the
ture as a process by recognizing the role of the expectations of a reader are not 'disappointed'
consumer or reader. Interaction between au- or violated, then the text will be second-rate; if
thor and public replaces literary biography as it breaks through the horizon, it will be high
the basis for literary historiography. Thus Jauss art, although a work may break its horizon of
meets the Marxist demand by situating litera- expectation and yet remain unrecognized as
ture in the larger continuum of events; he great. This poses no problems for Jauss. The
retains the formalist achievements by placing first experience of disrupted expectations will
his concern with the perceiving consciousness almost invariably evoke strong negative re-
at the centre. The historical significance of a sponses which will disappear for later readers.
work is not established by qualities of the In a later age the horizon changes and the
work or by the genius of its author but by the work no longer ruptures expectations. Instead
chain of receptions from generation to genera- it may be recognized as a classic, that is, a
tion. In terms of literary history Jauss thus work which has contributed to the establish-
envisions a historiography that will play a ment of a new horizon of expectation.
conscious, mediating role between past and
present. The historian of literary reception is Wolfgang Iser and the phenomenology
called upon to rethink continually the works of reading
of the canon in light of how they have af-
fected, and are affected by, current conditions Jauss' historical approach to understanding lit-
and events. Past meanings are understood as erary works was complemented by Wolfgang
part of the prehistory of present experiencing. Iser's examination of the interaction between
The integration of history and aesthetics is reader and text. Like Jauss, Iser attracted atten-
to be accomplished largely by examining what tion with his inaugural lecture, but his theory
Jauss refers to as the *horizon of expectation is perhaps best represented in Der Akt des Les-
(Envartungshorizont). This methodological ens [The Act of Reading 1976]. What interests
centrepiece of Jauss' theory is an obvious ad- Iser is how and under what conditions a text
aptation of the notion of horizon (Horizont) has meaning for a reader. Whereas traditional
found most prominently in the hermeneutic interpretation has sought to elucidate hidden
theory of Jauss' teacher *Hans-Georg Gada- meanings, Iser wants to see meaning as the re-
mer. (See *hermeneutics.) For Gadamer the sult of an interaction between text and reader,
horizon is a fundamental tenet for the herme- as an effect that is experienced, not a message
neutical situation. It refers primarily to our that must be found. *Roman Ingarden pro-
necessarily perspectival and limited world- vided a useful framework for his investigation.
view. Jauss' use of the term is slightly differ- According to Ingarden the aesthetic object is
ent. For him it denotes a system or structure of constituted only through the reader's act of
expectations that an individual brings to a text. cognition. Adopting this precept from Ingar-
Works are read against some horizon of expec- den, Iser thus switches focus from the text as
tation; indeed, certain types of texts - *parody, an object to the text as potential, from the re-
for example - intentionally foreground this ho- sults to the act of reading.
rizon. The task of the literary scholar is to 'ob- To examine the interaction between text and
jectify' the horizon, so that we may evaluate reader Iser looks at those qualities in the text
the artistic character of the work. This is most which make it readable or which influence our
readily accomplished when the work makes its reading and at those features of the reading
horizon its theme. But even works whose hori- process essential for understanding the text.
zon is less obvious can be examined with this Particularly in his early work he adopts the
method. Generic, literary and linguistic aspects term *implied reader to encompass both of
of a work can be used to construct a probable these functions; it is at once textual structure
horizon of expectation. and structured act. Later, depending more
After establishing the horizon of expectation, heavily on Ingarden's terminology, he distin-

15
Constance School
guishes between the text, its *concretization, Continuations and criticisms
and the work of art. The first is the artistic as-
pect, what is placed there by the author for us Iser's model of reading has been productively
to read, and it may be best conceived as a po- supplemented by the work or Karlheinz
tential awaiting realization. Concretization, by Stierle, the most incisive second-generation
contrast, refers to the product of our own pro- theorist from the Constance School during the
ductive activity; it is the realization of the text 19705. Stierle proceeds from Iser's contention
in the mind of the reader, accomplished by the that the formation of illusions and images is
filling in of blanks or gaps (Leerstellen) to elim- essential for the reading process and labels this
inate ""indeterminacy. Finally, the work of level of reading 'quasi-pragmatic,' a designa-
art is neither text nor concretization but some- tion that distinguishes it from the reception of
thing in between. It occurs at the point of non-fictional texts ('pragmatic reception').
convergence of text and reader, a point which While Iser seems to remain on this plane in
can never be completely defined. his studies, Stierle suggests that the quasi-
The work of art is characterized by its vir- pragmatic reading must be supplemented with
tual nature and is constituted by various over- higher forms of reception capable of doing
lapping procedures. One of these involves the justice to the peculiarities of fiction. What
dialectic of protention and retention, two terms distinguishes narrative fiction is pseudo-refer-
borrowed from the phenomenological theory entiality, which may be considered auto-refer-
of *Edmund Husserl. (See *phenomenological entially in the guise of referential forms. (See
criticism.) Iser applies them to our activity in ""reference/referent.) Fiction is self-referential,
reading successive sentences. In confronting a although it appears to be referential. What
text we continuously project expectations Stierle suggests, therefore, is an additional re-
which may be fulfilled or disappointed; at the flexive level of understanding in our encounter
same time our reading is conditioned by fore- with literary texts.
going sentences and concretizations. Because The critics of the Constance School from the
our reading is determined by this dialectic, it German Democratic Republic approached the
acquires the status of an event and can give us accomplishments of reception theory from a
the impression of a real occurrence. If this is somewhat different stance. Robert Weimann
so, however, our interaction with texts must and Manfred Naumann are not as interested in
compel us to endow our concretizations with a the reading process outlined by Iser and Stierle
degree of consistency - or at least as much as they are in the literary historiography de-
consistency as we admit to reality. This in- veloped by Jauss. Their objections to his the-
volvement with the text is seen as a type of ory are threefold. First they complain that
entanglement in which the foreign is grasped reception theory has gone too far in emphasiz-
and assimilated. Iser's point is that the reader's ing response. While Weimann and Naumann
activity is similar to actual experience. Al- admit that this is an important aspect - per-
though Iser distinguishes between perception haps downplayed somewhat in the Marxist
(Wahrnehmung) and ideation (Vorstellung), tradition - Jauss and his colleagues, in positing
structurally these two processes are identical. reception as the sole criterion for a revitaliza-
According to Iser, reading therefore temporar- tion of literary history, destroy the dialectic of
ily eliminates the traditional subject-object di- production and reception. Second, these Marx-
chotomy. (See ""subject/object.) At the same ist critics detect a danger in the totally subjec-
time, however, the subject is compelled to split tive apprehension of art and the resultant
into two parts, one which undertakes the con- relativizing of literary history. The problem
cretization and another which merges with the here is that if we follow Jauss (and Gadamer)
author or at least the constructed image of the in relinquishing all objective notions of the
author. Ultimately the reading process involves work of art then our access to history would
a dialectical process of self-realization and seem to be completely arbitrary because it is
change. By filling in the gaps in the text, we ceaselessly changing. Finally, the Constance
simultaneously reconstruct ourselves, since our School model of reception theory provides
encounters with literature are part of a process scant sociological grounding for the reader
of understanding others and ourselves more who supposedly stands at the centre of its
completely. concerns. Scholars from the GDR found a gen-
eral failure to link literary history with larger
concerns. The reader in the reception theory of

16
Constance School

Jauss and Iser, they claim, is conceived as an mans von Bunyan bis Beckett. Munich: Fink, 1972.
idealized individual, rather than as a social The Implied Reader: Patterns of Communication in
entity with political and ideological, as well as Prose Fiction from Bunyan to Beckett. Baltimore:
aesthetic, dimensions. (See "Ideology.) Johns Hopkins UP, 1974.
Jauss, Hans Robert. Asthetische Erfahrung und literar-
Jauss and Iser defended their positions
ische Hermeneutik. Munich: Fink, 1977. Rev. and
against these and other objections in polemical exp. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1982. Aesthetic Experi-
rejoiners during the 19705. They have also ence and Literary Hermeneutics. Theory and History
modified and refined their theoretical positions of Literature 3. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P,
on the basis of this criticism. But the cost of 1982.
correction has been a loss of the excitement - Kleine Apologie der asthetischer Erfahrung. Konstan-
surrounding the emergence of reception the- zer Universitatsreden 59. Konstanz: Universitats-
ory. Both Jauss and Iser subsequently took verlag, 1972.
directions which depart from their most influ- - Literaturgeschichte als Provokation. Frankfurt:
ential work. Increasingly Iser has concerned Suhrkamp, 1970.
- 'Paradigmawechsel in der Literaturwissenschaft.'
himself with the notions of the imaginary in
Linguistische Berichte 3 (1969): 44-56.
fiction and literary anthropology. Jauss' mag- - Toward an Aesthetic of Reception Theory and His-
num opus Asthetische Erfahrung und literarische tory of Literature 2. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota
Hermeneutik [Aesthetic Experience and Literary P, 1982.
Hermeneutics 1977 and 1982], develops a more Naumann, Manfred. 'Das Dilemma der Rezeptions-
differential notion of response, relinquishing asthetik.' Poetica 8 (1976): 451-66.
the primarily deviationist model of the 'Provo- - et al. Gesellschaft - Literatur - Lesen: Literaturrezep-
cation' essay. This work, however, has had a tion in theoretischer Sicht. Weimar: Aufbau, 1973.
comparatively smaller impact on critical circles Schober, Rita. Abbild, Sinnbild, Wertung: Aufsatze zur
Theorie und Praxis literarischer Kommunikation.
in Germany and its reception marked a dimin-
Berlin: Aufbau, 1982.
ishing of the influence of reception theory in
Stierle, Karlheinz. Text als Handlung: Perspektiven
the early 19805. The Constance School, on the einer systematischen Literaturwissenschaft. Munich:
other hand, has survived the demise of its Fink, 1975.
most important theoretical product by virtue of - 'Was heisst Rezeption bei fiktionalen Texten?' Poe-
the personalities of its members and the bian- tica 7 (1975): 345-87. Abbr.: 'The Reading of Fic-
nual scholarly colloquia held there. The meet- tional Texts.' In The Reader in the Text: Essays on
ings of the group Toetik und Hermeneutik' Audience and Interpretation. Ed. Susan R. Suleiman
['Poetics and Hermeneutics'], so important for and Inge Crosman. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1980,
the advent of reception theory, continue to 83-105.
Warning, Rainer, ed. Rezeptionsasthetik: Theorie und
produce exciting contributions of literary, cul-
Praxis. Munich: Fink, 1975.
tural and philosophical criticism in Germany.
Weimann, Robert. ' "Rezeptionsasthetik" und die
ROBERT C. HOLUB Krise der Literaturgeschichte: Zur Kritik einer
neuen Stromung in der burgerlichen Literaturwis-
Primary Sources senschaft.' Weimarer Beitrage 19.8 (1973): 5-33-
' "Reception Aesthetics" and the Crisis of Liter-
Gumbrecht, Hans Ulrich. 'Konsequenzen der Rezep- ary History.' Clio 5 (1975): 3-33.
tionsasthetik oder Literaturwissenschaft als Kom- - ' "Rezeptionsasthetik" oder das Ungeniigen an der
munikationssoziologie.' Poetica j (1975): 388-413. burgerlichen Bildung: Zur Kritik einer Theorie lite-
Iser, Wolfgang. Der Akt des Lesens: Theorie Asthe- rarischer Kommunikation.' In Kunstensemble und
tischer Wirkung. Munich: Fink, 1976. The Act of Offentlichkeit. Ed. Robert Weimann. Halle-Leipzig:
Reading: A Theory of Aesthetic Response. Baltimore: Mitteldeutscher Verlag, 1982, 85-133.
Johns Hopkins UP, 1978. Weinrich, Harald. 'Fur eine Literaturgeschichte des
- Die Appellstruktur der Texte: Unbestimmtheit als Lesers.' Merkur 21 (1967): 1026-38.
Wirkungsbedingung literarischer Prosa. Konstanz: G.
Hess, 1970. 'Indeterminacy and the Reader's Re- Secondary Sources
sponse in Prose Fiction.' In Aspects of Narrative:
Selected Papers from the English Institute. Ed. J. Burger, Peter. 'Probleme der Rezeptionsforschung.'
Hillis Miller. New York: Columbia UP, 1971, Poetica 9 (1977): 446-71.
1-45. Fish, Stanley. 'Why No One's Afraid of Wolfgang
- 'The Current Situation of Literary Theory: Key Iser.' Diacritics 11.1 (1981): 2-13.
Concepts and the Imaginary.' Neiv Literary History Fokkema, D.W., and Elrud Kunne-Ibisch. The Re-
11 (1979):1-20.
ception of Literature: Theory and Practice of
- Der implizite Leser: Kommunikationsformen des Ro- "Rezeptionsasthetik." ' Theories of Literature in

17
Constructivism
the Twentieth Century. New York: St. Martin's P, damentally from their predecessors on two ac-
1977, 136-64. counts: they rejected the futurist principle of
Grimm, Gunter. Rezeptionsgeschichte: Grundlegung deformation in literature, that is, of radical
einer Theorie. Munich: Fink, 1977. artistic experimentation which destroyed the
Hohendahl, Peter Uwe, ed. Sozialgeschichte und Wir-
comprehensibility of content and opposed
kungsasthetik: Dokumente zur empirischen und
marxistischen Rezeptionsforschung. Frankfurt: Ath- LEF's postulate of documentary literature, the
enaum, 1974. literatura fakta [literature of facts]. Instead, they
Holub, Robert C. Reception Theory: A Critical Intro- defended the integrity of content and the ne-
duction. London: Methuen, 1984. cessity of delivering a message to the reader;
Link, Hannelore. ' "Die Appellstruktur der Texte" at the same time they postulated invention as
und "em Paradigmawechsel in der the basic principle which leads to the existence
Literaturwissenschaft" ' Jahrbuch der deutschen and specificity of imaginative literature.
Schillergesellschaft 7 (1973): 532-83. In programmatic statements made in the
Solms, Wilhelm, and Norbert Scholl. 'Rezeption- late 19205 constructivists sometimes referred
sasthetik.' In Literaturwissenschaft heute. Ed. Fried-
to themselves as modern heirs to the 19th-
rich Nemec and Wilhelm Solms. Munich: Fink,
century 'Westernizers' who fought Russian
1979' 154-96.
Zimmermann, Bernhard. Literaturrezeption im histo- backwardness and isolation from the rest of
rischen Prozess: Zur Theorie einer Rezeptionsge- Europe. If proletarian writers claimed to repre-
schichte der Literatur. Munich: Beck, 1977. sent the aspirations of the working class, con-
structivists expounded their own activity as an
implementation of the aims and vision of the
Russian intelligentsia.
Constructivism Constructivism perceived culture as an all-
embracing and comprehensive phenomenon,
Literary constructivism in Russia began with
penetrating all spheres of human existence and
the Literaturnyi tsentr konstruktivistov [Literary
activity. Hence, literary constructivists fostered
Centre of Constructivists], established in 1923.
the idea of creating not only literature but also
The name derived from applied and visual arts
its broad theoretical foundations.
such as sculpture, painting and film where it
Constructivists showed clear preference for
was used for the first time around 1920. The
the genre of poetry, followed by drama and
first official manifesto was published in the
then prose. Thematically, the literature of con-
pages of LEF in 1924. The understanding of
structivism tended to raise issues related to the
creative activity by literary constructivists dif-
Revolution, the importance of technological
fered considerably from that of their counter-
progress, and the place of the intelligentsia
parts in other branches of art: they opposed
in the process of industrial production. (See
blatantly utilitarian aesthetics and practical ap-
*theme.) While trying to create the image of a
proaches to artistic creativity as represented,
business-like protagonist, constructivists did
for example, by A. Gan in his book Konstruk-
not avoid moral questions and their assess-
tivizm [Constructivism 1922]. Its main theoreti-
ment of the Revolution was not always credu-
cians were Ilia Sel'vinskii, Kornelii Zelinskii,
lous or flattering. The most prominent writer
Valentin Asmus, and Aleksandr Kviatkovskii.
of this group was Ilia Sel'vinskii, author of the
The group was strengthened in the mid-19205
epic poem Ulialaievshchina [The Ulalayev's Re-
by the poets Vera Inber, Vladimir Lugovskoi
volt] and the play Kamandarm-2 [The Army
and Eduard Bagritskii.
Commander-2]. Sel'vinskii also showed a strong
Among the multiplicity of diverse artistic
interest in theoretical problems and formulated
groupings of Soviet Russia in the 19205, con-
the concept of 'double realism': the manner in
structivists stressed that theirs was the "'litera-
which an aesthetic idea is shaped, its material
ture of the technological age, a kind of homo-
organized and perceived. Realism did not nec-
logue to scientific discoveries of the 2oth
essarily mean a 'truthful reflection of life'
century. This is probably why constructivists
because it allowed the writer a subjective
were sometimes mistakenly viewed as not
interpretation of the external world. Conse-
more than an offshoot of futurism and its early
quently, Selvinskii formulated double realism
Soviet continuation - the Left Front of Art.
as a polychromatic, manifold representation of
While one cannot deny a certain degree of af-
a transitional epoch in its contradicting aspira-
finity between the two groups, it should be
tions. He clearly distanced himself from 19th-
kept in mind that constructivists differed fun-
century realism with its developed 'sense of

18
Constructivism

proportion' based on the aesthetic principle of that artistic literature must deliver a message
*mimesis. If 19th-century realism was gov- which can be accomplished through narrative
erned by the rule of expediency, then double and plot. (See *story/plot.)
realism would be founded on the precept of On another theoretical level, constructivists
purposefulness. Double realism is neither a rep- presented their own definition of literature and
etition of past artistic models nor a simple the literary work of art. In Poeziia kak smysl
mimetic 'reflection of reality' as advocated by [Poetry as Sense], Zelinskii argued for poetry as
Marxists. The term assumes the fullest possible a fulfilment of both formal and semantic func-
freedom of the writer's perception of the world tions. The title of Zelinskii's treatise stood in
that surrounds us and makes allowance for his clear contradiction to *Viktor Shklovskii's ear-
or her whims, that is, it anticipates the use of lier statement of the formalist view. In Tskus-
artistic (creative) deformation. stvo kak priem' ['Art as Technique'; also
Programmatic poetics and theory of litera- translated as 'Art as Device' 1917], Shklovskii
ture occupied a large and important place in argued that the evolution of literature means a
constructivist writings. Good literary practice continuous renewal of literary form and its ar-
rested on four basic principles: ( i ) the seman- tistic devices. (See also "formalism, Russian.)
tic dominant [smyslovaia dominant a]; (2) the as- Zelinski did not dispute the assertion that po-
sertion of the maximum 'weight' of meaning etry means an organization of form; in fact,
on the smallest possible textual unit; (3) the the term 'organization' played a key role in
postulate of local semantics; and (4) the inclu- constructivist theoretical thought, which
sion of epic narrative and artistic devices of claimed that every realm of human activity
prose in poetry. These principles were di- must be subjected to rational organization.
rected first of all against the modernist de- However, Zelinskii rejected the formalist idea
struction of 'story-telling' literature so evident, of treating literature as a technique only. For
for example, in the experimental devices of him, the most important, determinant factor in
futurism. Constructivists opposed the formal- the evolution of literature remained sense,
ist idea of 'artistic dominant' (formulated by which he perceived as a manifestation of the
*Roman Jakobson) to the concept of 'semantic dialectical relationship between the artist, the
dominant'; that is, each work of literature external world and the reader. The existence of
always expresses some prime ideological, poetry is conditioned by the constant struggle
philosophical, political, or ethical idea. (See with sense. Poetry wants to subjugate life by
"ideology.) Although a literary work of art endowing it with sense because there is an op-
evokes ambiguity and may provoke a multi- position between the sense of word and the
tude of interpretations, it remains subordinated sense of outer reality. Poetry does not 'reflect'
to one organizing thought. life but creates sense. Whenever a writer tries
Constructivist writers aimed to achieve two to make poetry represent something, sh/e
first principles through rationality, succinct- experiences constant disillusionment because
ness, expediency, and clarity in their works; sh/e is unable to express herself as adequately
they held the belief that the shortest possible as initially intended but only in approxima-
unit of literary text must bear the maximum tions. The contrasting forces that stand in the
'weight' of meaning. The text must be 'loaded' poet's way as impediments to expression are
with meaning and the theme exploited to the the outer world of objects and the word. Both
utmost. The concept of local semantics meant these worlds stand in opposition not only to
a particular interpretation of what is known in the writer but also in relation to each other.
literature as 'local colour.' A theme, according Consequently, the function of poetry consists
to constructivist theoreticians, can be made of a continuous pursuit of sense.
homogeneous and artistically consistent if it Understandably, within such a concept of
avails itself of a store of words which is typical literature considerable attention is given to the
of its semantic field. Thus if a poet composes a 'word' as the main bearer of sense. Zelinskii
poem about miners and their work, the poet differentiated between 'sense' and 'meaning' of
ought to find the right words (for example, the word: meaning is the more important, for
from their technical language) which would be it also functions as the bearer of 'sense.' When
most homologous to their professional occupa- a writer wants to express something, he imple-
tion and way of thinking. The fourth principle ments an inner orientation or intention to de-
calling for the introduction of epic elements in- note it. This process is accompanied by new
to poetry followed the constructivist insistence forms which are conditioned bv what Zelinskii

19
Constructivist theory of literature
calls a 'logical quantum.' The destruction of an Constructivists did not have a chance to ver-
old form does not have any logical justifica- ify many of their experiments. Unfortunately,
tion; in fact, it is marked by a certain absurd- their most interesting theoretical statements
ity, a break or jump in logic. This break, that of the late 19205 coincided with the growing
is, the destruction of the logic of old form to- bureaucratization and dogmatism of Soviet
gether with the discovery of new innumerable cultural life. In the spring of 1930 the most
designations and meanings, is defined by prominent Constructivists (Zelinskii, Inber,
Zelinskii as the logical or verbal quantum. In Sel'vinskii) formed the Brigade M i which was
this process 'word' plays a crucial role, but it incorporated into the main organization of
is conditioned by various factors and cannot proletarian writers - RAPP (Russian Association
be recognized as a direct expression of what of Proletarian Writers), a compromise which
we want to say or designate. aimed to appease the most severe critics from
Constructivists, above all Zelinskii, intro- the dogmatic Marxist camp. Under the um-
duced the notion of sensing word [osmyslenn- brella of a proletarian organization, the con-
noe slovo]. If the function of thought is to structivists hoped to survive, at least for a
designate singular units of sense, then the role time. However, pressure grew and criticism
of logic consists of linking these units into remained unabated. Towards the end of 1930
larger and purposeful entities. This process of the group ceased to exist, although its writers
'constructing' such entities does not proceed and critics continued to participate in Soviet
without resistance. It is opposed by two forces: literary life throughout the thirties, forties and
on the one hand, word is an unsteady value, fifties by accepting and practising the theoreti-
constantly changing in its semantic quality cal tenets of socialist realism. (See also *Marx-
because a word is a function of matter and ist criticism.)
whenever it is used it registers anew the rela- EDWARD MOZEJKO
tionship between man and nature; on the
other hand, the semantic changeability of a Primary Sources
word is opposed by its striving for stability, for
semantic permanence derived from previous Grubel, R.G. Russicher Konstruktivismus. Wiesbaden:
utterances. The word, then, is at the same time Otto Harrassowitz, 1981.
concrete, symbolic and ambiguous. Mozejko, E. 'Russian Literary Constructivism: To-
Unlike other groups or currents within mod- wards a Theory of Poetic Language.' In Canadian
Contributions to the Vlll International Congress of
ernism which often promoted ambiguity as
Slavists. Ed. E. Heier, G. Luckyj, and G. Schaar-
their most important aesthetic principle, con- schmidt. Ottawa: U of Ottawa P, 1978, 16-70.
structivists aimed at creating sense and preci- Szymak, ]. Twurczosc Ilji Sielwinskiego na tie teorii
sion. To achieve this, they proposed applying konstruktyivizmu. Wroclaw, Warsaw, Krakow: PAN,
visual effects such as additional diacritical 1965.
signs, diagrams, letters of the old Greek and Zelinskii, K. Poeziia kak smysl. Moskva: Federatsiia,
Latin alphabets, and geometric figures. In the 1929.
early experimental stages, they also used - and Sel'vinskii. Biznes. Moskva: Gosizdat, 1929.
mathematical symbols such as square roots, - Caspian literatury. Moskva: Krug, 1925.
placed at the end of or beside a poem, giving - Zelinskii, K., A.M. Chicherin, and E.-K. Sel'vinskii.
Mena vsekh, Konstruktivisty poety. Moskva, 1924.
the synopsis and explanation of its content.
Experimentation was proposed on various
levels of literary works of art, particularly po-
etry. Kviatkovskii, for example, emphasized Constructivist theory of literature:
the need for innovative changes in the Russian see Empirical Science of Literature
system of versification. He proposed the elimi-
nation of the existing systems of versification
for the sake of introducing a new technique - Croatian Philological Society: see
the taktometr, which was intended to do away
with the existing tonic metres (iamb, trochee, Hrvatsko filolosko drustvo
dactyl, and so on) and to introduce a more
flexible poetic unit in order to reach a greater
sense-capacity and bring poetry closer to
music.

20
Cultural materialism
cation, art, human consciousness, and other
Cultural materialism cultural activities. Williams, however, adjusts
both 'base' and 'superstructure' by describing
Cultural materialism is an approach to *litera-
the economic base as a process rather than a
ture initiated in Britain in the late 19705 by the
fixed state, by allowing superstructural aspects
theoretical writings of *Raymond Williams. In
some autonomy from economic influences, and
the mid-1980s, Jonathan Dollimore and Alan
by indicating that the cultural superstructure is
Sinfield borrowed and redefined the term as
itself material. His understanding of material-
they applied it to the study of Renaissance
ism includes the cultural production of 'mean-
drama. Rooted in Marxism, cultural material-
ings and values' which use language as a
ism stresses interaction between cultural crea-
material form that relies on 'specific technolo-
tions such as literature and their historical
gies of writing' and 'mechanical and electronic
context, including social, political and eco-
communication systems' (Problems in Material-
nomic elements. (See also *Marxist criticism.)
ism and Culture 243). This theory of cultural
materialism claims a 'constitutive' and 'consti-
Anthropological background
tuting' relationship of activities at all levels of
society as they mutually influence and deter-
The term 'cultural materialism' first appeared
mine one another.
in anthropological studies. Marvin Harris ap-
plied the name 'cultural materialism' to a sci-
Jonathan Dollimore and Alan Sinfield
entific method of studying the interaction
between social life and material conditions
In Political Shakespeare: New Essays in Cultural
(The Rise of Anthropological Theory 1968). In-
Materialism (1985), Jonathan Dollimore and
fluenced not only by Marxist thought but also
Alan Sinfield brought Raymond Williams' the-
by Darwinian evolutionary theory, cultural
ory to a study of Shakespearian drama and de-
materialism explains 'cultural phenomena in
fined its parameters in their own terms. Noting
terms of their place and their history in the
the significance of 'cultural' and 'material,'
material circumstances of specific people, and
they point out that the cultural aspect of the
in the productive and reproductive demands of
theory combines two meanings: the analytical
their environment' (Ross, xvi). Like classical
term 'culture' referring to social systems stud-
Marxism, it sees material conditions as the pri-
ied in anthropology and the social sciences,
mary influence on social life. Unlike Marxism,
and the evaluative term referring to art and lit-
however, cultural materialism stresses an em-
erature as forms of 'high culture.' In address-
pirical rather than a dialectical stance. Conse-
ing the materialist aspect of the theory, they
quently, studies give more attention to societal
reject two opposing views: idealism which as-
influences on economic production than to
serts that art transcends society and time, and
identifying class exploitation within a capitalist
classical Marxism which assumes that culture
system. The interdependence of science and
is secondary to politics and economics. Sug-
politics forms the primary assumption of this
gesting that literary texts 'represent' rather
anthropological theory.
than 'transcend' or 'reflect' material reality,
Dollimore and Sinfield assert literature's po-
Raymond Williams
tential both to interact with and to intervene
in accepted practices and beliefs. This active
Raymond Williams appears to have coined the
role of literature they complement by explicitly
phrase 'cultural materialism' in Marxism and
identifying the political goals of cultural mate-
Literature (1977) independently of the parallel
rialism itself, as a theory founded on 'commit-
development in anthropology. Nevertheless,
ment to the transformation of a social order
the two fields similarly emphasize material in-
which exploits people on grounds of race, gen-
fluences on cultural activities and the conse-
der and class' (Political Shakespeare vii-viii).
quent need to ground culture in its historical
Prefacing their collection of essays by indicat-
context. Applying Marxist historical material-
ing that cultural materialism involves 'histori-
ism to literary studies, Williams revises its
cal context, theoretical method, political
central base/superstructure model. Classical
commitment and textual analysis' (viii), they
Marxism identifies the economic base of mate-
see theory as broadly overlapping with and in-
rial production as the sole determining factor
cluding studies of history, sociology, feminism,
of the superstructure encompassing communi-

21
Cultural materialism
Marxism, and *poststructuralism. (See also litical power as a tenuous relationship between
*sociocriticism, *materialist criticism, *feminist dominance and subversion. Their goal in tex-
criticism.) tual analysis is to demystify the power de-
scribed by pointing out that its legitimating
Ideology ideas and values are merely chosen ideologies
rather than sacred or inherently natural foun-
A central concept in cultural materialism, dations of order. From a cultural materialist
'*ideology' has a complex background. From perspective, any dominant order restricts and
classical Marxism, it is a system of false beliefs falsifies human experience and literary texts
founded on contradictions and inconsistencies play a politically subversive role by exposing
that misrepresent social relationships. From the the contradictions and inconsistencies which
modified Marxism of theorists such as "Louis undermine domination.
Althusser, it is the comprehensive system of
ideas, beliefs and values that influences hu- Renaissance drama
man behaviour in any society. Althusser de-
scribes all institutions, including educational Cultural materialism has significantly influ-
systems, law, religion, and arts, as ""Ideological enced the study of Renaissance drama, in
State Apparatuses which represent and repro- which the interaction between politics and per-
duce the myths or beliefs needed to maintain a formance has been of particular interest in cur-
society's existing mode of economic production rent literary criticism. (See *performance
(137). (See *myth.) Williams incorporates both criticism.) Prior to identifying a name for the
the original and the modified Marxist views by approach in Political Shakespeare (1985), Jona-
placing ideology in a context of change com- than Dollimore applied its assumptions in Rad-
prising 'residual,' 'dominant' and 'emergent' ical Tragedy: Religion, Ideology and Power in the
elements in culture. At any historical moment, Drama of Shakespeare and His Contemporaries
the dominant elements form the controlling (1984). His study incorporates two cultural
ideology, while residual aspects of previous materialist concerns: a political interpretation
ideologies maintain some influence and emer- of texts and a challenge to modern essentialist
gent elements in the form of new ideas and views and criticism. (See *essentialism.) He
values initiate change by challenging central portrays the Jacobean playwrights as political
beliefs. Dominant values 'misrepresent' by fail- activists who, on the one hand, repeatedly
ing to acknowledge the complexity of social question and subvert the ideological founda-
interaction, but marginal beliefs complete the tions of monarchical authority, but who, on
ideological picture by accounting for historical the other hand, manifest adherence to some of
change and cultural contradictions. In this un- the same contradictory beliefs because they
derstanding, ideology encompasses all social lack ideological immunity to their own culture.
practices, including the production of literary In addressing modern assumptions and inter-
texts which both evaluate and participate in pretations of Renaissance texts, Dollimore
contemporary values and beliefs. (See also challenges essentialism, the view than human
"margin.) nature has inherent or universal qualities unit-
ing readers and writers from one historical
Politics period to the next. To cultural materialists, in-
dividuals are not timeless and unchanging but
Cultural materialists focus their study on liter- historically and socially determined. This un-
ary representations of ideology as it is used to derstanding has led scholars to study contex-
reinforce *power and *authority in the face of tual influences on other Renaissance texts as
opposition. 'Consolidation,' '*subversion' and well, from the political writings of Thomas
'containment' are key words in this political More to the poetry of Edmund Spenser. (See
interpretation. As Jonathan Dollimore explains, also "universal.)
'The first refers, typically, to the ideological
means whereby a dominant order seeks to Textual reproduction and reception
perpetuate itself; the second to the subversion
of that order, the third to the containment of Opposition to essentialism emerges in the cul-
ostensibly subversive pressures' ('Introduction,' tural materialist attention to texts not only
Political Shakespeare 10). Materialists view po- represented in their own cultural context but

22
Cultural materialism
received and reproduced through history. seeing history more as subjective interpretation
Working on the assumption that literature than as objectifiable fact and by including lit-
serves political ends rather than capturing uni- erature as an interactive part of history. They
versal human values, materialists explore cul- likewise assert cultural diversity, political insta-
tural practice in the 2oth century to identify bility and the interdependence of materialism
current literary adaptations and interpretations. and cultural expression to counter older histo-
Renaissance scholars such as Graham Holder- ricist beliefs in a unified culture, a single politi-
ness (1985), jean Howard and Marion O'Con- cal model and universal truths. In Renaissance
nor (1987), and John Drakakis (1985) demon- studies, E.M.W. Tillyard's The Elizabethan
strate an interest in historical, cultural change World Picture (1948) provides the key histori-
by evaluating contemporary television and cist stance against which materialists define
film versions of Shakespeare's plays or by their position. Tillyard argues for a cosmic and
examining the image of Shakespeare fostered hierarchical political order founded on univer-
by the British educational system. They endea- sal acceptance of Providentialism. The same
vour both to counter conservative views of historical World Picture becomes in a cultural
early post-Second World War theatres and ac- materialist interpretation the dominant ideol-
ademics and to raise awareness that all textual ogy perpetuated by the monarchy but chal-
appropriation and analysis have a subjective, lenged by marginal political voices and
political dimension. emerging humanist developments.
A concern with cultural self-consciousness
and with literature and criticism as ideological Cultural materialism and *New Historicism
practices provides the link between the popu-
larity of cultural materialism in Renaissance Cultural materialism shares its reaction to
studies and similar analytical methods applied older approaches with New Historicism, a the-
to other historical periods and broader socio- ory having a similar impact in the study of
logical topics. Jerome McGann's (1983) and Renaissance texts and first attracting attention
Marjorie Levinson's (1986) focus on ideology in Stephen Greenblatt's Renaissance Self-Fash-
and politics in Romantic poetry, Lee Patter- ioning (1980). The two practices are so closely
son's (1987) re-evaluation of historical studies related that critics adopting and discussing
in medieval literature, Mary Poovey's (1988) them often conflate the two or simply ac-
study of material conditions affecting represen- knowledge the difficulty of delineating their
tations of women in Victorian society, and differences. Both cultural materialism and New
Alan Sinfield's Literature, Politics and Culture Historicism share a focus on power and ideol-
in Postwar Britain (1989) represent the broad ogy and a view that writers challenge political
scope of cultural materialist influences. The power by exploring its representations and
evident interest in textual reproduction and exposing its inconsistencies. Dissolving the
reception throughout literary studies is part of boundaries between literature and other disci-
a much wider sociological discussion among plines, both likewise share the assumption that
writers such as Stuart Hall (1980), Terry Lovell literature is completely integrated with politi-
(1980) and Janet Wolff (1981), who consider cal, social and economic forces.
art as materialist practice and culture as social Often understood as British and American
production. Similar critical assumptions and counterparts of the same theory, cultural mate-
influences underlie this whole range of aca- rialism and New Historicism can be distin-
demic discourse whether or not the scholars guished partly by national differences. The
deliberately identify themselves as practition- British Marxist origins of cultural materialism
ers of a cultural materialist approach. link it to a tradition of oppositional politics,
while New Historicism is influenced more
Cultural materialism and old historicism directly by *Clifford Geertz's anthropology,
*Michel Foucault's interest in power relations
Cultural materialism objects to older historicist and *Jacques Derrida's *deconstruction theory
assumptions while sharing an interest in the than by American party politics. Marxist politi-
relationship of literary texts to historical sur- cal background helps to account for the cul-
roundings. Cultural materialists resist the dis- tural materialist belief in freedom for social
tinction between history as static background change through literary texts and analysis.
and literature as foregrounded subject by Ties with deconstruction partly explain the

23
Cultural materialism

New Historicist view that individuals are self- too materialist and not materialist enough. Un-
fashioned but decentred, that they lack the intentionally, Raymond Williams undervalues
psychological or emotional unity entailed materiality by asserting that it circumscribes
in the political commitment advocated by every social practice, thereby leaving no non-
cultural materialists. (See *centre/decentre.) materialist reality by which to identify the sig-
Theoretical purpose is consequently more overt- nificance of the material. On the other hand,
ly expressed by the materialists. practitioners sometimes apply their assump-
The two also differ in their textual interpre- tions to texts in such theoretical terms that
tation. Cultural materialists focus on the sub- they ignore historically and materially specific
version of dominant ideologies and institutions influences on writers, performers and publish-
represented in literature, while the New Histo- ers. Their assertion that textual production and
ricists emphasize containment in asserting that reception are determined exclusively by exter-
the dominant is necessarily defined by the nal cultural forces can unsettle readers who
subversion it controls. Thus New Historicist recognize that their own appreciation of litera-
studies frequently conclude with the inevitable ture stems not solely from the need or desire
and overwhelming presence of power, cultural to understand historical context but from
materialists by asserting the contradictions that pleasure in the story itself or identification
necessarily produce cultural change. In spite with fictional experiences and personalities.
of their slightly different angles, the two ap- Cultural materialists have contributed to lit-
proaches nevertheless remain closely aligned. erary criticism in their re-evaluation of the re-
Jonathan Dollimore and Alan Sinfield's inclu- lationship between present and past. They
sion of New Historicist articles in Political remind readers that texts do have a history
Shakespeare: Essays on Cultural Materialism and and that knowing historical conditions can en-
Stephen Greenblatt's recent preference for the rich one's understanding and appreciation of
term 'cultural poetics' rather than New Histori- literature. While exposing monolithic interpre-
cism (Greenblatt 1989; Felperin 1990) demon- tations which simplify and unify past periods,
strate the uncertain and shifting boundaries they call for a closer look at the complexities
between the two theories. existing in any society by portraying culture
more as a living organism that constantly
Weaknesses and strengths changes than as a fixed entity than can be ob-
jectively described. They likewise emphasize
The political bias of cultural materialism is its that readers, scholars and critics deceive them-
most controversial aspect. With a deliberate selves if they think their own values and atti-
Marxist orientation, its practitioners often tudes do not influence their understanding of
choose texts that validate their own position or literature, their own culture and the past.
impose anachronistic values and perceptions FAITH NOSTBAKKEN
on pre-Marxist periods. While the cultural ma-
terialists partly exonerate themselves by not Primary Sources
pretending to cloak the political intentions of
their analyses in any other terms, their goals Dollimore, Jonathan. 'Introduction: Shakespeare,
nevertheless often lead to a narrow, predict- Cultural Materialism and the New Historicism.'
able reading of texts or to a discussion of con- Political Shakespeare: New Essays in Cultural Mate-
temporary politics which overshadows focus rialism. Ed. Jonathan Dollimore and Alan Sinfield.
Manchester: Manchester UP, 1985, 2-17.
on texts and history altogether. The political
- Radical Tragedy: Religion, Ideology and Power in the
purpose also makes the scope of cultural mate- Drama of Shakespeare and His Contemporaries. Chi-
rialism difficult to determine because some cago: U of Chicago P, 1984.
scholars who adopt similar analytical methods - and Alan Sinfield, eds. Political Shakespeare: New
deliberately avoid identifying themselves with Essays in Cultural Materialism. Manchester:
the approach to distance themselves from a Manchester UP, 1985.
polemical stance. With the collapse of commu- Harris, Marvin. The Rise of Anthropological Theory. A
nist regimes and accompanying attacks on the History of Theories of Culture. New York: Thomas
Left, Marxist influences in criticism show signs Y. Crowell Co., 1968.
of becoming even less acceptable. Ross, Eric, ed. Beyond the Myths of Culture: Essays in
Cultural Materialism. New York: Academic P,
Scholars who do declare themselves cultural
1980.
materialists have been criticized for being both
Williams, Raymond. Marxism and Literature. Oxford:
Oxford UP, 1977.

24
Deconstruction
- Problems in Materialism and Culture. London: New
Left Books, 1480.
Deconstruction
Deconstruction, a school of philosophy that
Secondary Sources
originated in France in the late 19605, has had
an enormous impact on Anglo-American criti-
Althusser, Louis. 'Ideology and Ideological State
Apparatuses.' In Lenin and Philosophy and Other cism. Largely the creation of its chief propo-
Essays. Trans. Ben Brevvster. London: New Left nent *]acques Derrida, deconstruction upends
Books, i <.)7 i , 121—7 T,. the Western metaphysical tradition. It repre-
Drakakis, John, ed. Alternative Shakespeares. London: sents a complex response to a variety of theo-
Routledge, u)8s. retical and philosophical movements of the
Felperin, Howard. ' "Cultural Poetics" versus "Cul- 2oth century, most notably Husserlian pheno-
tural Materialism": The Two New Historicisms in menology, Saussurean and French *structural-
Renaissance Studies.' In The Uses of the Canon: ism and Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis.
Elizabethan Literature and Contemporary Theory.
Derrida's work represents both a continuation
Oxford: Clarendon P, 1990, 142-69.
and a critique of *Heidegger's 'deconstruction'
Greenhlatt, Stephen. 'Towards a Cultural Poetics.' In
The New Historicisni. Ed. H. Aram Veeser. New of philosophy and metaphysics and of *Nietz-
York: Routledge, 1984, 1-14. sche's polemic levelled at the same tradition of
- Renaissance Self-Fashioning: From More to Shake- thought. (See *Edmund Husserl, *Ferdinand de
speare. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1980. Saussure, *Sigmund Freud, *Jacques Lacan,
Hall, Stuart, ed. Culture, Media, Language: Working *psychoanalytic theory, *phenomenological
Papers in Cultural Studies, iQ"2-~Q. London: criticism.)
Hutchinson, 1980. For Derrida deconstruction's task is twofold:
Holderness, Graham. Shakespeare's History. New first, to expose the problematic nature of all
York: St. Martin's, u)8s.
'centred' discourses, those which depend on
Howard, Jean, 'The New Historicism in Renaissance
concepts such as truth, presence, origin, or
Studies.' English Literan/ Renaissance 16 (1986):
their equivalents; second, to overturn meta-
'3-43-
Howard, Jean, and Marion O'Connor, eds. Shake- physics by displacing its conceptual limits. De-
speare Reproduced: The Text in History and Ideol- construction seeks to inhabit the margins of
ogy. New York: Methuen, 1987. traditional systems of thought in order to put
Levinson, Marjorie. Wordsworth's Great Period Poems. pressure on their borders and to test their
Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1986. unexamined foundations. As an alternative to
Lovell, Terry. Pictures of Reality: Aesthetics, Politics, the strictures of the metaphysical tradition, the
Pleasure. London: British Film Institute Publishing, vestiges of which Derrida sees as still integral
1980.
to both structuralism and phenomenology, de-
McGann, Jerome J. The Romantic Ideology: A Critical
construction celebrates limitless interpretation
Investigation. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1983.
Montrose, Louis. 'Renaissance Literary Studies and
and an unrestricted semantic play that is no
the Subject of History.' English Literan/ Rejiais- longer anchored in any signified. This unre-
sance 1 ( 1 ( 1 98(1): s-i 2. stricted play should not be taken to mean,
Patterson, Lee. Negotiating the Past: The Historical however, that deconstruction naively advo-
Understanding of Medieval Literature. Madison: U cates 'subjective' or 'free' interpretation. Der-
of Wisconsin P, 1987. rida argues, rather, that the possibility of
Poovey, Mary. Uneven Developments: The Ideological signification in general depends upon an irred-
Work of Gender in Mid-Victorian England. Chicago: ucible effect of dissemination, on the fact that
U of Chicago P, iq88.
the wandering of meaning is the insurmounta-
Sinfield, A l a n . Literature, Politics and Culture in Post-
ble condition of the production of meaning.
war Britain. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1989.
Tillyard, E.M.W. The Elizabethan World Picture. Lon- (See *theories of play/freeplay, *discourse,
don: Chatto and VVindus, 1948. *margin, *signified/signifier/signification.)
Wolff, Janet. The Social Production of Art. London:
Macmillan, 1981. History

Although the influence of deconstruction was


Cultural poetics: see New notable in the France of the late 19605 and
early 19705, it was most significant in the
Historicism U.S.A. and grew throughout the 19705 and

25
Deconstruction

early 19805. It became for a time the focus of speech that is itself a representation, but one
considerable debate and controversy among so approximate as to be thought of as virtually
literary critics and scholars, some of whom present to consciousness. According to Derrida,
saw it as critical nihilism. In the United States, this inextricable link made between presence
its most celebrated - and provocative - pro- and the spoken word is the cornerstone of the
ponent was *Paul de Man, who along with metaphysical foundation and consequently is
*J. Hillis Miller, Barbara Johnson, *Geoffrey the most stubborn stone to dislodge, even in
Hartman, *Harold Bloom, and others formed those discourses which most forcefully contest
the 'Yale School.' the metaphysical tradition, such as those of
The impact of deconstruction can be under- Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, Ferdinand de Saus-
stood partly in terms of its historical moment sure, Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger, and
in the field of literary studies. At a time of in- Friedrich Nietzsche.
tense intellectual crisis, it came to represent a Derrida's first major work, La Voix et le
powerful antihumanist scepticism regarding all phenomene [Speech and Phenomena (and Other
the entrenched 'theological' securities of truth, Essays on Husserl's Theory of Signs) 1967], is a
""reference, meaning, *intention, unity of form, critique of Husserl's phenomenology, which
and content that still dominate historical, for all its antimetaphysical intent Derrida ex-
author-oriented, and formalist approaches to poses as still falling well within the strictest
""literature. Indeed, its notoriety was such that boundaries of metaphysical thinking. It is in
it often became identified with the practice of this work that the terms *metaphysics of pres-
literary theory per se. More recently it has ence and logocentrism are first introduced.
been recognized and accepted as an important Derrida sees Husserl's work as ultimately
critical approach and to some extent can be founded on an assumption of presence and of
regarded as the heir to *New Criticism, the a voice that is identifiable with the self-pres-
school of interpretation against which its ence of consciousness, in opposition to the
American practice seemed most pointedly di- merely representational, exterior, 'fallen' me-
rected. Logically for a movement of contesta- diation of the grapheme or written mark.
tion and radical doubt, its own coming of age In 'La Structure, le signe, et le jeu' ('Struc-
has been signalled by the fact that it is now ture, Sign, and Play,' Writing and Difference
the 'old' school currently challenged by other 1967) and more extensively in the opening
emergent programs, especially 'political' ones, section of De la Grammatologie [Of Grammatol-
such as *New Historicism. ogy 1967], Derrida undertakes an analogous
critique of structuralism, to which phenomen-
Derrida's critique of metaphysics ology, in the philosophical tradition, is gener-
ally opposed. (See *grammatology.) Derrida
Deconstruction as practised by Derrida should makes explicit his debt to Saussure's under-
be carefully separated from the work of his standing of language as a system of differences
American counterparts. Derrida's term *logo- with no positive terms. But he insists on the
centrism describes the Western philosophical need to free the structuralist conception of the
tradition as perpetuating a fundamental oppo- sign from its deep-rooted metaphysical as-
sition between speech and writing. This tradi- sumptions. In Saussure and his structuralist
tion sees speech as possessing a vital imme- heirs, the pre-eminence of the signified over
diacy, a 'presence,' as both the presence of its the signifier is the expression of the same me-
speaker and more important the presence of taphysical assumption concerning meaning as
speech to consciousness. Writing disrupts this that of any system which posits as its founda-
presence: through the advent of the graphic tion a transcendental signified or 'presence.' If
sign or written mark, the voice is alienated language, however, is a system of relations ex-
and falls into the realm of alterity, absence clusively defined by the difference between
and death. Writing is traditionally viewed as terms, then meaning can never be arrested but
exemplary of the 'absence' associated with the must perpetually be deferred among the signi-
'fallen' order of the *sign where the sign and fiers in the network. Carrying Saussure's
the written sign in particular is understood discovery to its logical conclusion, Derrida in-
only as 'the signifier of the signifier'; that is, as vents the neologism differance to describe, in
the merely secondary representation of a the system of differences that is language, the
production of both difference(s) and the defer-

26
Deconstruction
ral of the signified or 'presence' (see *differ- sense, death. For there is no conceivable iden-
ance/difference). tity or subject before there exists a signifying
According to Derrida, Saussure also makes system in which differentiation is possible. In
the same strategic move as Husserl when he its very constitution, Derrida insists, the sub-
rejects writing in favour of speech to serve as ject is a becoming - absent, cut adrift by dif-
a suitable model of the sign in general. The ference and deferral. The idea of a self
decision is based on the same assumption of identical to itself in time is itself produced only
writing being merely a representation of within a network of signs in which distinction
speech and of the latter being present, or ab- and therefore identity is possible in the first
solutely approximate, to consciousness. Ac- place. And yet, the desire for identity as self-
cording to such a view, it is only subsequently presence is inherently frustrated precisely be-
that speech or the voice is alienated and exter- cause the process by which meaning is con-
iorized in the graphic mark, which simply rep- veyed is unlimited. Meaning is produced in
resents it in its absence and in the absence of such a system only by a perpetual displace-
the speaker or intending subject. ment or deferral of the signified, the signified
Writing thus comes to play in metaphysical of the signifier being itself always already an-
discourse the ambivalent role Derrida per- other signifier, ad infinitum. This is what
ceives it as occupying in Plato's Phaedrus. In Derrida means by writing as a differing and
'La Pharmacie de Platon' (La Dissemination deferring movement which 'comprehends lan-
1972), he shows how for Plato writing is the guage,' whereby 'the signified always already
fatal contaminant which must be violently ex- functions as a signifier. The secondarity that it
pelled from the vicinity of a responsible and seemed possible to ascribe to writing alone af-
reliable spoken word in order to protect the fects all signifieds in general, affects them al-
living, memorial power of consciousness; with ways already, the moment they enter the game.
writing comes the absence of a 'present' living There is not a single signified that escapes,
subject and the dangerous distance produced even if recaptured, the play of signifying refer-
by a representation that is exterior to con- ences that constitute language. The advent of
sciousness, and thus the fatal wandering of writing is the advent of this play' (Of Gramma-
meaning and memory from their source. As tology 7).
Derrida shows, however, the dangers associ-
ated with writing extend generally to the pos- The law of the proper
sibility of all signification in the first place,
speech included. The subject - speaking or In Derrida's later writings, the term metaphys-
written - is divided in his or her very constitu- ics of presence is eclipsed by a related term:
tion by the act of signification since meaning the law of the proper. The advantage of this
always already depends upon a network of term lies in its own possibilities for dissemina-
differential marks; such is the condition of the tion. When Derrida uses the term, he exploits
production of meaning from the beginning. the various meanings of the French word
This difference from itself is not something propre, which include sens propre or literal
that befalls speech accidentally from the exte- meaning and proprete or cleanliness, as well as
rior and then must be corrected in order to the family of terms and concepts that we also
preserve a 'proper' meaning. The pharmakos, find in English: property and the proprietary,
Derrida notes, is always chosen from within appropriation, expropriation, with all their re-
the community and is then expelled to the lated senses of ownership, appurtenance, and
outside, just as writing which is already belonging, as well as of propriety, all of which
'proper' to speech as its inescapable condition he links further to the value of proximity (for
is banished along with its inventor Thot by example, the nearness of speech to conscious-
Thamus in Plato's fable in Phaedrus. ness, or of consciousness to its object, or of
If the necessary condition of signification in conceptions of truth as the approximation of
general is a system of differential or classifica- representation to its object) and finally to pres-
tory marks, then we should no longer think of ence or parousia itself. Finally, there is the fact
the subject's entry into the realm of language, that the phrase 'the law of the proper' or 'the
signs and representation as an alienating catas- law of the house,' as the science or administra-
trophe, as some sort of tragic expulsion from tion of the proper, is a special translation of
original identity into the exile of alterity, ab- the Greek oiko-nomia, from which we get our

27
Deconstruction

word 'economy.' It thus signifies the restricted where, Derrida plays on the fact that the last
and circular 'economy' - in which the proper, book of the Bible is also a scene of writing, of
as it were, is always returning to itself, to its dictation and letter-writing, a veritable postal
proper place - which governs the metaphysics scene of ordering, sending, and delegation,
of presence in its most imperial scope. The and therefore of potentially endless suspen-
shape of this philosophical project descends, it sion, deferral and delay; it thus points to an
would seem, from the theological notion of fall undermining of the very 'truth' it purports to
and redemption: humanity is alienated from convey, the strictly circulated message that it
God (presence or origin of proper meaning) purports to send without any damage to an
and enters the fallen dimension of history (the identifiable 'proper' content or signified. For
world of 'improper' representations and signs), Derrida, any message is always already di-
for a period of wandering and error which re- verted from its proper destination by the dis-
sults, finally, in a return to the proper place, seminal condition of all signification. It is
the transcendent form of which is, in fact, an always a case, as he puts it in 'Le Facteur de
improvement on the original place of origin. A la verite' ['The Purveyor of Truth'] - an essay
similar circularity of the 'proper' is at work in which contests Lacan's reading of Foe's 'The
the totalizing ambition of philosophy, which Purloined Letter' in 'Le Seminaire sur la lettre
would reappropriate everything to itself in the volee' ['Seminar on the Purloined Letter'] - of
form of a unique knowledge, the whole di- the no-possible return of the letter, of the sig-
mension of human becoming, of history in its nified; indeed, an implication of the disseminal
entirety, as that which, as a fallen order of 'al- dis-orientation of signification in general, as
iases,' of alienated meaning, of alterity, must ecriture, is that a letter - a proper meaning
finally be resumed under a proper name and addressed by one subject to another - never
thus possess a unique, 'proper,' or literal arrives at its destination, that is, to its proper
meaning (sens propre). (See *white mythology, place.
*totalization.) Derrida's interest in the 'proper' finds per-
This interest in the implications of the haps its most intriguing manifestation in his
proper name and of sens propre lies behind fascination with the 'proper name' and its rela-
Derrida's preoccupation with the *paradox of tion to the signature. There is, for example, his
translation, the simultaneous necessity and im- play in Glas (1974) on the name of Hegel and
possibility of translation imposed by the irre- aigle and on Genet (in French, a homonym of
ducible plurality of languages and discourses. the word for the flower 'broom'). Similarly, in
This dilemma represents a further case of the Signeponge/Signsponge (1984), Derrida shows
condition of signification in general as that of how Francis Ponge's proper name and its
the unrestricted disseminal drifting of mean- 'proper' meaning is methodically disseminated
ing, a drifting which is no longer to be con- throughout his work. He exploits the added
ceived of as governed by any orientation away meaning in French of 'propre' as 'clean' in or-
from or towards a unique, 'proper' source. (See der to play on the idea of the impossible de-
also theories of *translatiori.) sire to efface the 'dirt' of difference, otherness,
The paradox of translation explains Derrida's the irreducible plurality of 'aliases,' the meta-
fascination, for example in 'Des Tours de Ba- physical desire to reduce all difference to the
bel/ with the story of Babel. The biblical fable purity of the unique, proper, literal, meaning,
tells of the loss of presence as a simultaneous to a proper name which is the housing of a
'fall' into history and into language as the loss presence. Derrida's point is that the 'proper' is
of proper name(s) or proper meaning(s) - the always already divided and disseminated in its
confounding of one language into the confu- very constitution. The 'proper name' with its
sion of languages, the loss of one name for presumed unique referent and irreplaceable
humanity, one language, one meaning, and subject is only possible because of a signature,
the exile into the plurality of languages, and and this dependency on a signature implies its
into the negative necessity of translation. Ac- reproducibility, its iterability as part of a differ-
cording to the same view, Apocalypse can be ential and classificatory structure; thus, the
read as the story of the return or restoration of subject as a unique referent is always already
the proper name(s). In La Carte postale: De So- opened into an endless chain of copies and
crates a Freud et au-dela [The Post Card: From representations.
Socrates to Freud and Beyond 1980] and else- The implications for the study of "literature
of what Derrida has to say about 'writing'

28
Deconstruction

have only begun to be fully explored. The no- of deconstruction, one which became known
toriety of deconstruction has often distracted for the brilliance of its tenaciously close, often
the scholarly community from an objective ex- tortuous readings of the works of authors such
amination of that possible contribution. Litera- as Rousseau, Nietzsche, Shelley, Proust, and
ture, indeed, as a sort of 'open letter' to the Rilke.
world, would seem eminently to demonstrate The practice of deconstruction in America
the validity of Derrida's insistence on an end- differs significantly from its French counter-
less 'wandering' of meaning as the very condi- part in many ways. Most obviously, it grafts
tion of interpretation. The history of interpre- an essentially philosophical program onto the
tation alone points to the necessarily plural reading and interpretation of literary texts. Al-
and disseminal character of signification. though such a move is somewhat justified by
Derrida's frequent choice of literary texts for
Deconstruction in the United States analysis, it leads to a treatment of the literary
object primarily as a philosophical statement,
Although Derrida's work has held a prominent or as an indirect and often unwitting statement
place in France, it has always been that of one about what are essentially philosophical con-
voice among a clamorous many. Deconstruc- cerns (knowledge of reality, the foundation of
tion has had its most significant impact in the truth and error) or strictly theoretical concerns
United States. Initially, deconstruction was as- (the absence of the referent).
sociated with a number of professors in the De Man and others thus adapt Derrida's
departments of comparative literature and general view of signification as 'writing' or
English at Yale University, where Derrida 'arche-writing' and turn it into a 'sceptical'
taught a yearly seminar from 1975-85. The method of reading aimed at challenging can-
'Yale School' was born in the early 19705 with onic or normative methods of interpretation.
Paul de Man's inaugural Blindness and Insight (See *canon.) If the absence of the subject is
( 1 9 7 1 ) formulating the paradoxical critical po- the condition of signification in general and if
sition that interpretation is misinterpretation, all discourse therefore shares with writing the
that the only 'insight' comes through error, liability of misinterpretation (traditionally
and that the only authentic path to knowledge understood as consequent on the absence of
about literary texts is through one's blindness: the speaker), then misinterpretation or mis-
that is, through presuppositions which throw reading is the very condition of all discourse.
light on the object of interpretation only in ob- Thus the correct or proper interpretation of lit-
scuring it at the same time. (See *text.) Around erary texts according to established canons of
de Man a loosely knit group formed, made up intentionality, meaning and truth can only be
of colleagues and students at Yale. Harold upheld arbitrarily. There is no longer anything
Bloom's theory of poetic misprision or mis- to prevent errors of reading, since error is the
reading as the source of imaginative power condition of language, and therefore at the
links his very different position to de Man's. heart of all our readings of literary texts there
J. Hillis Miller, whose critical position is closest is an inevitable collapse of meaning.
to de Man's, still remains one of the most im- De Man in Allegories of Reading (1979), The
portant champions of deconstruction. Geoffrey Rhetoric of Romanticism (1984), and The Resis-
Hartman has been more an explicator of Der- tance to Theory (1986), Miller in The Linguistic
rida as an imaginative writer than an adherent Moment (1985), and Johnson in The Critical
to deconstruction. The publication of Decon- Difference (1981) seek by their close attention
struction and Criticism ( i 979), a collection of to the language of the text to expose the inher-
essays by Derrida and the four above-men- ently contradictory nature of the meaning we
tioned critics, stands as the closest thing to a elaborate when wre read. American deconstruc-
programmatic statement by the 'school.' Hart- tion thus tends to ignore Derrida's affirmative
man and Bloom have never been, strictly interest in ecriture, his name for the complex
speaking, proponents of deconstruction, and variety of effects produced by graphic signs.
indeed represent a certain resistance to its Chiefly adapted has been the means of dis-
main tenets. The charismatic de Man, on the mantling any given discourse through a radical
other hand, remained closely associated with reading strategy. By close attention to some
Derrida throughout his career and continued strategically chosen 'marginal' aspect of the
u n t i l his death in 1984 to offer his own brand text, the critic draws out the levels of meaning

29
Deconstruction

that threaten the text's global intelligibility. tualism/ its lack of awareness of critical histor-
(See *centre/decentre.) By seeking out its con- ical distinctions, its treatment of the history of
tradictions, its inherent error regarding its own philosophy as one history and not as a series
unexamined tenets, such readings demonstrate of discrete, discontinuous formations. In both
the impossibility of the text's saying anything France and North America, deconstruction has
or taking any position that it does not itself been similarly criticized by Marxist critics, who
undermine. Such an approach discloses an ep- regard it as politically ineffective. Frank Len-
istemological concern; it is a form of reading tricchia (After the New Criticism 1980) and oth-
as radical doubt or *aporia. Indeed, de Man re- ers accuse it, especially in its American form,
gards the literary text as a privileged cognitive of being a mere rhetoric of contestation which
model: his interest is in what the text tells us does nothing to change the institutional struc-
about what we can and cannot know. Increas- tures. It is true that deconstructive critics tend
ingly, de Man, Miller and Johnson focus on to focus on canonic texts and have done little
the figural or rhetorical language of the text to to challenge the shape of traditional literary
show how it escapes reduction to any proper history. It is also true that their readings tend
meaning and how it relentlessly contests our to be like the New Critical (or in England,
capacity to make sense of its own metaphoric Leavisite) readings they so often contest, exclu-
language. (See also *textuality.) sively oriented to the isolated text or author,
reflecting an apparent indifference to both so-
Influence and contestation of deconstruction cial and literary history. Significantly enough,
it is the importance of this historical context
It is hard to gauge the extent of the impact of which has recently become the focus of the
deconstruction, partly because of the school's Foucault-inspired school of New Historicism.
notoriety, which has obscured the issues it has (See *Marxist criticism, *F.R. Leavis.)
raised, partly because its influence has been It is hard to predict the future of deconstruc-
diffuse - everyone has heard of deconstruction tion in North America. Based as it is on a gen-
and knows a little about it - and partly be- eral and not specifically literary theory of
cause its influence is often inseparable from signification, the approach has largely become
the other theoretical streams with which it is a method for reading texts as allegories of de-
often associated. Deconstruction is one school construction itself, as the title of de Man's sec-
that, along with a host of other theoretical ond book, Allegories of Reading, suggests. What
developments represented by writers such as began as a critique of methods and systems of
*Michel Foucault, Jacques Lacan, *Roland reading can be legitimately accused of having
Barthes, *Jean-Francois Lyotard, *Julia Kris- succumbed to the normative methodization it
teva, and others, make up what is known as criticized. The *reification and institutionaliza-
*poststructuralism. Deconstruction shares with tion of deconstruction has proved to be inevi-
all these discourses a profound 'suspicion' con- table. Another one of de Man's titles, The
cerning traditional modes of understanding Rhetoric of Romanticism, points to the other
history, subjectivity and knowledge. On the major limitation of American deconstruction:
other hand, deconstruction shares with the the focus on rhetorical structures betrays a
more conservative hermeneutical schools an tendency to identify literary meaning narrowly
interest in the interpretation of written texts with the text's figural meaning. At the same
(thus the label 'hermeneutical mafia' that de- time, the treatment of the literary text as a
tractors used for the 'Yale School' critics), even cognitive model that the verbal level contra-
if the conclusions drawn by the two are at op- dicts could be perceived as reflecting a funda-
posite poles: the meaning that the hermeneuti- mental misunderstanding concerning the
cal reader would reinstitute is that 'proper' imaginative nature of literary vision. (See also
meaning which Derrida and other deconstruc- *rhetorical criticism, *metacriticism.)
tionists declare is always already disseminated JOSEPH ADAMSON
and irrecoverable. (See *hermeneutics.)
Deconstruction has met with a good deal of Primary Sources
contestation and not only from traditional
scholars. Derrida's work has, for example, de Man, Paul. Allegories of Reading: Figural Language
been strongly challenged by Foucault and his in Rousseau, Nietzsche, Rilke, and Proust. New Ha-
adherents for its ahistorical and apolitical 'tex- ven: Yale UP, 1979.
- Blindness and Insight: Essays in the Rhetoric of Con-

30
Dialogical criticism
temporary Criticism. New York: Oxford UP, 1971.
- The Resistance f<> Iheory. Minneapolis: U of Min-
Dialogical criticism
nesota P, 1986.
- The Rhetoric of Romanticism. New York: Columbia Dialogical criticism, covering a diverse set of
UP, 1984. critical practices that developed primarily in
Derrida, Jacques. La Dissemination. 1972. Dissemina- the last three decades of this century, is char-
tion. Trans. Barbara Johnson. Chicago: U of Chi- acterized by attention to two factors: the larger
cago P, i 98 i . historical and critical context of a *text and,
- 'Le Facteur de la verite.' In The Post Card, 411-96. more specifically within the text proper, to a
- Glas. Paris: Galilee, 1974. polyphonic heterogeneity. The work of *Mik-
- Margins of Philosophy. Trans. Alan Bass. Chicago: hail Bakhtin is commonly considered its guid-
U of Chicago P, 1982. ing inspiration. Martin Buber, Bakhtin's
- Of Grammatology. Trans. Gayatri Chakravorty
contemporary and also a highly original phi-
Spivak. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1977.
- The Post Card: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond. losopher of 'dialogism' (Ich und Du 1923), and
Trans. Alan Bass. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1987. Francis Jacques (Dialogiques 1979), the phil-
- Signeponge/Signsponge. Trans. Richard Rand. New osopher, have not had the same widespread
York: Columbia UP, 1984. influence. The debate surrounding Bakhtin's
- Speech and Phenomena (and Other Essays on Hus- politics (was he a Marxist or a liberal human-
serl's Theory of Signs). Trans. David B. Allison. Ev- ist?) carries over into the critical works in
anston: Northwestern UP, 1973. which his ideas have been extended or ap-
- 'Structure, Sign, and Play.' In Writing and Differ- plied. Bakhtin's 'dialogism' can therefore be
ence, 278-93. seen in the work of both apolitical and politi-
- 'Des Tours de Babel.' In Difference in Translation.
cized critics. The discussion of dialogical criti-
Trans, and ed. Joseph F. Graham. Ithaca: Cornell
UP, 1985, 165-248. cism is restricted here to Bakhtin as dialogical
- The Truth in Painting. Trans. Geoff Bennington critic and to criticism inspired by Bakhtin. (See
and Ian McLeod. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1987. *double-voicing/dialogism.)
- Writing and Difference. Trans. Alan Bass. Chicago:
U of Chicago P, 1978. Bakhtin as dialogical critic
Hartman, Geoffrey, ed. Deconstruction and Criticism.
New York: Seabury, 1979. Bakhtin's 'criticism' should be understood in a
Jacobs, Carol. The Dissimulating Harmony: Images of heuristic sense with an underlying ethical
Interpretation in Nietzsche, Rilke and Benjamin. Bal- thrust and should not be reduced to a mere
timore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1978.
technique of formal analysis since it assumes
Johnson, Barbara. The Critical Difference: Essai/s in
the Contemporary Rhetoric of Reading. Baltimore: an anthropological vision of the world. Such a
Johns Hopkins UP, 1981. vision informs the two most studied phases in
- Disfigurations du langage poctii]ue. Paris: Flamma- Bakhtin's life: from 1924 to 1930, when he de-
rion, 1979. veloped his ideas on *polyphony, utterance
Miller, J. Hillis. Fiction and Repetition: Seven English and 'double-voiced words' in the works of
Novels. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1982. Dostoevsky; and between the early 19303 and
- 77k' Linguistic Moment: From Wordsworth to Ste- 19503 when his attention focused on *dis-
vens. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1985. course in the novel and the carnivalesque in
the work of Rabelais. (See *carnival.) General-
Secondary Sources ly speaking, Bakhtin's writings from the early
19205 and those from the last two decades of
Culler, Jonathan. On Deconstruction: Theory and Crit- his life have played, to date, a limited role in
icism after Structuralism. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1982.
the development of a dialogical criticism.
Hartman, Geoffrey H. Saving the Text: Literature/
Derrida/Philosophy. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, The dialogical approach appears for the first
1981. time in Bakhtin's Problems of Dostoevski's Poet-
Harvey, Irene. Derrida and the Economy of Differance. ics (1929) as a means of characterizing Dos-
Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1986. toevsky's tendency to create a textual space
Lentricchia, Frank. After the New Criticism. Chicago: where several voices are literally heard, where
U of Chicago P, 1980. they converse, answer one another, and yet
Norris, Christopher. Deconstruction: Theory and Prac- where no voice dominates the others. In this
tice. London: Methuen, 1982. study, Bakhtin sees Dostoevsky as 'the creator
of the polyphonic novel': 'A plurality of

31
Dialogical criticism
independent and unmerged voices and con- monological, Bakhtin raises questions and of-
sciousnesses, a genuine polyphony of fully valid fers hypotheses, but his answers remain open
voices is in fact the chief characteristic of Dos- and incomplete because he sees them as being
toevsky's novels' (6). Bakhtin contrasts the intrinsically so: There is neither a first nor a
dialogical discourse of the Dostoevsky novel last word and there are no limits to the dial-
with the *monologism of traditional au thorial ogic context (it extends into the boundless past
discourse in which one voice attempts to dom- and the boundless future). Even past mean-
inate all others. (See *polyphonic novel.) ings, that is, those born in the dialogue of past
Bakhtin's critical practice is doubly dialogi- centuries, can never be stable (finalized, ended
cal. First, he typically carries out a thorough once for all) - they will always change (be re-
critique of the different theoretical and ideo- newed) in the process of subsequent, future
logical approaches to the topic that he wishes development of the dialogue' (Speech Genres
to explore. In both Problems of Dostoevski/'s Po- 170). Bakhtin aims at thinking out the tensions
etics and Rabelais and His World (1965), for ex- of a text, at describing and analysing its dial-
ample, Bakhtin begins by instituting a dialogue ogical dynamics, but not at resolving them,
between previous studies and his own com- even dialectically, since dialectics is, in his
mentaries. Such a method is characteristic of eyes, the most elaborated and therefore the
Bakhtinian thought, which sees itself as always most pernicious form of monological thought.
taking place within the continuation of a larger However, in spite of himself, Bakhtin does
historical and critical movement. By inserting not always resist the temptation of idealism, it-
his own analysis within the critical field he self a form of monological thinking. In Rabelais
has carefully described, Bakhtin thus sees his and His World, he seems to propose a some-
own research as a temporary step that may what naive, 'optimistic' or Utopian conception
soon be revised or rejected in the evolving of the centrifugal (subversive) role of popular
continuum of critical theory. Second, Bakhtin's culture opposing the centripetal (stratifying)
work is dialogical in so far as it reveals the po- forces of official culture. Likewise in 'Toward a
lyphonic heterogeneity (that is, dialogism) of Methodology for the Human Sciences' (in
some of the major authors of world literature Speech Genres), he adheres to the hypothesis of
(Rabelais, Cervantes, Dostoevsky). an eternal return of meaning that, like the
Bakhtin's approach is also dialogical in that phoenix, perpetually rises from its own ashes:
it invokes different analytical disciplines in or- 'Nothing is absolutely dead: every meaning
der to determine the object of its reflection. He will have its homecoming festival. The prob-
derives his concepts from, among others, mu- lem of great time' (historical time considered
sic (polyphony), the natural sciences (chrono- over long periods) (170). The ambiguity of this
tope), psychology (*self/other) philosophy formulation has allowed some critics to situate
(value), anthropology (carnivalesque), and lin- Bakhtin as a metaphysical or transcendental
guistics (utterance). The variety of these disci- thinker. Such a view is strongly opposed,
plines and their complementarity or their however, by those who point out that when
opposition prevent any monological (univocal) meanings (or interpretations) reappear through
conclusions. Such a refusal of fixity can be ob- history, they are always in renewed and
served in Bakhtin's criticism of the Russian changed form.
formalist movement as well as of narrowly de-
fined semiotic approaches, which, he claims, Criticism inspired by Bakhtin
tend to view the text as a hermetic and self-
signifying whole. (See *formalism, Russian; The key categories found in Bakhtin's work
*semiotics.) and most frequently brought into play in dial-
Bakhtin rejects an analysis that would ignore ogical criticism are polyphony, the carnival-
the context (sociohistorical, ideological) of pro- esque, alterity (self/other), genre, hybridiza-
duction as well as the context of reception. tion, monologism, context, and chronotope
Thus, in his introduction to Rabelais and His (an analytical category used to understand in
World, he attacks the studies on Rabelais that a unified way the spatial and temporal dimen-
have not taken into account the cultural, pop- sions of texts). Most critics have tended to
ular and historical dimension of carnival. choose one of these categories and to bring it
Opposing dogmatism, which is necessarily to bear on an individual text (literary, anthro-

32
Dialogical criticism

pological, philosophical, etc.). Only a very be studied and the relation between the two.
few, such as Tzvetan Todorov (France), Second, the dialogical critic never looks for a
Michael Holquist (United States), Andre single meaning in a text. Contesting meanings
Belleau (Canada), Ken Hirschkop (England), and the relations among them in the text are
and some feminist critics (Patricia Yaegar, what the critic must describe. Katerina Clark
United States; Myriam Diaz-Diocaretz, Hol- and Michael Holquist's intellectual biography
land) have attempted to provide dialogical crit- of Bakhtin (Mikhail Bakhtin) should be seen as
icism with a broad conceptual framework. an illustration of the dialogical approach: the
Although there is considerable disparity of relation between Bakhtin and the other impor-
opinion over what this approach entails as a tant thinkers of his time is presented as a dia-
precise methodology, most critics concur that logue.
Bakhtin's ideas have been crucial in encourag-
ing interdisciplinary thinking. Andre Belleau

Tzvetan Todorov Belleau, a dialogical critic and theorist who has


based his work in part on the concept of the
According to Todorov, the dialogical critic as- carnivalesque as found in Bakhtin's study of
sumes that truth (in the sense of wisdom Rabelais, also uses a sociological (or sociocriti-
about a text) is attainable, although it may cal) approach as well as tools from *narratol-
never be reached. The ideal relation between ogy. (See also *sociocriticism.) Belleau sees
the critic and the text to be studied is seen as both Quebec literature and Quebec society as
an encounter or dialogue between two sepa- profoundly imbued with carnivalesque ele-
rate voices neither of which is privileged over ments: a conflictual mixture of the high or
the other. The dialogical critic speaks to liter- 'official' culture of France (or Europe more
ary works, not about them. The text to be generally), the English-language culture of
studied is a living discourse not an object to be North America, and the indigenous 'popular'
mastered in light of some theory. If based on culture of Quebec. Belleau maintains that a
these principles, dialogical criticism avoids the dialogical criticism must avoid the pitfalls of
traps of dogmatism (the assumption of privi- positivism, binary thinking, ethnocentrism, *lo-
lege for the critic's voice) and relativism (all gocentrism, and idealism. His dialogical anal-
interpretations are equally valid). Todorov's La yses of Quebec culture, society and language
Conquete de I'Amerique, a study of the struggle are always grounded, and insist on the open-
between the colonizing voices of European ex- ended, continually evolving character of social
plorers and the colonized voices of indigenous realities.
Amerindian peoples, is one example of dialogi-
cal criticism. (See also *post-colonial theory.) Ken Hirschkop

Michael Holquist The basic tenet of Hirschkop's understanding


of dialogical criticism is that the appropriation
Holquist's work provides dialogical criticism of Bakhtin's concepts, far from being neutral
with a philosophical or, more specifically, epis- or arbitrary, is always political. An under-
temological basis. Bakhtin's dialogism is, in standing of Bakhtin's dialogism can only be
this view, primarily a meditation on language the 'sedimentation of past usages' (3) of the
(a dialogue on dialogue) or a way of under- concept. Dialogism thus grounded in Marxism
standing human behaviour through the study is not an abstract principle but rather a num-
of language. Dialogism and therefore dialogical ber of disparate critical practices (*parody,
criticism correspond to a new way of looking collage, stylization, etc.) as worked out by
at the world, inspired, at the beginning of this Bakhtin and subsequent critics. (See also
century, by Einstein's theory of relativity. In *Marxist criticism.) Because of ambiguities in
dialogical criticism meaning is understood as Bakhtin's own writing on dialogism, some ap-
relative or relational on two levels. First, the propriations of the concept have turned it into
dialogical critic will never lose sight of the fact a transcendental principle of discourse. Hirsch-
that his or her search for meaning is a tripar- kop opposes this kind of 'theoreticism' (Bakh-
tite phenomenon: there is the critic, the text to tin's term for a non-historical approach to

33
Discourse analysis theory
cultural study). Dialogism is rather a critical - Problems of Dostoevski's Poetics. Ed. and trans.
practice whose objective is the unmasking of Caryl Emerson. Minneapolis: U of Minneapolis P,
social languages. It will account for the con- 1984.
flicting pressures of the context in which so- - Rabelais and His World. 1965. Trans. Helene Iswol-
sky. MIT P, 1968; 2nd ed., Indiana UP, 1984.
cially conditioned utterances are produced. - Speech Genres and Other Late Essays. Ed. Caryl
Emerson and Michael Holquist. Trans. Vern W.
Feminism McGee. Austin: U of Texas P, 1986.

Most feminist critics who work from a dialogi- Secondary Sources


cal perspective see Bakhtin's ideas as helpful
in attacking patriarchal (or monological) myths Belleau, Andre. Surprendre les voix: Essais. Montreal:
about women and language. But because he Boreal, 1986.
neglected the category of gender (this has been Clark, Katerina, and Michael Holquist. Mikhail Bakh-
called his misogyny or 'blind spot'), Bakhtin's tin. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1984.
concepts have to be adjusted to make them Diaz-Diocaretz, Myriam. 'Sieving the Matriheritage
gender-sensitive. Feminist critics also have re- of the Sociotext.' In The Difference Within: Femin-
servations about Bakhtin's Utopian tendencies ism and Critical Theory. Ed. Elizabeth Meese and
Alice Parker. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 1989,
as expressed in the Rabelais book. Carnival-
115-47.
esque culture, rather than being characterized Hirschkop, Ken. 'Critical Work on the Bakhtin Cir-
by a freeplay of discourses or voices (as Bakh- cle: A Bibliographical Essay.' In Bakhtin and Cul-
tin sometimes suggests), is an unequal power tural Theory. Ed. Ken Hirschkop and David
struggle in which some voices will always try Shepherd. Manchester: Manchester UP, 1989,
to control others. Critics like Patricia Yaeger 195-212.
and Myriam Diaz-Diocaretz have explored the Holquist, Michael. Dialogism: Bakhtin and His World.
notions of the carnivalesque, multivocality (the London: Routledge, 1990.
presence of several voices in a given language Todorov, Tzvetan. Critique de la critique: Un roman
situation), the self/other, and hybridization d'apprentissage. Paris: Seuil, 1984.
Yaeger, Patricia. Honey-Mad Women: Emancipatory
(the bringing together of different literary gen-
Strategies in Women's Writing. New York: Colum-
res in a given text) to forge an original version bia UP, 1988.
of dialogical criticism. (See *feminist criticism, The following journals have published special issues
*patriarchy, *theories of play/freeplay.) on Bakhtin and dialogical criticism: University of
Dialogical criticism is not an approach that Ottawa Quarterly 53.1 (1983); Critical Inquiry 10.2
can be easily defined or situated in relation to (1983); Etudes franqaises 20.1 (1984); E'lmmagine
others. Dialogism has been said, however, to riflessa 7.1/2 (1984); Studies in Twentieth Century
be more opposed to *deconstruction than to Literature 9.1 (1984); Critical Studies 1.2 (1989),
other approaches. In Bakhtin's work, the indi- 2.1/2 (1990); Bakhtin Newsletter i (1983), 2
vidual voice (with its own intonations and ac- (1986), 3 (1991); Discours social 3.1/2 (1990),
Studies in the Literary Imagination 23.1 (1990).
cents) is a fundamental category, whereas in
deconstruction subjectivity is thoroughly prob-
lematized. Most dialogical critics seek to main-
tain a flexible and critical dialogue with other Discourse analysis theory
approaches. Although some commentators
have seen the vagueness or ambiguity inherent Discourse analysis is a cross-disciplinary
in dialogism as a weakness, most feel that this method of inquiry which studies the structures
is its greatest strength. of texts and considers both their linguistic and
T H I E R R Y BELLEGUIC and sociocultural dimensions in order to determine
CLIVE THOMSON how meaning is constructed. (See *text.) In
the Anglo-American context, discourse analysis
Primary Sources concentrates on various forms of oral commu-
nication (everyday conversation, speech acts,
Bakhtin, Mikhail. The Dialogic Imagination: Four Es- 'talk') from an interactional and ethno-meth-
says by MM. Bakhtin. Ed. Michael Holquist. Trans. odological perspective, and investigates how
Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist. Austin: U of *power and *authority are distributed in verbal
Texas P, 1981.

34
Discourse analysis theory

exchanges (Coulthard). The French stream of pline and Punish 1975; trans. 1977, 27). The
discourse analysis, following the works of work of Louis Althusser also contributes to the
*Michel Foucault, "Louis Althusser, Michel study of the way discourses are formed and of
Pecheux, and "Mikhail Bakhtin, constitutes its what institutional practices contribute to them.
object very differently, concentrating largely, His 'Ideology and Ideological State Appara-
but not exclusively, on written material in its tuses' (1970) emphasizes that consciousness is
institutional, social and political contexts. Dis- constructed through ideologies and that 'ideo-
course analysis does not favour the 'high' logies are systems of meaning that install
cultural disciplines ("literature, philosophy, everybody in imaginary relations to the real
history); it employs methods developed in relations in which they live' (McDonell 27).
areas such as content analysis, "narratology, (See "Ideological State Apparatuses, "ideology,
textual "semiotics, and Ideologiekritik to permit "ideological horizon.)
(if not favour) studies of all manifestations of Discourse analysis contextualizes and for-
"discourse in everyday life. Discourse analysis malizes studies in content analysis and thus
theory proposes that relations of power in our generates questions concerning the production,
society affect and shape the way we both com- reproduction, function, and effect of basic units
municate with each other and create 'knowl- of discourse within given ideological configu-
edge/ rations and sociohistorical moments. These
Although "Ferdinand de Saussure's work on units are bound to their conditions of produc-
structural linguistics may have provoked or tion and to the sociohistorical moment from
pre-empted interest in discourse analysis, which they emerge. Thus, discourse analysis is
Saussure was more interested in structures also a study of the rules, conventions and pro-
than in systems. More clearly a predecessor of cedures which legitimate and to some degree
contemporary discourse analysis is the linguist determine a particular discursive practice. A
Zelig Harris who, in a book published in 1963, thorough analysis of these areas of study cov-
undertook to describe a 'method of seeking in ers a broad range of issues, beginning with the
any connected discrete linear material, whether overriding problem of how to objectify the
language or language-like, which contains 'system' of a corpus, as well as the question of
more than one elementary sentence, some showing 'how the functional categories are re-
global structure characterizing the whole dis- alised by formal items' (Coulthard 8).
course (the linear material), or large sections of The French School of Discourse Analysis ex-
it' (Discourse Analysis Reprints 7). Harris was amines exchanges between several discourses
interested in the ways in which segments of (rather than any single practice). Marc An-
discourse (utterances, sentences, parts of sen- genot, for example, defines social discourse as
tences, words, parts of words) recur within a 'all that is said or written in a given state of
whole constituent or a sequence of constitu- society ... [or rather than] this empirical whole,
ents. Thus he concentrated upon the structure ... the generic systems, the repertories of top-
(the pattern or relations of meanings) in dis- ics, the enunciative rules which, in a given so-
course which can be studied without reference ciety, organize the sayable - the narratable and
to other information. the arguable - and insure the division of dis-
More recent work in discourse analysis re- cursive labour' (1989, 13). Angenot et al. claim
lates studies in the structure of discourse to that within the compendium of social dis-
broader social and institutional phenomena course, there emerge patterns, such as 'narra-
and owes a significant debt to Foucault's work tive and argumentional constructs, topical
on enunciative analysis, the unities of dis- maxims, pragmatic markings, semantic para-
course, and discursive formation set out in digms, sociolectal markers and rhetorical fig-
L'Archealogie du savoir [Archaeology of Knowl- ures that organize themselves into social
edge 1969] and L'Ordre du discours ['Orders of objects' (Durkheim), and facts which, through
Discourse' 1971], and to his many works which usage, become powerful social forces which
explore the articulation of knowledge and are neither strictly linguistic or gnoseological,
power in discourse: 'there is no power relation and 'which function independently of particular
without the correlative constitution of a field usages and applications (1991, 3-4). By exam-
of knowledge, nor any knowledge that does ining the relations between various kinds of
not presuppose and constitute at the same texts (literary, political, scientific, religious,
time power relations' (Surveiller et punir; Disci- journalistic), discourse analysis both relies

35
Empirical Science of Literature
upon and develops research on *intertextuality edge. Trans. A.M. Sheridan-Smith. New York/
(*Kristeva, *Riffaterre). Literature's once privi- Hagerstown: Harper and Row, 1972.
leged place is abandoned in favour of a study - L'Ordre du discours. Inaugural lecture, College de
France, 2 Dec. 1970. Paris: Editions Gallimard,
of shared strategies of discourse which contrib-
1971. 'Orders of Discourse.' Trans. Rupert Swyer.
ute to the general production of knowledge
Social Science Information 10 (April 1971): 7-31.
and power. Thus, for example, a study of Repr. as 'Appendix: The Discourse on Language.'
19th-century realism would focus not on 'a In The Archaeology of Knowledge. Trans. A.M.
moment of literary history, but rather on nar- Sheridan-Smith. New York/Hagerstown: Harper
rative realism as ... [a] way of making sense of and Row, 1972.
the world in various discourses - medical, so- - Surveiller et punir. Paris: Editions Gallimard, 1975.
ciological, criminological, in parliamentary de- Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison.
bates, sermons, press reports' (Leps 232). Trans. Alan Sheridan. New York: Pantheon, 1977.
By concentrating upon the words and utter- Harris, Zelig. Discourse Analysis Reprints. The Hague:
Mouton, 1963.
ances of social discourse and by elucidating
Leps, Marie-Christine. 'Discursive Displacements:
these rules, conventions, procedures, and facts,
The Example of igth Century Realism.' Proceed-
discourse analysis emphasizes the materiality ings of the izth Congress of the International Com-
of language, including that language which parative Literature Association 5. Munich: ludicium,
conveys the 'ideas,' 'mentalities/ 'values,' 'so- 1988, 231-6.
cial imaginaries/ and 'representations' studied McDonell, Diane. Theories of Discourse: An Introduc-
in fields such as the history of ideas. Such re- tion. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1986.
search also allows the study of broad political Stubbs, M. Discourse Analysis: The Sociolinguistic
issues such as which *hegemony favours given Analysis of Natural Language. Chicago: U of Chi-
discursive practices and what kinds of texts are cago P. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1983.
Van Dijk, T.A., ed. Handbook of Discourse Analysis.
preferred in particular sociodiscursive contexts.
4 vols. London: Academic, 1985.
Discourse analysis is proving useful in many
areas - sociology, history, anthropology - as a
conceptual matrix to explore the social produc-
tion of knowledges. (See also *sociocriticism.) Empirical Science of
ROBERT F. BARSKY
Literature/Constructivist
Primary Sources Theory of Literature
Althusser, Louis. 'Ideology and Ideological State Ap- The Empirical Science of Literature (ESL) - or,
paratuses (Notes towards an Investigation).' In alternatively, Constructivist Theory of Litera-
Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays. Trans. Ben ture (CTL) - is a theoretical framework and
Brewster. New York: Monthly Review P, 1971, methodology which was developed in the
127-86. 19805 in the Federal Republic of Germany. In
Angenot, Marc. Glossaire pratique de la critique con-
general terms, its theoretical, epistemological
temporaine. Montreal: Hurtubise, 1979.
- 1889: Un etat du discours social. Longueil, Que.: Le and methodological bases can be found in the
Preambule, 1989. sociology of "literature, in theories of commu-
Angenot, Marc, Antonio Gomez-Moriana and Regine nication, and in the more recent philosophical
Robin. Constitution: The Inter-University Centre for approach of constructivism. In addition to
Discourse Analysis and Text Sociocriticism. Trans. these three main areas, CTL can be traced
Nadia Khouri and Michelle Weinroth. Montreal: back to the igth-century notion of intellectual
CIADEST, 1991. or cultural history and to the more ubiquitous
Benzecri, J.P., ed. Analyse des donnees: Lemons sur notion of 'literary life.'
I'analyse factorielle et la reconnaissance de la forme,
In its present state, CTL is best articulated in
et travaux du laboratoire de statistiquc de I'Univer-
Siegfried J. Schmidt's Grundriss der Empirischen
site de Paris VI. Paris: Dunod, 1973.
Brown, G., and G. Yule. Discourse Analysis. Cam- Literaturwissenschaft (1980-2; Foundations for
bridge: Cambridge UP, 1983. the Empirical Study of Literature 1982). Its epis-
Coulthard, R.M. Introduction to Discourse Analysis. temological foundation, constructivism - only
London: Longmans, 1977. very remotely related to Russian *constructiv-
Foucault, Michel. L'Archeologie du savoir. Paris: Edi- ism and developed from distinct philosophical
tions Gallimard, 1969. The Archaeology of Knowl- and literary tenets - originated with, among
others, the German thinker Hugo Dingier, who

36
Empirical Science of Literature

in turn developed it mainly from the works of strating the social relevance of literature and of
Immanuel Kant. CTL's aim, to bridge the gap the study of literature. It also responds to the
between the natural sciences and the humani- contemporary concern with marginality in and
ties (cf. Butts and Brown, Foerster), and its of certain types of literature while it maintains
concomitant focus on interdisciplinarity and the locus of aesthetic value (Totosy 1992).
team work has resulted in the fruitful cross- The framework and methodology of CTL is
fertilization of ideas in literary scholarship related to other systemic approaches. These
with other disciplines such as the social sci- can be grouped into communication theories
ences, psychology, philosophy, biology, neu- (including *semiotics) and the sociology of lit-
rology, mathematics, and physics. While the erature. Historically, the former includes the
application and the development of the frame- approaches of the Russian formalists, the
work and methodology of a CTL has been *Prague School and the more recent *polysys-
steadily growing in the Western Hemisphere, tem theory (Itamar Even-Zohar). (See also
in more recent years, centres or groups of liter- *formalism, Russian.) The sociology of litera-
ary scholars who subscribe to the theory and ture group (e.g., Sarkany) includes the champ
its methodology in a more focused manner litteraire approach (*Pierre Bourdieu; cf. Bour-
have appeared in Germany, the Netherlands, dieu, van Rees, Schmidt and Verdaasdonk),
the U.S.A., Hungary, Japan, and Canada. It *sociocriticism and the ecole bibliologique and
has also attracted scholars interested in cogni- the I'institution litteraire approach (Dubois).
tive psychology and reading. There are similarities between these systemic
CTL is a systemic approach to literature. Its approaches and the various frameworks within
main purpose is to study what happens to lit- cultural studies. However, these approaches
erature and how it happens. The constructivist and methodologies often become 'removed'
tenet that a subject largely construes its empir- from literature per se. In recent Anglo-Ameri-
ical world itself resulted in the recognition that can scholarship the works of Tony Bennett's
literary interpretation and the strictly 'scien- Outside Literature (1990), Anthony Easthope's
tific' study of literature ought to be separate Literary into Cultural Studies (1991) and Jerome
activities. It is important to note that the terms J. McGann's The Textual Condition (1991), for
'scientific' and 'empirical' are to be understood example, show sociological and system orien-
in the context of constructivism and not in tation.
their general context. 'Empirical' here means a More concretely, a specific branch of sys-
non-positivist concept of empiricism, one that temic theory groups, most clearly originating
objectifies the literary "text; from this objectifi- in the sociology of literature, are the French
cation it is developed into a procedural system and Quebecois-Canadian groups, which work
of literature guided by rational argumentation with the concept of the "literary institution.
(Schmidt in Foerster 150). The literary system This approach is most often associated with
of communicative interaction should be ob- Dubois' L'Institution de la litterature: Intro-
served, not experienced. This postulate rests duction a une sociologie (1978), which also
on two hypotheses. First, there is an aesthetic spawned a number of further studies (Moisan,
convention that is drawn from the convention Lemire and Lord, Nadeau, Robert).
of facts in the daily language of reference and, Each of the systemic frameworks overlaps
second, the literary system is based on a poly- with other systemic theories. An early example
valency convention that is different from the of such overlapping occurs in K.E. Rosengren's
monovalency of the daily empirical world. Sociological Aspects of the Literary System (1968)
These two hypotheses result in the study of and in P.E. S^rensen's Elernentare Literaturso-
literature by focusing not on the text per se ziologie (1976), which take both a systemic and
but rather on the roles of social communicative an institutional view of literature. Also, poly-
interaction within the literary system, namely system theory, although in the first instance a
the production of the literary text, its distribu- communication/semiotic approach, contains
tion, its reception, and the processing of the many systemic components from the sociology
text(s) (that is, criticism, scholarship, pedagogy, of literature. For a range of similar works and
canonization, evaluation, and so forth) (van approaches see Totosy (1992).
Gorp). ESL thus allows for the exploration of While criticism of ESL has arisen in part be-
both the literary text and the socioliterary as- cause Anglo-American scholars frequently lack
pects of the literary system, thereby demon- the German-language skills to become ac-

37
Empirical Science of Literature
quainted with the full context of the ESL/CTL - 'Institution litteraire.' In Dictionnaire dcs littcratures
framework, in general, systemic approaches de langue fran^aisc. Ed. J.-P. de Beaumarchais, D.
encounter resistance among literary scholars Couty, and A. Key. Paris: Bordas, 1984, G-O:
i 087-90.
because of the impression that the 'system' is
Easthope, A. Literary into Cultural Studies. London
imposed on literature. However, scholars and New York: Routledge, 1991.
working with systemic approaches insist that Estivals, R. Le Livre dans le mondc. Paris: RETZ, 1984.
exactly because the literary system is a priori, - ed. Le Livrc en France. Paris: RETZ, 1984.
literature should be studied within a systemic Even-Zohar, I. Polysystem Studies. Special issue. Poet-
framework. Another frequent criticism occurs ics Today 11.1 (Spring 1990).
with reference to the terms 'empirical' and 'sci- Foerster, H. von, E. von Glasersfeld, P.M. Hejl, S.J.
ence,' as these beg the question whether either Schmidt, and P. Watzlawick. Einfuhrung in den
notion can or should be applied to literature. Konstruktivismus. Repr. Munchen-Zurich: Piper,
ESL/CTL scholars counter by pointing out that 1992.
these terms should not be perceived in their Fokkema, D., and E. Ibsch. Literatuurwetenschap &
Cultuuroverdracht. Muiderberg: Coutinho, 1992.
traditional meanings but rather in the context Gorp, H. van, et al. 'Empirische Literatuurweten-
of constructivism. Perhaps the most serious schap.' In Lexicon van literaire termen. sth ed. Leu-
criticism of the framework is that its applica- ven: Wolters, 1991, 116-17.
tion results in trivialities (that is, in a confirma- Krohn, W., and G. Kiippers. Emergenz: Die Entste-
tion of what was already known or intuited), hung von Ordnung, Organisation und Bedeutung.
that it is reductive, and that it is limited in its Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1992.
scope (for instance, to reader response instead Lamonde, Y., ed. L'lmprime au Quebec: Aspects histo-
of the study of the literary text). ESL/CTL ricjues (i8e-2oe siecles). Quebec: Institut quebecois
scholars, however, contend that what are seen de recherche sur la culture, 1983.
Lemire, M., and M. Lord, eds. L'Institution litteraire.
as trivialities often turn out to be assumptions
Quebec: UP de Laval, 1986.
rooted in scholarly conventions, traditions McGann, JJ. The Textual Condition. Princeton: Prin-
and desires. Thus empirical backing of these ceton UP, 1991.
conventions and traditions is necessary be- Moisan, C. Comparaison et raison: Essais sur I'histoire
cause these assumptions often turn out to be et {'institution des litteratures canadienne et quebe-
just that, assumptions. Despite these criticisms, coise. LaSalle: Hurtubise, 1987.
there is a growing corpus of works drawing - L'Histoire litteraire. Paris: PUF, 1990.
upon the framework and methodology of - Qu'est-ce que I'histoire litteraire? Paris: PUF, 1987.
ESL/CTL. (See also *communication theory, Nadeau, V. Au commencement etait le fascicule. Aux
""reader-response criticism.) sources de I'edition quebecoise conternporaine pour la
STEVEN TOTOSY DE Z E P E T N E K
masse. Quebec: Institut quebecois de recherche sur
la culture, 1984.
Robert, L. Prolegomenes a une etude sur les transfor-
Primary Sources mations du marchc du livre (1900-1940). Quebec:
Institut quebecois de recherche sur la culture,
Bennett, T. Outside Literature. London and New 1984.
York: Routledge, 1990. - L'Institution du litteraire au Quebec. Quebec: PU de
Bourdieu, P. 'Questions of Method.' In Empirical Laval, 1989.
Studies of Literature: Proceedings of the Second Rosengren, K.E. Sociological Aspects of the Literary
IGEL-Conference, Amsterdam 1989. Ed. E. Ibsch, D. System. Stockholm: Natur och Kultur, 1968.
Schram and G. Steen. Amsterdam/Atlanta, Ga: Santerres-Sarkany, S. Theoric de la litterature. Paris:
Rodopi, 1991, 19-36. PUF, 1990.
- K. van Rees, S.J. Schmidt, and H. Verdaasdonk. Sarkany, S. Quebec Canada France: Le Canada litter-
'The Structure of the Literary Field and the Ho- aire a la croisee des cultures. Aix-en-Provence: U
mogeneity of Cultural Choices.' In Empirical Stu- de Provence, 1985.
dies of Literature: Proceedings of the Second IGEL- Schmidt, S.J. Grundriss dcr Ernpirischcn Litcraturwis-
Conference, Amsterdam 1989. Ed. E. Ibsch, D. senschaft. Vol. i: Der gesellschaftliche Handlungs-
Schram and G. Steen Amsterdam/Atlanta, Ga: bereich Literatur. Vol. 2: Zur Rekonstruktion
Rodopi, 1991, 427-43. literaturunssenschaftlicher Fragestellungen in einer
Butts, R.E., and J.R. Brown. Constructivism and Sci- Ernpirischcn Theorie der Literatur. Braunschweig-
ence: Essays in Recent German Philosophy. Dord- Wiesbaden: Vieweg, 1980—2.
recht-Boston-London: Kluwer Academic, 1989. - Foundations for the Empirical Study of Literature:
Dubois, J. L'Institution de la litterature: Introduction a
une sociologie. Paris: Nathan; Bruxelles: Labor,
1978.

38
Feminist criticism, Anglo-American
The Components of a Basic Theon/. Trans. R. de criticism is therefore fundamentally 'political.'
Beaugrande. Hamburg: Buske, 1982. Feminists advocate this transformational activ-
- Grundriss der Empirischen Literatuncissenschaft: Mit ity because they believe patriarchal society op-
einem Nachwort zur Taschenbuchausgabe. Frankfurt: erates to the advantage of men and serves
Suhrkamp, 1991.
men's interests above all others. A corollary of
- 'Vom Text zum Literatursystem. Skizze einer kon-
struktivistischen (empirischen) Literaturwissen- this belief is the idea that patriarchal society
schaft.' In Einfuhrung in den Konstruktivismus. oppresses women. (See *patriarchy.)
H. von Foerster, E. von Glasersfeld, P.M. Hejl, There is no single, comprehensive definition
S.J. Schmidt, and P. Watzlawick. Repr. Munchen/ of feminism; feminism knows neither 'found-
Zurich: Piper, 1992, 147-66. ing mothers' (cf. the respective 'fathers' of
S^renson, P.E. Elernentare Literatursoziologie: Ein Marxism and psychoanalysis, Marx and
Essay uber literatursoziologische Grundproblemc. *Freud) nor a distinctive methodology. At best,
Trans. E. Meier and J. Glauser. Tubingen: Max we may speak of feminisms, all of which are
Niemeyer, 1976. engaged in the transformational critical prac-
Totosy de Zepetnek, S. 'The Empirical Science of
tice described above. These feminisms touch
Literature and the Preface in the Nineteenth-Cen-
tury Canadian Novel: A Theoretical Framework many disciplines and are often interdiscipli-
Applied.' Canadian Review of Comparative Litera- nary in approach; feminists tend to borrow
ture/Revue Canadiennc de Litterature Cornparec from other fields the methodological and con-
17.1-2 (1990): 68-84. ceptual tools that meet the needs of their
- 'The Empirical Science of Literature and the Nine- work. Feminist literary studies have touched
teenth-Century Canadian Novel Preface: The Ap- upon a vast array of critical problems, among
plication of a Literary Theory.' SPIEL - Siegener which are the following: the reconstruction of
Periodicum zur Internationalen Empirischen Litera- women's history and of a female literary tradi-
turunssenschaft 9 (1990): 343-60. tion; feminist historiography; canon formation;
- 'Systemic Approaches to Literature - An Introduc-
black feminist criticism; the critique of repre-
tion with Selected Bibliographies.' Canadian Re-
view of Comparative Literature/Revue Canadienne sentations of women in the visual arts and in
de Litterature Comparee 19.1-2 (March/June 1992): *literature; women and popular culture; the
21-93. debate over biological determinism versus the
Wilpert, G. von. 'Empirische Literaturwissenschaft.' social construction of gender; androgyny; les-
Sachworterbuch der Literatur. 7th ed. Stuttgart: bian culture and tradition; gendered reading;
Kroner, 1989, 233. the nature of women's writing and the condi-
Wurzbach, Natascha. 'Subjective Presentation of tions under which it is produced; autobiogra-
Characters from the Perspective of Miriam's Expe- phy and 'life-writing'; women and difference;
rience in Dorothy Richardson's Novel Pilgrimage: the question of a specifically 'female' language
A Contribution to the Analysis of Constructivist
and whether or not it exists; the *subversion
Narrative.' In Modes of Narrative: Approaches to
American, Canadian and British Fiction. Wurzburg: of patriarchal language; the problem of subjec-
Konigshausen and Neumann, 1990, 278—302. tivity and the constitution of gender identity;
post-colonialism and cultural imperialism; the
search for an alternative logic; the possibility
of a female epistemology. Feminists have been
Feminist criticism: see Feminist able to engage a wide range of problems pre-
criticism, Anglo-American, French, cisely because feminism is not grounded in an
Quebec integrated theory: diversity is the trademark of
feminist studies. (See also *canon, *subject/ob-
ject, *post-colonial theory.)
Feminist criticism, Anglo- History
American
The Anglo-American world witnessed two ma-
Anglo-American feminist literary criticism jor surges of feminism in the 2oth century, the
shares the same purpose as all feminist in- first in connection with the fight for universal
quiry: that of exposing the mechanisms upon suffrage (see Cott), the second arising out of
which patriarchal society rests and by which it the widespread political movements of the
is maintained, with the ultimate aim of trans- 19605 as women came to realize that the goals
forming social relations. The object of feminist of the new left failed to take their aspirations

39
Feminist criticism, Anglo-American
into account. The formation of women's men's power over women as a form of coer-
groups and a growing interest in women's is- cive sexuality. Men's control is maintained
sues ensued, along with the call for the equal- through women's fear of rape and through the
ity of the sexes and, in universities, for courses perpetuation of sex-role stereotypes that dic-
on women's literature. Anglo-American femin- tate, and thereby restrict, women's activity.
ist literary studies have been marked by a Millett shows that sex roles are defined by cul-
number of general stages: early work focused tural values which are in turn socially repro-
on women's absence from the literary canon duced; hence, feminists speak of the 'social
and strove to recover and promote a female construction' of 'gender,' meaning that gender
literary tradition; the broad practice of critiqu- (unlike sex) is not biologically determined but
ing or deconstructing representations of is a product of social conditioning.
women in male-authored texts followed, then The critique of gender as a cultural construct
led to the business of finding 'accurate' repre- proved a fruitful point of departure for subse-
sentations of women which would allow for quent feminist studies. Carolyn G. Heilbrun
woman's 'reconstruction.' These studies helped (1973) promoted the concept of androgyny in
extend feminist concerns to questions of class, an effort to break the masculine/feminine di-
race and sexual orientation. Finally, feminists chotomy based on essentialist conceptions of
have begun to engage in the critique of their gender. (See *essentialism.) Nancy Chodorow's
own practices, a fact which indicates the posi- theory of psychosexual development (1978)
tive development of a critical self-awareness. studied the role of mothering in reproducing
psychological and gender differences which
Major practitioners perpetuated the sexual division of labour and
women's inferior position vis-a-vis men. (See
""Virginia Woolf (A Room of One's Own 1929) is ""psychoanalytic theory.) Interest in sex roles
widely recognized as an important forerunner and their representation in literary works led
of contemporary Anglo-American feminist to a number of studies that attempted to de-
thought. Early work on Woolf emphasized her construct images of women in literature. ""San-
role in modernism and in the Bloomsbury dra M. Gilbert and ""Susan Gubar's study of
group; later, other scholars continued her at- female creativity in the i9th century, The Mad-
tempts at charting a women's tradition in writ- woman in the Attic (1979), was a rejoinder to
ing, based on the idea that women's difference ""Harold Bloom's The Anxiety of Influence
was inscribed in their work (see Moers; Show- (1973). If, as Bloom suggests, male poets re-
alter 1977). More recent studies have related sorted to ""misprision' in reading the work of
Woolf to the lesbian tradition. Mary Ellmann's their predecessors to elude their crushing in-
Thinking about Women (1968), in which she fluence, women's creativity was doubly hind-
posits the idea of 'modes' of writing (the mas- ered by the prevailing myths which reserved
culine mode assuming a voice of *authority, artistic creativity to the masculine sphere. Gil-
the feminine taking a more playful approach) bert and Gubar conclude that the very fact
that are possible regardless of a writer's sex, women dared to write - to take hold of the
was important in raising what has become a pen or 'metaphorical penis' - constituted a
major issue of feminist criticism: the question challenge to the roles that patriarchy had as-
whether women's writing is inherently differ- signed. (See also *phallocentrism.) Other ap-
ent from men's, and, if so, how women's writ- proaches focus more squarely on the historical
ing might be defined. Since the late 19705 and dimension of women's writing and the practi-
during the 19808, this line of thought focused cal project of recovering lost women writers.
on theories of ecriture feminine as developed In describing the move away from 'revision-
by French feminists, notably *Helene Cixous, ary' reading, Elaine Showalter coined the term
*Luce Irigaray and *Julia Kristeva. (See ""femin- 'gynocritics' for the study of women as writers,
ist criticism, French.) Other influential early favouring textual interpretation over theory in
work included Kate Millett's critique of 'femi- an effort to explain the difference of women's
ninity' and 'masculinity' in Sexual Politics writing.
(1970), which includes a study of the 'literary
reflection' of women, according to patriarchal Lesbian and black feminists
norms, in works by *D.H. Lawrence, Henry
Miller and Norman Mailer. Millett describes The women's movement had originally at-

40
Feminist criticism, Anglo-American
tempted to create a sense of female solidarity talism and patriarchy and the interrelation be-
by emphasizing oppression common to all tween the two. Examples of such work include
women united in their difference from men. Michele Barrett's Women's Oppression Today
But 'universal' womanhood was forced to give (1980) and the work of the Women's Studies
way to the plurality of women's experience Group at the Centre for Contemporary Cul-
and to recognize differences between women: tural Studies, particularly Women Take Issue
early feminist criticism was faulted for racism (1978). This socialist-feminist tradition has
(see B. Smith; hooks) and heterosexism (see continued in the journal Feminist Review
Zimmerman). (See also ^universal.) The revi- (1979-). Marxism lacks a sophisticated theori-
sion of the literary canon undertaken by white, zation of subjectivity and, as Rosalind Coward
heterosexual women was broadened by lesbian and John Ellis' Language and Materialism
and black feminists, who also overhauled the (1977) illustrates, attempts to fill this gap led
feminist agenda to include a more complex Marxists to turn to aspects of Lacanian psycho-
version of power relations. (See *Black criti- analysis and the semiology of *Roland Barthes.
cism, *power.) Similarly, lesbian and black Feminist critics have drawn, in particular, on
women's histories emerged and shed new light the work of *Louis Althusser and *Pierre
on women's past (see Faderman; Fox-Gen- Macherey, both of whom use psychoanalytic
ovese). Adrienne Rich's work reversed the analogies in their theories of ideology and the
tendency to blame women's inequality on their literary, and have supplemented this work
reproductive potential by observing, in Of with various other psychoanalytic and post-
Woman Born (1976), that the fault lay not with structuralist theories. (See *poststructuralism.)
biology but with the institution of heterosex- Feminist materialists, however, share a com-
uality, which had pressed motherhood into mitment both to historical and social specificity
service for patriarchy. Rich redefined women's and to the need to look at gender in relation
difference in positive terms. Her idea of a 'les- to class and race. For examples of more recent
bian continuum' was not confined to sexual re- materialist feminist criticism see the work of
lationships between women; instead, it Catherine Belsey and the anthology Feminist
included a variety of 'woman-identified experi- Criticism and Social Change edited by Judith
ence' which was to serve as the basis for Newton and Deborah Rosenfelt (1985).
women's bonding together in resistance to
'male tyranny' (1980). Rich also proposed a Poststructuralist approaches
radical critique of literature in terms of a fem-
inist 're-vision' which constituted 'an act of Poststructuralist feminism draws on the work
survival' (1979). Similarly, black women have of the influential French-language theorists
had to write themselves into the canon. *Ferdinand de Saussure, *Jacques Derrida,
Hence, Alice Walker characterizes her activity *Jacques Lacan, and *Michel Foucault together
as literally 'the saving of lives' (1983) as she with the work of the French-based Bulgarian
works to resurrect the memory of her fore- theorist Julia Kristeva. Concerned with two
bears. Some black feminists have also criti- key areas, meaning and subjectivity, poststruc-
cized feminism's growing concern with theory turalism developed as a critique of Saussure's
in recent years (see Christian i 989). structural linguistics outlined in Cours de lin-
VICTORIA WALKER guistique generale [A Course in General Linguis-
tics 1967; 1974]. Saussure broke with theories
Feminist materialists that assume that language reflects a world out-
side itself. He argued that language constructs
Much of the impetus for feminist criticism meaning. In Saussurean theory language con-
came from critics familiar with Marxist cultural sists of chains of signs composed of signifiers
criticism. (See *cultural materialism, *Marxist (sound images) and signifieds (concepts).
criticism.) Marxism regards culture as a social Meaning is the product of the differences be-
and historical product marked by the economic tween signs rather than anything inherent in a
and social relations of its time. Writing has an particular *sign. (See *signified/signifier/signi-
important role to play in the reproduction of fication.) 'Woman,' for example, acquires its
the dominant *ideology. In the 19705 feminist meaning from its differences from 'man' and
theories and critics, particularly in Britain, 'ran.' Poststructuralism reaffirms the Saussu-
sought to develop a Marxist feminism that rean principle that meaning is an effect of dif-
could account for both the specificity of capi-

41
Feminist criticism, Anglo-American
ference but questions the simplicity of a fixed ist journal Signs which, under the editorship of
signified behind each signifier. Rather than Catherine Stimpson, has created a space for
signs, poststructuralism speaks of signifiers sophisticated theorized cultural analysis. Fem-
whose meaning is polysemic. inist poststructuralist critics, Teresa de Lauretis,
Starting from the principle that meaning is for example, have written widely and influen-
an effect of language and is never fixed but al- tially on film and cultural studies. Gayatri
ways deferred in an infinite web of *textuality, Chakravorty Spivak, translator of Derrida's Of
Derrida developed a theory of *deconstruction Grammatology (1976), has brought together
which has had a marked influence on Anglo- Marxism, deconstruction and perceptions of
American criticism, both feminist and non- cultural difference which have placed cultural
feminist. Deconstruction assumes that textual- imperialism firmly on the feminist agenda (see
ity creates hierarchical binary oppositions, for In Other Worlds 1987). Similarly, Barbara John-
example, culture/nature and man/woman. son (1987) has demonstrated how North
(See *binary opposition.) The process of de- American forms of deconstruction, which have
construction unmasks these oppositions, show- tended towards a conservative formalism, can
ing how *discourse achieves its effects. be used to ask political questions of interest to
Poststructuralist feminist critics have been par- feminists. Catherine Belsey's work on Shake-
ticularly interested in deconstructing texts in speare and Renaissance drama, for example,
order to make explicit the relations of power The Subject of Tragedy (1985), marks a shift
that structure discourse. These power relations, from a concern with the purely literary to-
which structure the field of criticism itself, wards a broader conception of cultural history
often have institutional bases, for example, in concerned with how an understanding of past
publishing, higher education and the press. gender relations can denaturalize the present.
Competing discourses - for example, *New Linda Hutcheon has concentrated on the the-
Criticism, feminist criticism and Marxist criti- ory, practice and politics of postmodern cul-
cism - constitute a discursive field, in this case tural forms, drawing parallels between the
cultural criticism. Critics read from positions project of *postmodernism and that of the var-
within this discursive field and critical readings ious feminisms without collapsing the two.
of texts produce particular versions of mean- CHRIS WEEDON
ing, reaffirming particular social values.
Poststructuralism has also provided a cri- Implications, difficulties, drawbacks
tique of the rational, Enlightenment model of
subjectivity in which the speaking subject is Since the mid-1970s when Anglo-American
the source and guarantee of meaning. It has feminism took a theoretical turn, feminist stud-
decentered the 'I,' the speaking subject of lan- ies have proceeded along parallel lines of in-
guage, seeing it as an effect of language. (See vestigation: one more textually and historically
*centre/decentre.) Feminists have used post- inclined, the other favouring theoretical ap-
structuralist theory to analyse the construction proaches. Ironically, this cleavage would ap-
of gendered subjectivity and power relations in pear to have reproduced the division between
cultural practices. In so doing they - like Alt- empiricism and phenomenology in the pre-
husser - reject all forms of essentialism, seeing dominantly male philosophical tradition. (See
subjectivity as socially and historically pro- *phenomonological criticism.) Textual-oriented
duced. Subjectivity encompasses individual critics are faulted for naive empiricism in fail-
consciousness, emotions and unconscious ing to recognize the theoretical problems in-
thoughts and desires. It is a process rather herent in assuming that literary representations
than a fixed identity, constituted by competing of women are 'true' reflections of women's
and often contradictory meanings, for example, condition; Marxist studies are scorned for ig-
meanings of femininity, individuality and the noring the problem of subjectivity; critics who
family. Literature, popular culture and film are rely on the theory of the 'male masters' are
some of the discursive practices in which gen- criticized for retreating into the realms of ab-
dered subjectivity is constructed. straction at the expense of historical awareness
This bringing to bear of poststructuralist the- and are seen to have betrayed the feminist
ory on feminist concerns is characteristic of the agenda. Those who promote the pluralism of
work of many other critics. A particularly use- critical approaches are similarly accused of di-
ful source for this work is the American femin- luting the raison d'etre of the feminist move-

42
Feminist criticism, Anglo-American

ment by contenting themselves with feminist Code, Lorraine, Sheila Mullet, and Christine Overall,
readings that merely supplement those of hu- eds. Feminist Perspectives: Philosophical Essays on
manist New Critics or purportedly neutral Method and Morals. Toronto: U of Toronto P,
studies in reception, making feminism a choice 1988.
Cott, Nancy F. The Grounding of Modern Feminism.
rather than an imperative (see Benstock; Moi).
New Haven: Yale UP, 1987.
The problem seems to be hierarchical in na- Coward, Rosalind. Female Desire: Women's Sexuality
ture: which shall take precedence? the study of Today. London: Paladin, 1984. New York: Grove,
literature or the transformational practices of 1985.
feminism? The most recent work in feminism - and John Ellis. Language and Materialism: Develop-
is highly conscious of the problems resulting ments in Semiology and the Theory of the Subject.
from the borrowing practices common to fem- London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1977.
inist studies and the nagging sense of compro- Daly, Mary. Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical
mise at having to use the conceptual tools Feminism. Boston: Beacon P, 1978.
produced by the very tradition that is being de Lauretis, Teresa. Alice Doesn't: Feminism, Semiot-
ics, Cinema. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1984.
questioned (see Code et al.; Messer-Davidow).
Eisenstein, Hester, and Alice Jardine, eds. The Future
Other difficulties arise from the unclear, some- of Difference. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1980.
times metaphorical use of terminology ('differ- Ellmann, Mary. Thinking about Women. New York:
ence'; 'discourse'; 'sign'; 'ideology'). Some Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1968.
feminists have recognized the problems of Evans, Mari, ed. Black Women Writers (1950-1980):
reading French feminist thought in translation A Critical Evaluation. Garden City, NY: Anchor/
and the danger of abstracting intellectual de- Doubleday, 1984.
velopments from their social and political con- Faderman, Lillian. Surpassing the Love of Men: Ro-
texts (see Jardine 1985). Still others have faced mantic Friendship and Love Between Women from
the exacting task of subjecting contemporary the Renaissance to the Present. New York: William
Morrow, 1981.
theories to rigorous examination in an attempt
Fox-Genovese, Elizabeth. Within the Plantation
to assess their implications for feminist studies Household: Black and White Women of the Old
(see Hekman; Meese and Parker). Anglo- South. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1988.
American feminist thought has had an unmis- Gallop, Jane. Feminism and Psychoanalysis: The
takable effect on literary studies in the Eng- Daughter's Seduction. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1982.
lish-speaking world; present debates are proof Gilbert, Sandra M., and Susan Gubar. The Mad-
of both its coming of age and its vitality. woman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the
v.w. Nineteenth-century Literary Imagination. New
Haven: Yale UP, 1979.
Primary Sources Grahn, Judy. Another Mother Tongue: Gay Words, Gay
Worlds. Boston: Beacon P, 1984.
Gubar, Susan. '"The Blank Page" and the Issues of
Barrett, Michele. Women's Oppression Today. London:
Female Creativity.' Critical Inquiry 8 (1981):
Verso, 1980.
243-63.
Belsey, Catherine. Critical Practice. London and New
Heilbrun, Carolyn G. Toward a Recognition of Andro-
York: Methuen, 1980.
gyny. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1973.
- The Subject of Tragedy. London and New York:
Hekman, Susan J. Gender and Knowledge: Elements of
Methuen, 1985.
a Postmodern Feminism. Oxford: Polity P in associ-
Benstock, Shari, ed. Feminist Issues in Literary Schol-
ation with Basil Blackwell, 1990.
arship. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1987.
hooks, bell. Ain't I A Woman: Black Women and Fem-
Carby, Hazel. Reconstructing Womanhood: The Emerg-
inism. Boston: South End P, 1981.
ence of the Afro-American Woman Novelist. New
Hutcheon, Linda. The Politics of Postmodernism. Lon-
York: Oxford UP, 1987.
don and New York: Routledge, 1989.
Chodorow, Nancy. The Reproduction of Mothering:
Jacobus, Mary, ed. Reading Woman: Essays in Feminist
Psychoanalysis and the Sociology of Gender. Berke-
Criticism. London and New York: Methuen, 1986.
ley: U of California P, 1978.
- Women Writing and Writing about Women. London:
Christian, Barbara. Black Women Novelists: The Devel-
Croom Helm, 1979.
opment of a Tradition 1892-1976. Westport, Conn.:
Jardine, Alice. Gynesis: Configurations of Woman and
Greenwood P, 1980.
Modernity. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1985.
- The Race for Theory.' Cultural Critique 6 (1987):
- and Paul Smith, eds. Men in Feminism. New York
51-63. Repr. with some changes in Gender and
and London: Methuen, 1987.
Theory: Dialogues on Feminist Criticism. Ed. Linda
Johnson, Barbara. A World of Difference. Baltimore
Kauffman. Oxford: Blackwell, 1989.
and London: Johns Hopkins UP, 1987.

43
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Kaplan, Cora. Sea Changes: Essays on Culture and in Cultural Politics. New York and London: Me-
Feminism. London: Verso, 1986. thuen, i 987.
Kaplan, E. Ann. Women and Film: Both Sides of the Walker, Alice. /// Search of Our Mothers' Gardens. San
Camera. New York and London: Methuen, 1983. Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1983.
Kitzinger, Celia. The Social Construction of Lesbianism. Weedon, Chris. Feminist Practice and Poststructuralist
London: Sage, 1987. Theory. Oxford: Blackwell, 1987.
Kroker, Arthur, Marilouise Kroker, Pamela Mc- Women's Study Group, Centre for Contemporary
Callum, and Mair Verthuy, eds. Feminism Now - Cultural Studies, University of Birmingham.
Theory and Practice. Montreal: New World Per- Women Take Issue. London: Hutchinson, 1978.
spectives, 1985. Woolf, Virginia. A Room of One's Own. London: Ho-
Lorde, Audre. Sister Outside. Trumansburg, NY: The garth P, 1929.
Crossing P, 1984. Wright, Elizabeth. Psychoananlytic Criticism: Theory
McDowell, Deborah E. 'New Directions for Black in Practice. London and New York: Methuen,
Feminist Criticism.' Black American Literature 1984.
Forum 14 (1980): 153-9. Zimmerman, Bonnie. 'What Has Never Been: An
Meese, Elizabeth, and Alice Parker, eds. The Differ- Overview of Lesbian Feminist Literary Criticism.'
ence Within: Feminism and Critical Theory. Amster- Feminist Studies 7 (1981): 451-75.
dam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 1989.
Messer-Davidow, Ellen. 'The Philosophical Bases of
Feminist Literary Criticisms.' New Literary History
19 (1987): 64-103. Feminist criticism, French
Millett, Kate. Sexual Politics. Garden City, NY: Dou-
bleday, 1970. French feminist criticism refers to the varied
Mitchell, Juliet. Psychoanalysis and Feminism. New body of thought and the diverse theoretical
York: Pantheon Books, 1974. works on woman and the feminine that ap-
Moers, Ellen. Literary Women. Garden City, NY: Dou- peared in France, Quebec and Belgium begin-
bleday, 1976. London: Women's P, 1978. ning in the late 19605 (the term 'French'
Moi, Toril. Sexual /Textual Politics: Feminist Literary
includes theorists who wrote in French and
Theory. London and New York: Methuen, 1985.
Newton, Judith, and Deborah Rosenfelt, eds. Femin- who substantially share various preoccupations
ist Criticism and Social Change: Sex, Class and Race and approaches). (See also *feminist criticism,
in Literature and Culture. New York and London: Quebec.) In the wake of political events in
Methuen, 1985. France and French Canada, intellectuals,
Rich, Adrienne. Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Expe- mostly women, engaged in a re-evaluation of
rience and Institution. New York: Norton, 1976. both the material position of women in society
- On Lies, Secrets, and Silence. New York: Norton, and the metaphysical status of the feminine in
1979. Continental thought. Despite national differ-
- 'Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Experi- ences, these critics - philosophers, psychoana-
ence.' Signs 5 (1980): 631-60.
lysts, poets, novelists, linguists, journalists -
Robinson, Lillian. Sex, Class, and Culture. Blooming-
ton: Indiana UP, 1978. were all educated in the modern European tra-
Rose, Jacqueline. Sexuality in the Field of Vision. Lon- dition and imbued with the French belief that
don: Verso, 1986. all ideas are political. Their shared focus is
Showalter, Elaine. A Literature of Their Own: Women women's relationship to language, in the broad
Novelists from Bronte to Lessing. Princeton: Prince- sense of all the cultural discourses that woman
ton UP, 1977. speaks and that 'speak' woman. (See *dis-
- ed. The Nezv Feminist Criticism. New York: Pan- course.) Most French intellectual feminists sub-
theon Books, 1985. scribe to the idea of sexual specificity or the
- ed. Speaking of Gender. New York and London:
existence of masculine and feminine attributes
Routledge, 1989.
arising from ineradicable difference. They dif-
Smith, Barbara. 'Toward a Black Feminist Criticism.'
Conditions Two i (1977): 2.5-32. Repr. in The New fer strongly, however, in their views of the na-
Feminist Criticism. Ed. Elaine Showalter. New ture and sources of sexual difference, resulting
York: Pantheon Books, 1985. in the following conceptual tensions: locating
Smith, Valerie. 'Gender and Afro-Americanist Liter- difference between women and men rather
ary Theory and Criticism.' In Speaking of Gender. than within each individual; using 'feminine'
Ed. Elaine Showalter. New York and London: and 'masculine' literally (rather than meta-
Routledge, 1989. phorically) to refer to real women and men,
Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. In Other Worlds: Essays rather than to evoke philosophical concepts;
giving primacy to cultural instead of psycho-

44
Feminist criticism, French
biological factors as constituting sexual differ- ongoing process whose markers are ambiguity
ence; and subscribing to the idea of a specifi- and absence. They developed a *problematic
cally feminine writing or language rather than of alterity whose focus was the negated
rejecting this belief as essentialist. (See *essen- 'Other'; they sought to bring to light all the
tialism.) Psychoanalytically and philosophically forces that Western ""ideology has suppressed
oriented French feminists posit connections be- and deemed unknowable, untrue, unnatural,
tween the structures of the psyche and those or unreal. Such heterogeneous concepts as the
of the material world. For that reason, these unconscious, the divided self, polytheism, and
post-1968 'new feminists,' unlike their more communism challenged the univocal premises
reformist forerunners, seek to transform West- of traditional Western epistemology and be-
ern culture radically by changing its concep- came central to feminist inquiry.
tualization of thought itself. (See *psychoana-
lytic theory.) Negativity; *structuralism; difference
The feminist critiques of the key French
thinkers, *Julia Kristeva, *Fuce Irigaray, *He- The areas in which the first critiques of phe-
lene Cixous, and Monique Wittig, have some nomenological assumptions about reality and
roots in *Simone de Beauvoir's be Deuxieme the place of the human *subject in it were car-
SCAT [The Second Sex 1949], although de Beau- ried were in philosophy, linguistics and psy-
voir's main influence was on Anglo-American choanalysis. (Phenomenology assumed that a
feminism. Her elaboration of the construction transcendent human consciousness was capa-
of gender - of woman as a cultural product ble of comprehending reality.) The 19th-cen-
rather than a biological essence - as well as tury philosopher Nietzsche had exposed the
her focus on woman's f u n d a m e n t a l alterite hierarchies of *power underlying Western val-
[otherness] in relation to the masculine sujet ues or the negation of life essential to the affir-
[self or subject] were crucial to subsequent mation of human mastery. His concept of
feminist theories of sexual difference, material negativity - the state of being 'other' and het-
and metaphysical. (See *self/other, *feminist erogeneous in relation to the dominant culture
criticism, Anglo-American.) - became important for feminists who saw the
feminine as both the life force most powerfully
Intellectual origins suppressed by *patriarchy and as a potential
source of social and intellectual revolution.
The last 100 years of Furopean thought and Marx's historical and materialist critique of
the experience of modernity that shook the Western economic systems provided feminists
foundations of Western humanism combined with several analytic tools: a dialectical view of
with the 20th-century crisis of two world wars the functioning of all cultural systems; an eco-
to produce a number of writings formative for nomic vocabulary for articulating human rela-
contemporary French feminist theory. Femin- tionships; and a transcultural model of social
ism's intellectual 'fathers' - Karl Marx, *Fried- and political struggle. Interpretations of wom-
rich Niet/.sche, *Ferdinand de Saussure, and an's status as that of 'merchandise' exchanged
*Sigmund Freud - and, especially, the postwar in the dominant masculine economy derive
thinkers who reread and critiqued these earlier from Marx's analysis of value. Saussure's
authors - the psychoanalyst *Jacques Facan Cours de linguistique generate [Course in General
and the philosopher *Jacques Derrida - put in binguistics 1906] established a structuralist vi-
place the concepts t h a t French feminists sion of the functioning of language: rather
adopted and reinterpreted for their own anal- than a static *code of words that directly imi-
yses. Feminism's predecessors participated in tates real phenomena, language for Saussure
the critique of traditional Furopean metaphys- was a dynamic system of interrelationships
ics that attacked the latter's monolithic princi- among linguistic constituents. Structuralism's
ples of absolute Truth, Authority, God, the relational paradigm, in which meaning is gen-
Good, Capitalism, and the Self as a coherent erated by the interactions between and among
entity. In place of the long-standing *meta- different linguistic units, posited the central
physics of presence - the belief that meaning concept of difference: the opposition between
is f u l l y present in and has a one-to-one rela- binary terms, along with their interdepen-
tionship to reality - modernist thinkers posited dency, implied an ontology of 'absence/ in
a d y n a m i c view of r e a l i t y - a s construction, as place of phenomenology's ontology of 'pres-

45
Feminist criticism, French
ence' or 'identity/ Subsequent theorists sexu- adopt a deconstructionist approach in their
alized difference, associating binary terms met- works. Since they view the utilization of con-
aphorically with the masculine (presence) and ventional language (le Norn du Pere or *Name-
the feminine (absence). Feminist critics of the of-the-Father), with its attendant order, logic
19605 and 19705 further elucidated sexual dif- and *authority, as part of the masculine dis-
ference as the cornerstone of women's material course that has excluded woman, Irigaray and
oppression and intellectual repression. Finally, Cixous intentionally disrupt patriarchal (logi-
Freud's early 20th-century work in psychoan- cal, sequential) language in their writing. In
alytic theory provided several key formulations addition, Derrida's critique of Freud's phallo-
for later feminist thought: that the human sub- centric psychological model, or its positing of
ject is fragmented and incoherent; that the male sexual development as the norm against
psyche is an irreducibly 'other' domain that which female development is measured, be-
functions according to its own logic; that the came central to feminist redefinitions of wom-
unconscious exists in relation to and explains en's sexuality. (See *phallocentrism.) Derrida's
the workings of the conscious; and that sexual term phallogocentric, which feminist theorists
difference is both irremediable and constitu- took up, combines both philosophical and psy-
tive of psychological and social development. choanalytic paradigms to refer to the privileg-
(See also *phenomenological criticism, *Marx- ing of masculine desire in Western thought
ist criticism, ""materialist criticism, *binary op- and representation. (See *desire/lack.)
position.)
The maternal; jouissance
*Poststructuralism: phallogocentrism;
*deconstruction Lacan's rereading of Freud, especially his ap-
plication of the structuralist paradigm of ab-
The next generation of intellectual 'fathers,' sence (Lacan called it 'manque' or 'lack') to the
the poststructuralists, criticized structuralism's workings of the unconscious, gave psychoanal-
differential model: they claimed it masked ytically oriented feminists further instruments
what was in fact a hierarchical structure, since with which to articulate sexual difference.
its adherence to a logic of opposition still priv- From his works Ecrits (Ecrits: A Selection 1969)
ileged one term over the other. Derrida, the and Seminaires (conducted 1953-80) (some
poststructuralist thinker who most strongly Seminaires are translated separately; several on
influenced French intellectual feminism women are collected in Feminine Sexuality),
through his writings L'Ecriture et la difference feminists retained the Lacanian model of par-
\Writing and Difference 1967], De la Grammato- allel psychic and linguistic dynamics, in par-
logie [Of Grammatology 1967], and La Dissemi- ticular his categories of the imaginary (the
nation [Dissemination 1972], coined the term mother-identified, pre-Oedipal and prelinguis-
'*logocentrism' (logos = the Word) to designate tic realm) and the symbolic (the paternal, Oed-
Western philosophy's grounding in mastery ipal realm of language and signification). (See
and in unitary, absolute principles. Rejecting *imaginary/symbolic/real.) The movement
oppositional systems as destructive of other- within and between these sexualized imagi-
ness, Derrida reconceptualized difference as nary and symbolic realms became for some
that which exceeds binary structures: differ- theorists the bisexual configuration fundamen-
ence is the dissidence, the instability within tal to all human subjects, for others, the ori-
entities, as well as among them. Derrida's con- gin of woman's alienation from masculine
cept of *differance (from the verb 'differer/ to discourse. In addition, several feminists
differ and to postpone) conveys the multiplic- concentrated on Lacan's distinction between
ity underlying all unity, as well as the idea jouissance (feminine pleasure, which for Lacan
that meaning is never fully achieved, is always is primal, contiguous and other) and desire
being constructed. From differance's dislodging (masculine and, for him, the primary sexual
of fixed meanings arose Derrida's deconstruc- force), in order to affirm heretofore repressed
tionist approach, in which the reading and female sexuality as the impetus for feminine
writing of all cultural texts continually reverse creativity. Derrida's critique of Lacan's phallo-
and undo the order and hierarchy of terms. centric fetishizing of the male Oedipal experi-
Two of French feminism's most important ence informed the feminist reclaiming of the
practitioners, Luce Irigaray and Helene Cixous, repressed pre-Oedipal Mother.

46
Feminist criticism, French
Major feminist figures whose language also manifests eruptions of
the semiotic in the cultural fabric. For Kristeva,
Though intellectually formative for feminists, the terms 'masculine' and 'feminine' are meta-
the male mentors, with the exception of Der- phorical designations for the subject's relation
rida, used 'woman' and 'the feminine' only to the dominant culture. She develops her
metaphorically to refer to that which Western concept of 'femininity' most fully in Des Chi-
culture had always negated, and they were not noises [About Chinese Women 1974], in some of
at all concerned with women's social and po- the articles in Poli/logue, and in 'Le temps des
litical advancement. French feminism is there- femmes' ['Women's Time' 1979]: femininity is
fore both critical and reconstructive: it faults a 'negativity,' or a force of *subversion which,
previous theorists' lack of concern for the ab- to be effective, must remain marginal to the
sent 'woman' and 'mother,' and it also reaf- patriarchal order. (See *margin.) More recently,
firms the feminine and the maternal as cultural Kristeva has focused on the pre-Oedipal, bi-
forces. Further, suspicious of language and au- sexual Mother rather than Woman, to signal
thorial mastery, the 'new' feminists produced her wish to eradicate the destructive sexual
self-conscious texts in which the traditional categories 'woman' and 'man' decreed by the
barriers between analysis and fiction, between Faw of the Father.
the expository and the imaginative, break
down. Luce Irigaray's Speculum and parler-femme

Kristeva's sujet en proces The psychoanalyst Luce Irigaray, who also


holds doctorates in philosophy and linguistics,
Julia Kristeva, a linguist and psychoanalyst, has contributed influential feminist critiques
addresses in her works the politics of the of Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis that
speaking and writing subject, the producer of situate psychoanalytic discourse within the
signification that for her is constantly in pro- broader context of Western thought in general.
cess (/f sujct en proces). Rejecting the humanist Like Kristeva, she sees the humanist *myth of
fictions of a fixed self and a coherent language a unified self as grounded in the phallogocen-
system, Kristeva examines the radical possibili- tric ideology of a potent, unique masculine
ties for the signifying subject to disrupt the creator. But Irigaray's central concern is the
symbolic or paternal order with what she calls construction of 'woman' by the masculine
'poetic language.' In La Revolution du langage imagination that informs the entire philosophi-
poetique [Revolution in Poetic Language 1974] cal tradition. She carries forward both Derri-
and the essays collected in Poh/logue (1977) da's dictum that Western metaphysics has
(some translated in Desire in Language), she foreclosed 'woman-as-concept' and Lacan's
elaborates her central idea of the divided formulation about the dynamics of absence:
'speaking subject,' or her view of sexual differ- 'Woman does not exist.' In Speculum de I'autre
ence as lying w i t h i n the i n d i v i d u a l bisexual femrne [Speculum of the Other Woman 1974], Iri-
psyche. For Kristeva, meaning is generated by garay explores how male thinkers from Plato
the subject's constant traversal through and on have rendered woman passive through
between the semiotic domain (the pre-Oedipal their elaborations of a logique du propre (logic
phase where no sexual difference exists and of sameness/the same): in their philosophical
where preverbal 'pulsions' produce an infinite speculations, the *subject merely reflects back
number of signifiers) and the symbolic domain on himself; all that is other than himself is
(the sociali/ed phase where the Faw of the negative, the unthinkable. The metaphor of
Father - the father's 'no!' - establishes sexual the speculum suggests at once the problem of
difference and where signification is limited as the 'invisibility' of female sexuality in Western
cultural discourse). (See *semiotics, *semiosis.) thought, the masculine 'gaze' that has objecti-
She grants the semiotic prestige as a liberating fied woman, and the whole question of repre-
potential and sees the textual 'ruptures' in late- sentation - of speaking and writing as pure
i9th-century avant-garde *literature as markers reflection or imitation of the master discourse
of major cultural change (in Revolution). More in place. (See ""mimesis.) Irigaray's theoretical/
recently, Kristeva has analysed (in Pouvoirs dc poetic essays in Ce sexe qui n'en est pas un
I'horreur; Powers of Horror 1980) the poetics [This Sex Which Is Not One 1977] develop fur-
and politics of psychotic and fascist writers, ther her scrutiny of patriarchy's erasure of

47
Feminist criticism, French

feminine difference, which for her exceeds and that in these mythical 'couples,' the One in
is outside of traditional sexual categories. She fact appropriates the Other. She locates this
also goes on (in This Sex Which Is Not One and self-preserving repression of the feminine in
in the more recent poetic monologue Passions the 'masculine libidinal economy,' a regime of
elementaires 1982) to exalt long-repressed de- desire based on the fear of castration ('Le Sexe
sire as the impulse for a specific parler-femrne ou la tete' ['Castration or Decapitation?' 1976].
(woman's language or 'womanspeak'), a previ- Cixous' own prose reveals her deconstructive
ously un-spoken and un-written discourse aris- approach through its mimetic evocation of the
ing morphologically from the female body. multiple and incantatory articulation she proj-
Woman's genitals (multiple 'lips' that 'touch ects that I'ecriture feminine will be. Despite her
one another' in a gesture of unlimited jouiss- refusal to reify this new language, Cixous
ance) are Irigaray's image for feminine expres- comes close to describing it in her poetic mani-
sion. She evokes, through her own writing, festos, 'Le Rire de la Meduse' ['The Laugh of
the fluid and playful quality of this potential the Medusa' 1975] and 'La Venue a I'ecriture'
woman's language. But, aware of the danger (in La Venue a I'ecriture 1977): arising from
of biological essentialism, Irigaray refuses to feminine 'generosity' (le don or libidinal 'giv-
codify a parler-femme and adopts a Derridean ing' that contrasts with the masculine propre or
deconstructionist strategy in her texts, one that 'propietorship'), it will be irreducible, open-
continually undoes fixed sexual designations ended and limitless. In seeming contrast to her
and makes ambiguity the marker of her femin- idea of a specifically feminine writing arising
ist re-evaluation. Like Kristeva, Irigaray has fo- from women's psychic difference, Cixous also
cused on the Mother in her more recent works elaborates in 'The Laugh of the Medusa' and
(Et I'une ne bouge pas sans I'autre) ['And the in 'Sorties' her concept of bisexualite: not what
One Doesn't Stir Without the Other' 1979] and she deems the conventional notion of andro-
Le corps-a-corps avec la mere [Body to Body with gynous a-sexuality, Cixous' bisexuality locates
the Mother 1981]. She has emphasized the repressed feminine components in both men
complicated mother-daughter bond of identifi- and women. This 'other' bisexuality is a poten-
cation and separation that also characterizes all tial for plural sexualities that multiplies differ-
women's tangled relationship to symbolic dis- ences. According to Cixous, the imaginative
course. liberation of the feminine in each individual
will have the power to transform all of patriar-
Helene Cixous' ecriture feminine and chy's social and political arrangements.
bisexualite
Wittig's homosexuality and lesbianism
The philosopher, writer and university profes-
sor Helene Cixous has been most involved Monique Wittig is best known as the author of
with the inscription or marking of sexuality in the experimental novels L'Opoponax (1964), Les
literary texts. Like Kristeva, she began by ana- Guerilleres (1969), and Virgile, non (1985), and
lysing 'the poetics of creative doubt' in igth- the poetic prose text Le Corps lesbien (1973), all
and 20th-century works that subvert their own of which challenge humanist literary conven-
meaning (Prenoms de personne 1974). Like Iri- tions, in particular that of an individual hero
garay, Cixous then turned her attention both who is the transcendental source of experience
to criticizing the destruction of difference un- and language. Her fiction also puts into ques-
derlying logocentric ideology and to affirming tion language as a univocal medium. As theor-
a specific ecriture feminine [woman's writing] ist, Wittig has enlarged the feminist analytic
grounded in female pleasure. Her -critique of framework by giving primacy to lesbianism,
the Empire du proprc (Empire of sameness/the for her both a literal and figurative expansion
same) fundamental to Western philosophy is of sexuality. She conceptualizes difference dif-
expressed in detail in 'Sorties' ('Sorties Out ferently: unlike Kristeva, she rejects bisexuality
and Out: Attacks / Ways Out / Forays'), her as a concept; unlike Irigaray and Cixous, she
essay in La Jeune nee [Newly Born Woman refuses the feminine as specificity, replacing it
1975]. Exposing the hierarchized oppositions with homosexuality. Heterosexuality, not the
(such as masculine/feminine, active/passive) masculine, is the conceptual first principle Wit-
upon which patriarchy rests, Cixous argues tig seeks to dislodge; that which has been des-

48
Feminist criticism, French
ignated 'the unknown' and 'the unnameable' locate sexualized power and authority in the
'Other/ she argues, is lesbianism. Though ma- texts' language. (See also *text, *symptomatic
terialist rather than psychoanalytic in her ap- reading.)
proach - she criticizes structuralist analyses of
the unconscious as 'intellectual constructs' typ- Relation to other approaches
ical of 'straight thought' ('La Pensee straight';
'The Straight Mind' 1979) - Wittig was none- French intellectual feminists generally focus on
theless influenced by post-structuralist critiques 'woman' and 'the feminine' as signifiers, not
of traditional phallogocentric models of sexual- as referential terms for concrete female experi-
ity. In 'Paradigm' (1979), she opens the con- ence. (See *signified/signifier/signification.)
cept of homosexuality beyond binary Some even reject the term 'feminism' as an-
opposition to connote a Derridean-like desire other instance of the discourse of mastery.
which, in this case, 'exceeds' monolithic heter- However, French feminists who are sceptical
osexuality. She calls for new, multiple sexuali- of philosophically and psychoanalytically ori-
ties based on pleasure, not predetermined ented theories have criticized Kristeva, Irigaray
categories. In 'The Category of Sex' (1982), she and Cixous, saying their works are obscure
blames the economic imperatives of reproduc- and unverifiable and their views of psychic or
tion for 'enslaving' women in compulsory het- linguistic specificity retrogressive. Instead, ma-
erosexuality. Trying to connect theoretical terialist feminist critics give precedence to
abstraction to a culture-based perspective, Wit- analyses of the cultural arrangements that op-
tig seeks to destroy the 'political' categories of press women. Most American feminists, too,
'women' and 'men' and thereby give women have expressed dissatisfaction with the abstract
the semantic power to 'name' themselves ('On and ahistorical tendency of French inquiry,
ne nait pas femme'; 'One Is Not Born a opting in their own work to study specific lit-
Woman' 1980). The essay's title, a reference to erary and social contexts and the representa-
Beauvoir's The Second Sex, also suggests Wit- tion of women in texts. American critics
tig's belief that 'woman' is a universalizing generally attend to a separate and authorita-
cultural presupposition that heterosexism has tive female experience. The intellectual debate
naturalized. For her, as for Kristeva, Irigaray, between (French) theoretical and (American)
and Cixous, the poetic and political are inex- pragmatic modes has itself been a frequent
tricable. topic of discussion. The attempt to reconcile
French and Anglo-American perspectives has
United States and England inspired much of American feminist literary
scholarship of the 19805: studies have ap-
Anglo-American scholars who have been in- peared in which the Continental problematiz-
fluenced by French feminism exhibit varied ing of language informs concrete textual
objectives in their work: some seek to familiar- interpretation, as well as collections incorporat-
ize Anglo-Saxon feminists with French femin- ing international feminist approaches. For its
ism's overall purpose (Duchen; Eisenstein and defenders, French feminism, by questioning
Jardine; Gelfand and Hules; Jardine; Marks the ways gender has been constructed in all
and de Courtivron; Moi); some interpret for cultural 'texts,' revolutionizes the categories
American and British readers the works of im- and methods of criticism itself.
portant French theorists, and several of these ELISSA GELFAND
exegetes argue in favour of what they see as
French feminism's more radical premises (Con- Primary Sources
ley; Gallop; Jardine; Moi); and some expose
patriarchal discursive strategies by analysing Beauvoir, Simone de. The Second Sex. Trans. H.M.
male canonical texts through a French feminist Parshley. New York: Knopf, 1952.
grid (Kamuf; Miller; Rabine; Schor). If French Cixous, Helena. 'Castration or Decapitation?' Trans.
theorists have produced virtually no textual Annette Kuhn. Signs 7.1 (Autumn 1981): 41-55.
- The Laugh of the Medusa.' Trans. Keith Cohen
analyses, this last group of American critics
and Paula Cohen. Signs 1.4 (Summer 1976):
has explored the ways literary works construct
875-93-
gender: they do 'symptomatic' readings that - Prenoms de personne. Paris: Seuil, 1974.
- and Catherine Clement. Newly Born Woman.

49
Feminist criticism, Quebec
Trans. Betsy Wing. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota - 'The Straight Mind.' Feminist Issues i (1980):
P, 1986. 103-11.
- Madeleine Gagnon, and Annie Leclerc. La Venue a
I'ecriture. Paris: UGE, 1977. Anglo-American Works (book-length studies):
Derrida, Jacques. Dissemination. Trans. Barbara John-
son. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1981. Conley, Verena. Helene Cixous: Writing the Feminine.
- Of Grammatology. Trans. Gayatri Spivak. Balti- Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1984.
more: Johns Hopkins UP, 1974. Duchen, Claire. Feminism in France: From May '68 to
- Writing and Difference. Trans. Alan Bass. Chicago: Mitterrand. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul,
U of Chicago P, 1978. 1986.
Irigaray, Luce. 'And the One Doesn't Stir Without Eisenstein, Hester, and Alice Jardine, eds. The Future
the Other.' Trans. Helene Vivienne Wenzel. Signs of Difference. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1980.
7.1 (Autumn 1981): 60-7. Gallop, Jane. The Daughter's Seduction: Feminism and
- Le Corps-a-corps avec la mere. Ottawa: Editions de Psychoanalysis. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1982.
la pleine lune, 1981. - Reading Lacan. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1985.
- Passions elementaires. Paris: Minuit, 1982. Gelfand, Elissa, and Virginia Hules, eds. French Fem-
- Speculum of the Other Woman. Trans. Gillian C. inist Criticism: Women, Language and Literature.
Gill. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1985. New York: Garland Publishing, 1985.
- This Sex Which Is Not One. Trans. Catherine Por- Jardine, Alice A. Gynesis: Configurations of Woman
ter, with Carolyn Burke. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1985. and Modernity. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1985.
Kristeva, Julia. About Chinese Women. Trans. Anita Kamuf, Peggy. Fictions of Feminine Desire: Disclosures
Barrows. New York: Urizen Books, 1977. of Heloise. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1982.
- Desire in Language: A Semiotic Approach to Litera- Marks, Elaine, and Isabelle de Courtivron, eds. New
ture and Art. Ed. Leon S. Roudiez. Trans. Alice French Feminisms: An Anthology. Amherst: U of
Jardine, Thomas Gora, and Leon Roudiez. New Massachusettes P, 1980.
York: Columbia UP, 1980. Miller, Nancy K. The Heroine's Text: Readings in the
- A Kristeva Reader. Ed. Toril Moi. Trans. Leon S. French and English Novel, 1722-1782. New York:
Roudiez, Sean Hand, et al. New York: Columbia Columbia UP, 1980.
UP, 1986. Moi, Toril. Sexual /Textual Politics: Feminist Literary
- Polylogue. Paris: Seuil, 1977. Theory. London and New York: Methuen, 1985.
- Powers of Horror: An Essay in Abjection. Trans. - ed. French Feminist Thought: A Reader. Trans. Sean
Leon Roudiez. New York: Columbia UP, 1982. Hand, Roison Mallaghan, et al. Oxford: Blackwell,
- Revolution in Poetic Language. Trans. Margaret 1987.
Waller. New York: Columbia UP, 1984. Rabine, Leslie. Reading the Romantic Heroine: Text,
- Semeiotike: Recherches pour une semanalyse. Paris: History, Ideology. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P,
Seuil, 1969. 1985.'
- 'Women's Time.' Trans. Alice Jardine and Harry Ruthven, K.K. Feminist Literary Studies: An Introduc-
Blake. Signs 7.1 (Autumn 1981): 13-35. tion. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1984.
Lacan, Jacques. Ecrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheri- Schor, Naomi. Breaking the Chain: Women, Theory,
dan. New York: Norton, 1977. and French Realist Fiction. New York: Columbia
- Encore: le Seminaire XX, 1972-73. Paris: Seuil, UP, 1985.
1975-
- Feminine Sexuality: Jacques Lacan and the Ecole
Freudienne. Ed. Juliet Mitchell and Jacqueline
Rose. Trans. Jacqueline Rose. New York: Norton, Feminist criticism, Quebec
1982.
- The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis. Quebec feminism owes its specificity to the
Seminaire XI, 1964.. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. New
political and social context in which it is
York: Norton, 1978.
rooted and to its particular adaptation of
- The Seminars of Jacques Lacan: The Theory of the
Ego in Psychoanalytic Theory and Practice 1954-
French and early American feminism: out of
3955. Seminaire II. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. New I'ecriture feminine and social activism is born
York: Norton, 1987. 'I'ecriture au feminin.' Building on the experi-
Wittig, Monique. 'The Category of Sex.' Feminist mental writing of the 19605 and 19705, Que-
Issues 2.2 (Fall 1982): 63-8. bec feminist writings fuse the practices of
- 'One Is Not Born a Woman.' Feminist Issues 4 writing and theorizing, thereby blurring the
(1981): 47-54- generic boundaries between poetry, prose, fic-
- 'Paradigm.' Trans. George Stambolian. In Homo- tion, criticism, and theory. The result of this
sexualities and French Literature. Ed. George Stam-
overlapping of critical and creative domains is
bolian and Elaine Marks. Ithaca: Cornell UP,
a community of women readers and writers in
1979, 114-21.

50
Feminist criticism, Quebec
dialogue. Likewise, the social is merged with Luce Guilbeault, Pol Pelletier, co-founder of
the literary by a number of Quebec feminists the Theatre Experimental des Fenunes in 1979,
who, addressing the question of subjectivity, and France Theoret), composed of seven mon-
self-consciously inscribe the *subject into the ologues reflecting on aspects of womanhood.
*text: the process of writing thus fixes women A non-collective play that caused a scandal in
in history and lends them their materiality. 1978 for its challenge to the Catholic church's
The specificity of women's writing in Quebec depiction of the Virgin Mary was Denise
lies in this inscription of the subject or referent Boucher's Les Fees ont so/'/. Nicole Brossard,
rather than in its *deconstruction or fragmen- one of the most prolific and influential figures
tation. (See *feminism, French, *Anglo-Ameri- of Quebec feminism, was a co-founder of La
can; ""reference, referent.) Bane du jour (1965-77; then La Nouvelle bane
Women's experience in Quebec society goes du jour, 1977-90), a literary magazine of the
some way to explain the vitality of feminism avant-garde. Brossard's writing turned away
since the late 19605. Historically, representa- from the formalist model in the mid-1970s, re-
tives of the Catholic church and Quebec na- jecting the autonomous modernist aesthetic for
tionalists alike honoured francophone women a more engaged mode of reading and writing;
as the guardians of la race, la langue and la foi; her later work exemplifies the merging of fic-
yet Quebec was the last province to grant tion, poetry and theory. Madeleine Gagnon
women the right to vote, in 1940. Women's re- has worked to collapse the opposition between
ligious communities throve in the early 20th theoretical and fictional writing, and to em-
century, perhaps because married women were phasize the role of the personal in political
only granted the same rights as men in 1964 - questions. The highly intimate writing of
100 years after anglophone women (see France Theoret also moves between theory
Micheline Dumont et al.). Maurice Duplessis' and fiction. Theoret refuses to follow linear or-
government (1936-9; 1944-^9) marked an era ganization and formal integrity by exploiting
of repressive conservatism in Quebec. Once the idea of the fragment, thereby accentuating
Liberal Jean Lesage came to power in 1960, the ephemeral voice of the female 'I.' Louky
the period known as the Revolution tranquille, Bersianik, the author of Quebec's first feminist
or the Quiet Revolution, began, and women's novel, L'Euguelionne (1976), takes a more
situation improved. Secular and neo-national- myth-oriented, playfully subversive approach
ist, the period witnessed educational reform in her writings on the emergence of a new fe-
that introduced mixed classes and a single cur- male culture. Critic Suzanne Lamy champi-
riculum. By the late 19605 the nationalist oned la critique au feminin, an approach
movement had gained momentum. The Front defined by its subject-matter, contemporary
dc liberation des femmcs du Quebec (FLF) was women writers. Lamy's critical work does not
formed in 1970 with the aim of achieving take a feminist approach along the lines of the
women's liberation, the national liberation of gender critique; instead, it links up with the
Quebec and the social liberation of oppressed project of inscribing the female subject by fo-
classes. Yet the FI.F soon protested the neglect cusing on women who read and write in the
of women's concerns by nationalist and Marx- present historical moment. Other important
ist organizations, and women's groups became figures include Genevieve Amyot, Louise Cot-
increasingly wary of political affiliation. An noir, Denise Desautels, Louise Dupre, Marie
autonomous francophone women's movement Laberge, Monique LaRue, Jovette Marches-
emerged in 1975. (See *Marxist criticism.) sault, Carole Masse, Michele Mailhot, Made-
Influential early women's publications were leine Ouellette-Michalska, Suzanne Paradis,
Quebecoises deboutte! (1971-4) and Lcs Tetes de Marie Savard, and Yolande Villemaire. (See
pioche (1976-9), the latter radically feminist. also *myth, *subversion.)
Many endeavours were collective: the Theatre Like feminism elsewhere, feminism in Que-
des Cuisines, organized by housewives (1973); bec has had to face divisions between hetero-
the Librairie des fenunes d'ici (1975); publishers sexuals and lesbians, radicals and liberals, and
such as les Editions de la pleine lune (1975) working-class and bourgeois women. The con-
and les Editions Remue-menage (1976). Nine- tradictory early alliance of feminism and na-
teen seventy-six saw the production of La Nef tionalism was destined to give way to an
des sorcieres (with Marthe Blackburn, Marie- autonomous feminist factor. Since then, I'ecri-
Claire Blais, Nicole Brossard, Odette Gagnon, ture au feminin has continued to evolve and

51
Formalism
has had a considerable impact on the Quebec Ouellette-Michalska, Madeleine. L'Echappee du dis-
literary world, as evidenced by the space dedi- cours de I'oeil. Montreal: Nouvelle Optique, 1981.
cated to feminist writers in critical publications Quebecoises deboutte! Montreal: Remue-menage,
1982.
and literary reviews. The 19805 saw the emer-
Les Tetes de pioche. Montreal: Remue-menage, 1980.
gence of a second generation of writers and
Theoret, France. Entre raison et deraison. Montreal:
I'ecriture au ferninin now figures in the curric- Les Herbes rouges, 1987.
ula of many colleges and universities. - 'Eloge de la memoire des femmes.' In La Theorie,
VICTORIA WALKER un dimanche. Montreal: Remue-menage, 1988,
175-91.
Primary Sources
Secondary Sources
Bersianik, Louky. 'Arbre de pertinence et utopie.'
L'Emergence d'une culture au feminin. Ed. Marisa Dumont, Micheline, Michele Jean, Marie Lavigne,
Zavalloni. Montreal: Saint-Martin, 1987, 117-32. and Jennifer Stoddart. L'Histoire des femmes au
- L'Euguelionne. 1976. The Euguelionne. Trans. Gerry Quebec depuis quatre siecles. Montreal: Quinze,
Denis, Alison Hewitt, Donna Murray, and Martha 1982.
O'Brien. Victoria and Toronto: Press Porcepic, Dupre, Louise. 'From Experimentation to Experience:
1981. Quebecois Modernity in the Feminine.' A Mazing
- 'La Lanterne d'Aristote.' In La Theorie, un di- Space: Writing Canadian Women Writing. Ed. Shir-
rnanche. Montreal: Remue-menage, 1988, 81-106. ley Neuman and Smaro Kamboureli. Edmonton,
'Aristotle's Lantern: An Essay on Criticism.' Trans. Alta.: Longspoon/NeWest P, 1986, 355-60.
A.]. Holden Verburg. In A Mazing Space: Writing Dybikowske, Ann, et al., eds. In the Feminine:
Canadian Women Writing. Ed. Shirley Neuman and Women and Words / Les Femmes et les mots: Confer-
Smaro Kamboureli. Edmonton: Longspoon/ ence Proceedings 19^3. Edmonton, Alta.: Long-
NeWest P, 1986, 39-48. spoon P, 1985.
- 'Noli me tangere.' La Barre du jour 56-7 (1977): Forsyth, Louise. 'Nicole Brossard and the Emergence
148-64. 'Noli me tangere.' Trans. Barbara Godard. of Feminist Literary Theory in Quebec since 1970.'
Room of One's Own 4.1 (1978): 98-110. In Gynocritics/Gynocritiques. Ed. Barbara Godard.
Brossard, Nicole. L'Arner: ou le chapitre effrite. 1977. Oakville: ECW P, 1987, 211-21.
Montreal: L'Hexagone, 1988. These Our Mothers Godard, Barbara, ed. Gynocritics/Gynocritiques. Oak-
or: The Disintegrating Chapter. Trans. Barbara Go- ville: ECW P, 1987, Bibliography.
dard. Toronto: Coach House Quebec Translations, Gould, Karen. Writing in the Feminine: Feminism and
1983. Experimental Writing in Quebec. Carbondale and
- 'Le Cortext exuberant.' La Barre du jour 44 (1974): Edwardsville: Southern Illinois UP, 1990.
2-22.
— La Lettre aericnne. 1985. The Aerial Letter. Trans. Special numbers of periodicals:
Marlene Wildeman. Toronto: Women's P, 1988.
- 'La Tete qu'elle fait.' La Barre du jour 56-7 (1977): La Barre du jour: 50 Femme et langage; 56-7 le corps
83-92. 'The Face She Makes.' Trans, Josee M. les mots I'imaginaire [9 of the texts included in
LeBlond. Room of One's Own 4.1 (1978): 39-43. numbers 56-7 are translated in Room of One's
- Boucher, Louise. Les Fees ant soif. 1979. The Fairies Own 4.1 (1978)].
Are Thirsty. Trans. Alan Brown. Vancouver: Talon- La Nouvelle bane du jour. 90-1 La Nouvelle ecriture;
books, 1983. 157 L'Ecriture comme lecture; 172 Le Forum des
Fremont, Gabrielle. 'Casse-texte.' Etudes litteraires 12 femmes; 194 LTnframanifeste illimite; 196 Femmes
(1979): 315-30. scandales 1965-85; 217 Femmes de lettres.
Gagnon, Madeleine. 'Mon corps dans I'ecriture.' La Etudes litteraires: 12 Feminaire.
Venue a I'ecriture. Avec Helene Cixous et Annie Liberte: 106-7 La Femme et I'ecriture. Actes de la ren-
Leclerc. Paris: Union generate d'editions, 1977, contre quebecoise Internationale des ecrivains (1975).
63-116. 'My Body in Writing.' Trans. Wendy
Johnston. In Feminism in Canada: From Pressure to
Politics. Ed. Geraldine Finn and Angela Miles.
Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1982, 269-82. Formalism: see Formalism, Russian;
Guilbeault, Luce, et al. La Nef des sorcieres. Montreal: New Criticism; structuralism
Quinze, 1976. [A Clash of Symbols.}
Lamy, Suzanne, d'elles. Montreal: L'Hexagone, 1979.
- and Irene Pages, eds. Feminite, subversion, ecriture.
Montreal: Remue-menage, 1983.

52
Formalism, Russian
Autonomy of literary scholarship
Formalism, Russian
From the very beginning the formalists in-
Formalism emerged as a distinctly independent
sisted on the autonomy of literary scholarship
school in Russian literary scholarship in the
and criticized the prevailing approaches to lit-
second decade of the aoth century by focusing
erature for their tendency to substitute the
attention on the analysis of distinguishing fea-
study of literature for something else, most no-
tures of literature, as opposed to the prevail-
tably biography, sociology or psychoanalysis.
ing tradition of studying literature in conjunc-
Jakobson compared literary historians to the
tion with other disciplines such as history, so-
police who, when they wanted to find a cul-
ciology or psychology.
prit would arrest everyone and everything in
It had two centres: the Moscow Linguistic
an apartment including chance passers-by.
Circle, founded in 1915 by *Roman Jakobson,
Similarly, historians of literature felt they had
Petr Bogatyrev and Grigorii Vinokur, and the
to take in everything - everyday life, psychol-
Petrograd OPOIAZ (acronym for the Society for
ogy, politics, philosophy. The formalists were
the Study of Poetic Language), formed in 1916
particularly critical of the main approaches to
by *Viktor Shklovskii, *Boris Eikhenbaum, Lev
literature practised in Russia at that time: the
lakubinskii, Osip Brik, and others. The two
biographical, the sociohistorical and the philo-
groups maintained close contact, with their
sophical.
members travelling between the two cities to
The formalists insisted on isolating the ob-
read and discuss their findings. They pub-
ject of literary studies from those of other dis-
lished three collections of articles: Sborniki po
teorii poeticheskogo iazi/ka [Studies on the Theory ciplines by focusing solely on literary facts and
not on the external conditions under which lit-
of Poetic Language 1916, 1917] and Poetika.
erature is created. In defining the object of the
Sborniki po teorii poeticheskogo iazi/ka [Poetics:
study of literature, however, they maintained
Studies on the Theory of Poetic Language 1919].
that it is not literature as a whole but rather
The Moscow Linguistic Circle was composed
literaturnost' (literariness) that is the distin-
primarily of linguists who were developing
guishing feature of literature. In the words of
new approaches to the study of language and
Jakobson, 'the subject of literary science is not
regarded poetics as part of a broader discipline
literature, but literariness, that is, that which
of linguistics. They were preoccupied with the
makes a given work a literary work.' Accord-
question of the differences between poetic and
ing to this view, it is not the *text itself which
practical language, drawing examples from
constitutes the field of literary analysis but cer-
contemporary Russian poetry and Russian
tain techniques employed in the text.
folklore.
The members of OPOIAZ were mainly literary
Poetic versus practical language
historians who viewed literature as a unique
form of verbal art that had to be studied on its
own without relying too heavily on linguistics. In their first attempts to define 'literariness,'
the formalists turned to poetry, focusing their
Concerned with the general principles which
attention on the differences between poetic
govern literature and transform extra-aesthetic
and practical language. With the exception of
material into a work of art, they turned their
one article, they devoted the entire two vol-
attention to the classics of Russian and Euro-
umes of Sborniki to the question of poetic lan-
pean literature.
guage, or more specifically to the study of the
Despite the important differences between
use of sounds in poetry. Concentrating on the
these two groups, they shared common con-
analysis of the phonetic aspect of words, the
cerns. First, they were united in their efforts to
OPOIAZ scholars advanced the theory of the
place the study of literature on a scientific
supremacy of sound over meaning in poetry.
footing by defining its object and establishing
In practical language, argued lakubinskii in his
its own methods and procedures. Second, they
article 'O zvukakh stikhotvornogo iazyka' ['On
aimed to undermine the theory that art is a
Sounds in Verse Language'], sounds do not
reflection of reality by insisting that it is a
have any independent value; they serve only
unique aesthetic entity governed by its own
as a vehicle for communication. In poetic lan-
internal laws.

53
Formalism, Russian
guage, they enter the field of consciousness a mechanical recognition and a new awareness
and are deliberately experienced. of things. In everyday life, argued Shklovskii,
In a similar fashion, Jakobson differentiated we do not see things or their textures, we re-
between poetic and everyday language in his spond to them automatically. The purpose of
Noveishaia russkaia poeziia [Recent Russian Po- art is to disrupt that automatic perception and
etry 1921]. Everyday language aims at efficient to impart the sensation of things as they are
communication through references to ideas perceived and not as they are known. Art op-
and objects. Poetic language draws attention to erates through the device of 'defamiliarization'
its own texture rather than to objects or con- that makes objects unfamiliar and strange and
cepts which the words represent. 'Poetry,' increases the difficulty and length of percep-
concluded jakobson, 'is simply an utterance tion because the process of perception is an
oriented toward a mode of expression.' (See aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged.
also *communication theory.)
In their early preoccupation with the pho- Material/device
netic aspect of poetry, the formalists were un-
doubtedly influenced by the Russian futurists Having defined defamiliarization as a distin-
who developed the theory of the self-valuable guishing feature of literature and separated it
word and wrote trans-rational poetry based on from other verbal modes, Shklovskii and his
sounds with a total disregard for meaning. The colleagues proceeded to investigate works of
zaum' poetry of Velemir Khlebnikov and Alek- narrative fiction, aiming to establish the basic
sei Kruchenykh became the object of intensive laws of narrative prose. They published nu-
studies by Shklovskii and Jakobson and left a merous studies devoted to the analysis of
strong impact on their respective theories of individual texts and introducing theoretical
poetic language. pronouncements on the nature of the literary
By the early 19205, the formalists realized process such as Eikhenbaum's 'Kak sdelana
that poetry could not be reduced to its pho- "Shinel" Gogolia' ['How Gogol's "The Over-
netic component and that meaning was no less coat" Is Made' 1919], Shklovskii's Tristram
essential to poetry than sound. They re-exam- Shendi Sterna i teoriia rornana [Sterne's Tristram
ined fundamental problems connected with the Shandy and the Theory of Prose 1921], and Ty-
theory of verse: the problems of rhythm and nianov's Dostoevskii i Gogol': k tcorii parodii
its correlation with syntax and intonation, of [Dostoevsky and Gogol: Toward A Theory of Par-
verse sounds combined with articulation, and ody 1921].
finally of vocabulary and semantics. This new The formalist critics consistently changed
approach to the study of poetry was evident in their focus from the external conditions of the
Osip Erik's 'Ritm i sintaksis' ['Rhythm and literary process to the internal organization of
Syntax' 1927], Eikhenbaum's Melodika russkogo a literary work. They rejected the traditional
liricheskogo stikha [Melody of Russian Lyric dichotomy of form and content, arguing that it
Verse 1922], and above all *Iurii Tynianov's incorrectly implies the existence of two separa-
Problema stikhotvornogo iazyka [The Problem of ble layers in a literary work. In imaginative lit-
Verse Language 1924], which incorporated the erature, maintained Viktor Zhirmunskii, con-
analysis of syntax and semantics and stressed tent appears only through a medium of form
the interdependence of various elements in a and therefore cannot be profitably discussed or
poetic text. indeed conceived of apart from its artistic em-
bodiment.
*Defamiliarization In place of the notions of 'content' and
'form,' the formalist critics proposed the con-
After their initial preoccupation with poetry, cepts of 'material' and 'device,' corresponding
the formalists turned their attention to the to the two phases of the creative process: pre-
study of prose and the distinguishing features aesthetic and aesthetic. Thus 'material' was
of literature in general. In the 1917 collection understood as the raw stuff of literature that a
of Sborniki Shklovskii published his pioneering writer can use for his work: facts from every-
study 'Iskusstvo kak priem' ['Art as Device'], day life, literary conventions, ideas. 'Device'
outlining the theory of ostranenie [defamiliari- was defined as the aesthetic principle that
zation] based on the opposition between a ha- transforms material into a work of art. Accord-
bitual response and a new perception, between ing to Shklovskii, art has its own organization

54
Formalism, Russian
which transforms its material into something Skaz
artistically experienced. This organization is
expressed in various compositional devices, In contradistinction to Shklovskii's preoccupa-
rhythm, phonetics, and syntax, and the plot of tion with the devices of plot construction,
the work. It is a device that transforms extra- Eikhenbaum investigated the role of the nar-
aesthetic material into a work of art by provid- rative voice as the organizing principle of fic-
ing it with form. tion. In his essays 'Kak sdelana "Shinel" Go-
golia/ 'Illiuziia skaza' [The Illusion of Skaz'
*Story/plot 1924], and 'Leskov i sovremennaia proza'
['Leskov and Modern Prose' 1925], he argued
While applying the concepts of 'material' and that in some literary works the focus is not on
'device' to fiction, the formalists distinguished the plot and the interlocking of motifs but on
between two aspects of the narrative: fabula the voice of the *narrator, forcing his way into
[story] and siuzhet [plot]. Story was identified the foreground by any means possible. Eikhen-
with a series of events linked together accord- baum defined this kind of narration as skaz
ing to their temporal succession and their and described it as a special type of *discourse
causality. Plot was the artistic rearrangement oriented in its lexicon, syntax and intonation
of the events in the text, in a different chrono- toward the oral speech of the narrator.
logical order and without causal dependency. The critic distinguished two types of skaz:
In addition to the temporal displacement and the 'narrating' skaz, relying on verbal jokes
the lack of causality, the plot included all and semantic puns; and the 'reproducing' skaz,
other elements of artistic structure, such as introducing elements of mimicry and gestures
digressions and comments. The plot of Eugene and inventing special comic articulation and
Onegin,' wrote Shklovskii, 'is not Onegin's phonetic puns. In Eikhenbaum's opinion, the
love affair with Tatiana, but the artistic treat- best example of the first type was the igth-
ment of the story, achieved by means of inter- century Russian writer Nikolai Leskov, who
polating digressions.' created a special kind of narration with the
Considering plot the distinguishing element help of colloquial idioms, folk etymology and
of narrative prose, the formalists turned their semantic puns. The best illustration of the sec-
attention to the study of the devices which ond type was Nikolai Gogol, with his system
embody the internal laws of plot composition. of various mimical-articulatory gestures, creat-
Shklovskii isolated some typical categories of ing a purely comical effect and a pathetic
plot compositions such as the 'staircase,' the declamation conceived of as a contrasting
'hook-like' construction and double-plotting. aesthetic effect.
All of these constructions perform the same
function: they splinter even apparently unified Two phases of formalism
non-aesthetic material, distort and alter it,
making it artistically perceptible. Eikhenbaum's concept of skaz, Shklovskii's
In most literary works, argued Shklovskii, theory of defamiliarization and plot composi-
the devices of plot composition are motivated tion, and Jakobson's observations on the dif-
realistically, with the author providing valid ferences between poetic and practical language
reasons for their presence. But in some texts represent the first phase of the development of
the devices are 'laid bare,' making the reader Russian formalism between the years 1916 and
aware of their presence. For Shklovskii the 1921. In the words of Eikhenbaum, these were
best example of 'laying bare' the device was the years of 'struggle and polemics/ when the
Laurence Sterne's novel Tristram Shandy with young formalist scholars put forward many
its continuous interruptions of the action, au- ideas that had value not only as scientific prin-
thorial digressions, displacement of chronol- ciples but also as slogans.
ogy, transposition of chapters, and retardation. The most important achievements of that
Shklovskii expressed a decided preference for period were the separation of literary criticism
unmotivated devices. He believed the writer from its dependence on other disciplines and
should play with the expectations of the reader the change of focus from the external condi-
and deliberately destroy the illusion of reality. tions of the literary process to the internal or-
ganization of a literary work. Literature was
viewed as a special type of verbal discourse

53
Formalism, Russian
governed by its own laws and developed in a Thus each work of verbal art displays a hier-
unique fashion. archy of elements. Only one of these elements
The inadequacies of the early formalists' ap- can function as a 'constructive factor' and sub-
proach to literature were threefold. Initially, ordinate all other elements to itself. This pro-
their concept of a literary work was too me- cess of subordination implies alteration and
chanistic, reducing a text to a sum total of de- distortion of all subordinated elements accord-
vices employed in it. Second, despite their ing to the requirements of the 'constructive
theoretical insistence on the constant revitali- principle.'
zation of literary forms, their actual analysis of The correlation between the constructive fac-
literary works was ahistorical and geared to- tor and the subordinated factors, stressed Tyni-
ward the establishment of a static system of anov, is always fluctuating. Only one of the
rules as they existed at one point in time. elements can play the dominant role at any
Third, there was a too strict separation of liter- given time. It can be replaced, however, by
ature from life, based on their refusal to con- another constructive factor in the course of the
sider any possible interplay between literary work. This continuous interaction and altera-
and extraliterary phenomena. tion of elements guarantees the artistic quality
Most of these inadequacies were eliminated of a work. If this dynamic interaction disap-
in the second phase of formalism, between pears, a work ceases to function as a work of
1921 and 1926. Under the direction of lurii art. It becomes automatized.
Tynianov, formalism moved closer to *struc-
turalism, broadening and deepening theoretical Literary dynamics
issues and redefining basic concepts. Thus, the
static definition of a literary work was replaced The continuous process of transformation and
by the concept of a dynamic structure in alteration of all elements in response to the
which the unity of elements was achieved not constructive factor was for Tynianov only one
by equality and addition but by dynamic cor- aspect of the dynamics of form. In addition to
relation and integration. The synchronic ap- the interrelation of one element with the other
proach to literature gave way to a diachronic elements within the same work, there was a
approach, addressing the question of historical simultaneous interrelation between elements of
change and the evolution of literary forms. Fi- a given work and similar elements in other lit-
nally, a concession was made to the notion of erary works and other systems.
the full autonomy of art by acknowledging the Initially, Tynianov concentrated on the anal-
connections between art and reality. ysis of intraliterary relations by placing a text
in the context of other literary texts and exam-
Dynamic structure ining the interrelation between them. In 'O lit-
eraturnom fakte' ['On Literary Fact' 1924] he
The most important publication of the second formulated the principle of literary dynamics,
phase of formalism was Tynianov's book Pro- understood as a process of continuous renewal
blema stikhotvornogo iazyka [The Problem of and revitalization of literary forms. He distin-
Verse Language 1924], not only outlining the guished four steps in that process: the emerg-
internal laws of verse structure but also rede- ence of a new constructive principle in opposi-
fining some fundamental concepts of the early tion to the automatized constructive principle;
formalist theory. The most profound change the application of that new principle in new
involved the concept of literary form ap- works; the widespread use of that principle;
proached by Tynianov not as a static phenom- and the automatization of that principle and
enon but as a dynamic structure. A dynamic the emergence of opposite constructive prin-
form, argued Tynianov, is generated not by ciples.
means of combination and merger but by The idea of literary dynamics was central to
means of the interaction and integration of all Tynianov's theory of literature since he be-
components. lieved that only in evolution could we grasp
In each work of verbal art, there is a contin- the essence of the literary process. Literary
uous struggle between all its components. The facts of different periods, disparate in them-
component which wins in that struggle be- selves, become related if they are placed
comes the 'constructive factor,' pushing itself within a concrete historical process and viewed
forward and dominating all other components. according to the logic of that process.

56
Formalism, Russian

Literary evolution ture dependent on and determined by the eco-


nomic base. (See *Marxist criticism.)
Tynianov returned to the question of literary
evolution in his essay 'O literaturnoi evolutsii' Suppression of formalism
['On Literary Evolution' 1927]. He stressed that
the very existence of a fact as literary de- Throughout the 19205, formalism was under
pended on its interrelationship with both liter- constant attack by Marxist critics. In 1923 Leon
ary and extraliterary systems. In terms of the Trotsky in his book Literatura i revolutsiia [Lit-
extraliterary connections, he advocated the erature and Revolution] challenged the formal-
study of literature first of all in relation to bi/t ists to give up their idealistic premise of the
(social conventions). He argued that literature autonomy of art and to accept the Marxist
is related to social conventions in its verbal view of the dependency of literature on social
function. A writer has at his disposal different and economic factors. He acknowledged the
linguistic patterns which are part of social con- formalist search for the intrinsic laws of art,
ventions. He selects some of them, foregrounds but urged them to go beyond their descriptive
them and turns them into literary facts. Then and semi-statistical analysis of literary devices
the opposite process takes place: a literary fact to an in-depth investigation of the literary pro-
becomes automatized, its literary function re- cess and the interrelationship between litera-
cedes and it turns into a social convention. ture and social factors.
The study of literary evolution, concluded In 1924 Anatolii Lunacharskii attacked for-
Tynianov, is possible only in relation to litera- malism as a relic of old Russia, a product of
ture as a system interrelated with other sys- the decadent and spiritually empty ruling
tems and conditioned by them. Investigation class. The only type of art enjoyed by the
must go from constructional function to liter- bourgeoisie, argued Lunacharskii, in 'Formal-
ary function, from literary function to verbal izm v iskusstvovedenii' ['Formalism in the
function. The study of evolution must move Theory of Art'], was non-objective and formal
from the literary system to the nearest corre- art. In order to meet this need, the bourgeois
lated systems, not the distant even though ma- intelligentsia brought forth formalist artists as
jor systems. In this way, the prime significance well as an auxilliary corps of formalist critics.
of major social factors was not discarded. In 1928 another serious critique of formalism
Tynianov recast his concept of relations be- appeared, Formal'nyi nietod v literaturovedenii
tween literary and extraliterary phenomena in [The Formal Method in Literary Scholarship],
the 1928 thesis Troblemy izucheniia literatury signed by Pavel Medvedev but now attributed
i iazyka' ['Problems of the Study of Literature to *Mikhail Bakhtin. The book criticized the
and Language'] written jointly with Jakobson. formalists for their preoccupation with the the-
They conceived of literature as part of a com- ory of poetic language and their neglect of the
plex network of systems all correlated with social nature of literature. It advocated the ne-
one another. Each system was governed by its cessity of elaborating 'sociological poetics,'
own immanent laws and each was correlated combining the study of unique features of lit-
to other systems through a set of specific erature with an investigation of the relation-
structural laws. The task of the history of liter- ship between literature and other fields of
ature was to establish the structural laws of lit- human activity.
erature and to analyse the correlation between By the end of the 19205, the attacks intensi-
the literarv and other historical systems. Only fied and the formalists were forced to abandon
through the investigation of the correlation be- their theoretical explorations and switch to tex-
tween literature and other systems could the tual criticism. For more than 30 years, formal-
process of literary evolution be established. ism was considered an anti-Marxist heresy in
With its acknowledgment of the connections the Soviet Union and the word 'formalist' was
between literature and other systems, Trob- a term of abuse applied to literary critics as
lemy izucheniia literatury i iazyka' was a clear well as to writers and artists in general. The
attempt to reconcile formalism with Marxism. situation changed only in the early 19605
But the formalist model of parallel, autono- when some of the earlier formalist studies
mous systems governed by their own struc- were republished, stimulating interest in the
tural laws was not acceptable to Marxist critics, intrinsic approach to literature and in structur-
who viewed literature as part of a superstruc- alist poetics.

57
Formalism, Russian
Formalism and other schools pact on literary scholarship in the West until
the publication of Viktor Erlich's monograph
Totally suppressed in the Soviet Union, for- Russian Formalism: History, Doctrine (1955) and
malism continued to exert influence on theo- of *Tzvetan Todorov's anthology Theorie de la
retical developments abroad, particularly in litterature: Textes des formalistes russes, reunis,
Czechoslovakia and Poland. There was a close presentes et traduits par Tzvetan Todorov (1965).
link between Russian formalism and the These publications appeared at the time of the
*Prague School thanks to the personal in- emergence in the West of structuralism and as-
volvement of Jakobson and Petr Bogatyrev, who sisted the new movement with the awareness
both moved to Prague in 1921, and to the fre- of the centrality of language and the impor-
quent visits by Tynianov and Grigorii Vinokur tance of the linguistic model. Formalism had a
throughout the 19205. The Prague scholars ac- particularly strong impact on French structural-
cepted the basic tenets of the formalist theory, ism, stimulating the theoretical investigations
including the insistence on the autonomy of of Todorov, *Roland Barthes and *Gerard Ge-
literary studies, the importance of the dichot- nette. The French structuralists shared with
omy between poetic and practical language, their Russian colleagues the conviction of the
and the reliance on a linguistic model. They conventionality of art and the supremacy of
redefined and redeveloped many of the for- language in literature. They exhibited the same
malist concepts such as dynamic structure, tendency to reduce literary criticism to the
with its hierarchy of elements and a dominant study of language and to deny its moral and
factor, literary dynamics and evolution. But social relevance.
they placed these concepts into the framework Formalism also played an important role in
of a coherent structuralist theory which de- the development of structuralism in the Soviet
fined both the immanent properties of litera- Union in the 19605. The scholars associated
ture as well as the correlation between litera- with the Tartu-Moscow group such as *Iurii
ture and other social systems. Lotman, *Alexander Zholkovsky and *Boris
Russian formalism strongly influenced the Uspenskii openly acknowledged their debt to
development of the Polish 'integral' school in the formalists and accepted the formalist the-
the 19305. (See *structuralism, Polish.) The ory as the point of departure for their structur-
members of both the Warsaw and Wilno alist studies. (See *Tartu School.)
groups accepted the formalist plea for the au- The influence exerted by formalism on liter-
tonomy of literary scholarship and advocated ary scholarship in Czechoslovakia and Poland,
an 'integral' approach to literature, focusing on France and the United States, and finally in
the intrinsic qualities of literature rather than the Soviet Union itself testifies to the extraor-
the external conditions producing it. The Poles dinary vitality and importance of the Russian
were particularly impressed with the formalist school. The formalists transformed literary
notion of the poetic language as a differentiat- scholarship into a mature and scholarly disci-
ing feature of literature and devoted many of pline with its own methods and procedures.
their studies to the analysis of Polish prosody They replaced the impressionistic approach to
and stylistics. literature by a rigorous investigation of the in-
Formalism did not exert any direct influence trinsic laws of literature. They were the first to
on the development of Anglo-American *New define literature as a form of verbal art and to
Criticism, although both shared a belief in the concentrate on the analysis of poetic language
autonomy of literature and the necessity of fo- as the distinguishing feature of literature. They
cusing literary criticism on the verbal aspect of developed the concepts of literary structure
literature. Unlike the Russian scholars who and literary dynamics which became the foun-
submitted to the neopositivist *ideology and dation of the structuralist approach.
believed that literary criticism had to rely on The major inadequacy of formalism was its
empirical methods, the New Critics questioned insistence on the autonomy of art and its re-
the usefulness of positivism for literary sci- fusal to consider any relationship between lit-
ence. They focused attention on the evocative erature and other social systems. This resulted
and emotive function of literary discourse and in a total disregard for the question of creative
interpreted the ambiguity of meaning in poetry. personality and the connections between liter-
Formalism did not have any appreciable im- ature and reality. Another weakness of formal-

58
Formalism, Russian

ist criticism was its one-sided preoccupation Bann and J. Bowlt. Edinburgh: Scottish Academic
with artistic devices and its neglect of the the- P, 1973, 48-72.
matics and the emotional content of literature. - Tristram Shendi Sterna i teoriia romana. Petrograd,
(See *theme.) Finally, its rejection of critical 1921. 'Sterne's Tristram Shandy and the Theory of
the Novel.' In Russian Formalist Criticism: Four Es-
evaluation in literary criticism led to extreme
says, 25-60.
relativism and failure to do justice to the aes- Todorov, Tzvetan, ed. Theorie de la litterature. Paris:
thetic quality of literature. Editions du Seuil, 1965.
NINA KOLESNIKOFF Tynianov, lurii. Dostoevskii i Gogol': k teorii parodii.
Petrograd, 1921.
Primary Sources - 'O literaturnoi evolutsii.' 4 (1927). 'On Literary
Evolution.' In Readings in Russian Poetics: Formal-
Brik, Osip. 'Ritm i sintaksis.' Novyi lef 3-6 (1927). ist and Structuralist Views. Ed. L. Matejka and K.
Excerpts trans, as 'Contributions to the Study of Pomorska. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1971,
Verse Language.' In Readings in Russian Poetics: 68-78.
Formalist and Structuralist Views. Ed. L. Matejka - 'O literaturnom fakte.' Lef 2 (1924): 100-16.
and K. Pomorska. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, - Problema stikhotvornogo iazyka. Leningrad, 1924.
1971, 117-2S. The Problem of Verse Language. Ann Arbor: Ardis,
Eikhenbaum, Boris. 'Illiuziia skaza.' Skvoz' literaturu. 1981.
Leningrad, 1924. 'The Illusion of "Skaz." ' Russian - and R. Jakobson. 'Problemy izucheniia literatury i
Literature Triquarterly 12 (1975): 233-6. iazyka.' Novyi lef 12 (1928): 36-7. 'Problems in
- 'Kak sdelana "Shinel" Gogolia.' Poetika. Sborniki the Study of Literature and Language.' In Readings
po teorii poeticheskogo iazi/ka. Petrograd, 1919, 151- in Russian Poetics, 79-81.
65. 'How Gogol's "The Overcoat" Is Made.' Rws-
sian Review 20 (1963): 377-90. Secondary Sources
- 'Leskov i sovremennaia proza.' Literatura, teoriia,
kritika, polemika. Leningrad, 1927. 'Leskov and Any, C. 'The Russian Formalist Tradition.' Soviet
Modern Prose.' Russian Literature Triquarterly 11 Studies in Literature 21.3-4 (1985): 5-28.
(1975): 21 1-29. Bennett, Tony. Formalism and Marxism. London: Me-
- Melodika russkogo liricheskogo stikha. Leningrad, thuen, 1979.
1922. Erlich, Viktor. 'Russian Formalism.' Journal of the
lakubinskii, Lev. 'O zvukakh stikhotvornogo iazyka.' History of Ideas 34.4 (1973): 627-38.
Poetika. Sborniki po teorii poeticheskogo iazi/ka. Pe- - Russian Formalism: History, Doctrine. The Hague:
trograd, 1916, 37-49. Mouton, i g s s .
Jakobson, Roman. Noveishaia russkaia poeziia. Greenfeld, Leah. 'Russian Formalist Sociology of Lit-
Prague, 1921. erature: A Sociological Perspective.' Slavic Review
- and lu. Tynianov. 'Problemy izucheniia literatury i 46 (1987): 38-54.
iazyka.' Novyi lef 12 (1928): 36-7. 'Problems in Hansen-Love, Aage. Der russische Formalismus. Vi-
the Study of Literature and Language.' In Readings enna: Academie der Wissenschaften, 1978.
in Russian Poetics, 79-81. Jackson, R.L., and S. Rudy, eds. Russian Formalism: A
Poetika. Sborniki po teorii poeticheskogo iazi/ka. Petro- Retrospective Glance. A Festschrift in Honour of Vic-
grad, 1919. tor Erlich. New Haven: Yale Centre for Interna-
Sborniki po teorii poeticheskogo iazyka. \. Petersburg, tional and Area Studies, 1985.
1916. Jameson, Frederic. The Prison-House of Language: A
Sborniki po teorii poeticheskogo iazyka. n. Petersburg, Critical Account of Structuralism and Russian For-
1917. malism. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1972.
Shklovskii, Viktor. Tskusstvo kak priem.' In Sborniki Lunacharskii, A. 'Formalizm v iskusstvovdeenii.' Pe-
po teorii poeticheskogo iazyka. o. Petrograd, 1917, chat' i revolutsiia 5 (1924).
3-14. 'Art as Technique.' In Russian Formalist Crit- Medvedev, Pavel. Formal' nyi rnetod v literaturoved-
icism: Four Essai/s. Ed. L. Lemon and M.J. Reis. enii. Leningrad, 1928. The Formal Method in Liter-
Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1965, 3-24. ary Scholarship. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP,
- 'Sviaz' priemov siuzhetoslozheniia s obshchimi 1978.
priemami stilia.' In Poetika. Sborniki po teorii poeti- Pomorska, Krystyna. Russian Formalist Theory and Its
cheskogo iazyka. Petrograd, 1919, 115-50. 'On the Poetic Ambiance. The Hague: Mouton, 1968.
Connection Between Devices of Siuzhet and Gen- Selden, R. 'Russian Formalism: An Unconcluded
eral Stylistic Devices.' In Russian Formalism: A Col- Dialogue.' Proceedings of the 1976 Conference on
lection of Articles and Texts in Translation. Ed. S. Literature, Society, and the Sociology of Literature. U
of Essex, 1977.

59
Frankfurt School
Steiner, Peter. 'Formalism and Structuralism: An Ex- By 1932 philosopher Max Horkheimer as-
ercise in Metahistory.' Russian Literature 12 (1982): sumed the direction of the institute and be-
299-330. came the editor of its review Zeitschrift fur
- Russian Formalism: A Metapoctics. Ithaca: Cornell Sozialforschung (1932-41). Under Horkheimer's
UP, 1984.
direction an inner circle emerged that included
- 'Three Metaphors of Russian Formalism.' Poetics
Today 2 (1980-1): 58-116.
Theodor Adorno, Leo Lowenthal and Herbert
Striedter, Jurij. Literary Structure, Evolution and Value: Marcuse. Their common interests in aesthetic
Russian Formalism and Czech Structuralism Reconsi- and literary issues provided an informal bond
dered. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1989. across their varied projects. Though he did re-
- 'The Russian Formalist Theory of Literary Evolu- ceive some financial support from the institute,
tion.' PTL: A Journal for Descriptive Poetics and * Walter Benjamin was not an official member;
Theory of Literature 3 (1978): 1-24. however, he played a seminal role in deter-
- The Russian Formalist Theory of Prose.' PTL: A mining the parameters of debate concerning
Journal for Descriptive Poetics and Theory of Litera- questions of aesthetics. After a stay in the
ture 2 (1977): 429-70-
U.S.A. following the outbreak of the Second
Thompson, Ewa. Russian Formalism and Anglo-Amer-
ican New Criticism, The Hague: Mouton, 1971.
World War, Horkheimer and Adorno returned
Todorov, Tzvetan. 'L'Heritage methodologique du to Frankfurt where new students were trained
Formalisme.' In Poeticjue de la Prose. Paris: Edi- in the 19505 and 19603 who would ultimately
tions de Seuil, 1971, 9-31. carry on the tradition. These included two of
- 'Some Approaches to Russian Formalism.' In Rus- the tradition's most prominent contemporary
sian Formalism: A Collection of Articles and Texts in representatives, *Jurgen Habermas and Peter
Translation. Ed. S. Bann and J. Bowlt. Edinburgh: Burger. The institute officially closed with the
Scottish Academic P, 1973, 6-19. death of Horkheimer in 1973. Today, it is
Trotskii, Lev. Literatura i revolutsiia. Moskva, 1924. more appropriate to speak of the Frankfurt tra-
Literature and Revolution. Ann Arbor: U of Michi-
dition rather than a school as such, since
gan P, 1960.
many continue to work in its heritage even
though their philosophical and aesthetic posi-
tions often contradict the earlier ideas of the
Frankfurt School original members. The Frankfurt tradition con-
tinues to be felt in a variety of disciplines
The Frankfurt Institute of Social Research was ranging from philosophical anthropology to
founded in 1923 as the result of an endow- political economy, psychoanalysis, aesthetics,
ment established by an Austrian grain mer- and literary criticism.
chant, the father of the political scientist Felix
Weil. The latter originally conceived the idea Critical theory: three problem motifs
of a centre for the social sciences and humani-
ties that would be autonomous of private and For almost 70 years the tradition has been
public financing even though it would be affil- both divided and held together over a debate
iated with the newly formed University of concerning the definition of its central concept
Frankfurt. This financial and political auton- of *critical theory. Each generation has had to
omy permitted the institute's members the rework Nancy Fraser's question, 'What's Criti-
freedom to embark on an exploration of a va- cal About Critical Theory?' Contemporary lit-
riety of subjects. Histories of the school, in- erary criticism employs the concept of 'critical
cluding Martin Jay's The Dialectical Imagination theory' in too general a sense. Much of its cri-
(1973), Rolph Wiggeshaus' Die Frankfurt Schule tique would be defined by the Frankfurt tradi-
(1987) and *Fredric Jameson's book on tion as either a form of *hermeneutics founded
*Adorno (1990) all argue that it was the first on the practical interests of interpretation and
Western institute to be founded on principles on the 'critique' or recovery of hidden or de-
of social democracy derived from Marxist and ferred meaning (*deconstruction, *reception the-
Weberian theory. Members of the institute ory), or a positivism founded on the technical
challenged both the emerging orthodoxy of interests of explanation (*semiotics, *narratol-
scientific Marxism from the Soviet bloc and ogy). The concept of 'critical theory/ as de-
compromised versions of state socialism evolv- fined by the Frankfurt tradition is more spe-
ing out of post-First World War Germany. cific. First developed by Horkheimer in the
(See *Marxist criticism.) 19305, the concept is offered as a rejection of

60
Frankfurt School
the purely i m m a n e n t form of critique in tradi- to access the critical interest of emancipation.
tional hermeneutics, best exemplified in the But adapting the concept of reason from Hegel
philosophy of *Wilhelm Dilthey. On the other and Marx leads to two different definitions of
hand, it also attacks scientific approaches that reason. Universal reason is seen as a form of
make claims of pure explanation based on ob- instrumental reason. It is a means to an end;
jective experimental or statistical techniques yet universal reason can be subverted through
of analysis. All knowledge is seen as being critical reason. These are the two conditions in
rooted in ideological interests. (See '""ideology, which knowledge is possible and they refer to
*ideological horizon.) This position may be two distinct processes. Instrumental reason
seen in three dominant frames of argument or seeks to protect its own interests. It is utilitar-
problem motifs that each successive generation ian and seeks an absolute identity with its
has reassessed. truth referent. Critical reason seeks to dissolve
The first of these is historical relativism. the rigidity of the referent that is fixed in the
Horkheimer attacks this issue, that is, the view immediate present or the actual by introducing
that all forms of knowledge including literary negativity. Negation of instrumental reason
and aesthetic forms are related to specific in- opens the potentiality of the truth referent;
terests, be they based on class, ethnicity or, we that is, it opens the conditions of possibility in
might today add, gender. This problem motif, which *literature or art might come into being.
which holds that no truth claims can be made (See *reference/referent.)
that are universally valid, poses a philosophi- In this sense 'critical theory' must also be
cal and political dilemma to those who would self-critical or reflexive. In the third problem
claim ""universal and thus metaphysical truths motif, critical reason requires a sustained will
regarding the nature of fascism, for example, to a self-reflection that allows it to overcome
or more generally the nature of male violence its own rigidity. Without this third problem
against women. Horkheimer contrasts his ap- motif, a properly existential one, 'critical the-
proach to this problem with that of Karl Mann- ory' might not negate its own rigidity, nor
heim's theory of the sociology of knowledge. could it claim an immanent critique of some
In Ideology and Utopia (1929), Mannheim ar- other object. In order that the critical interest,
gues that truth claims are ultimately bound to the emancipatory interest, not collapse into an
a distinct perspective. Knowledge can only be identity with its object, critique must oscillate
partial because it is founded in the social inter- between the transcendental position of its own
est that gives rise to that perspective. Only de- place in the mass of possible approaches to
classe intellectuals have the expertise and the object and the immanent construction of
possibility of detachment from interests that the object itself, that is, the hermeneutic tech-
would allow them to derive universal truth nique of understanding the object from its
claims. Horkheimer argues against Mannheim, point of view. Unlike deconstruction, to which
as does Adorno in Prisms, offering instead a 'critical theory' is often inaccurately compared,
neo-Marxian position that places the problem the truth referent is defined both within and is
of truth claims in the realm of *praxis and a external to the object. In this critical theory re-
theory of social conflict that looks to explore mains partially tied to a ""metaphysics of pres-
the attempts of groups of social actors to ence. The referent to which the object refers is
achieve a state of emancipation. Both the con- negated, but it is also constructed in the criti-
cept of praxis, the emancipation or negation of cal process through self-reflection, immanent
the conditions of domination, and Ideologiekri- critique and the appropriation of positive ele-
tik, the critique of the social interests that un- ments derived from other approaches to the
derlie systems of ideas or ideologies, are same object.
mined from Marx's work. Historical relativism
is challenged by 'critical theory' within its Benjamin, Adorno, Horkheimer: aesthetic
other two problem motifs as well. and literary debates
Posing the question of the condition in
which knowledge is possible suggests the sec- Aesthetic and literary questions were and are
ond problem motif for critical theory. It dem- central to the Frankfurt idea of 'critical theory.'
onstrates the Kantian side of the Frankfurt Several thinkers who were not part of the in-
tradition's definition of critique and its shifting stitute but had a wide-reaching impact on de-
reliance on transcendental reason as the means bates that divided the institute's members

61
Frankfurt School
were Karl Mannheim, his teacher *Georg Lu- ble revolution of the proletariat and his con-
kacs, Ernst Bloch and Bertolt Brecht. In their viction that art must ultimately take on a
earlier years, Mannheim, Lukacs and Bloch political identification.
were frequent participants at the informal the- In Literature and the Image of Man (1957)
ory seminars on aesthetic and political issues and Literature, Popular Culture and Society
held in the home of the sociologists Max and (1961), Leo Lowenthal helps develop a sociol-
Marian Weber. Their influence on Benjamin ogy of 'Great Literature' that Adorno and oth-
eventually led to sharp differences between ers put forth but he never has the commitment
Benjamin and Adorno, differences which came to the philosophy of pure critique, the absolute
to represent the two extremes that would be refusal to identify with the real in artistic rep-
adopted within the circle and between which resentation that Adorno advocates. Similarly,
the members would oscillate. Herbert Marcuse extends the implicit Adornian
To Lukacs' approach to aesthetic questions, mood of pessimism in his critique of modern
Benjamin adds Brecht's theory of political real- culture in One-Dimensional Man. But, in his
ism. This leads him to the concept of 'media- last book, The Aesthetic Dimension (1977), he
tion.' For Benjamin, the evolution of art and too holds back from Adorno's 'negative dialec-
literature is tied to the manner in which their tics.' Horkheimer and Adorno's apocalyptic
reproduction is handed down. Art is no longer discussion of the culture industry in their Di-
defined as a reflection of the social but as one alectic of Enlightenment (1944), a work heavily
mode of production among many and is me- influenced by *Nietzsche and Adorno's Intro-
diated by the organizing and aesthetic prac- duction to the Sociology of Music (trans. 1976),
tices that precede it. For example, in the case defines art as the negative knowledge of the
of the 'storyteller/ the oral means of reproduc- real world. Only 'great works' have the capac-
tion depend on a social formation that has all ity to overcome the commodification or *reifi-
but disappeared in the 'age of mechanical re- cation process henceforth technologically
production.' Yet, at the same time, art has its inherent in the modern culture industry. As
own specificity, which lends it a very specific Jameson points out, for Horkheimer and
beauty or *aura. In spite of Benjamin's theoret- Adorno the reification process of the cultural
ical break from Lukacs and Brecht, there is still industry is totalizing and has become so omni-
a strong sense in which a purely representa- present that it transforms virtually every as-
tional aesthetic theory informs his *proble- pect of culture into 'mass mystification.' In the
matic. modern cultural apparatus all products are
Adorno, in Negative Dialectics (1966), Aes- submitted to crushing rational models that re-
thetic Theory (1970) and Noten zur Literatur quire increasing standardization of reproduc-
(1981) develops the extreme version of a 'criti- tion techniques, a repetition of forms and
cal theory' of art in which the complete nega- contents that leaves no room for creativity.
tion or refusal of the real is seen as the only The culture industry creates a constant con-
means of achieving a valid artistic form. In formity, even regulating relations with the
sharp contrast to Benjamin's position, Adorno past: 'That which is new is the exclusion of
holds that the validity of art is not found in its everything that could be new.' (See ""totaliza-
identification with the social (as in Lukacs' tion.)
theory of realism) but in its autonomy and ul-
timately in its refusal of the social. Although Habermas: agenda for a new critical theory
Adorno accepts Benjamin's theory of media-
tion, he rejects his concept of correspondence Almost 40 years after Horkheimer and Ador-
as a thinly disguised reflection theory of art no's landmark work, Jurgen Habermas, an im-
and literature. Instead, Adorno argues for a portant contemporary member of the Frankfurt
theory of *mimesis defined as the repetition of tradition, launched a blunt attack against their
an autonomous artistic form that seeks an acci- nihilism in 'The Entwinement of Myth and
dental rupture from its own past in the antici- Enlightenment: Re-reading the Dialectic of En-
pation of an emancipated unknown future. For lightenment' (1982). Habermas, an assistant to
Adorno, the autonomy of artistic form makes Adorno at the institute in the 19505, claims to
it the negative knowledge of the actual or real. have been deeply influenced by his work. Like
Adorno and Horkheimer's critique of Benjamin his predecessors, he was schooled in the tradi-
is primarily aimed at his belief in the inevita- tion of German philosophy. However, he

62
Frankfurt School
breaks in important ways from that tradition cultures that seek to protect themselves from
and becomes immersed in American pragma- colonization by other competing 'life-worlds,' it
tism and contemporary language philosophy. is quite difficult to maintain an 'ideal speech
Habermas argues that the work of his prede- act' outside of limited contexts. Studying the
cessors suggests an over-totalizing critique of social system as a producer of objective
modernity/ a critique born in the epoch of the knowledge is a third area Habermas addresses,
Enlightenment, which virtually eliminates the particularly in Legitimation Crisis (1975). The
possibility of any kind of emancipation. He ar- fourth area he introduces, mostly in the sec-
gues that their negation of rationalism and the ond volume of Theory of Communicative Action,
idea that knowledge is inherently emancipa- is the study of sociological theories of the evo-
tory, demonstrates the limits of a theoretical lution of the subject inside the life-world. (See
logic founded in historicism and a philosophy *Lebensivelt.)
of consciousness, an approach that posits the
will of the social actor as the determining force Peter Burger: art and literature as institution
in the historical process. The elaboration of a
'New Critical Theory' which would go beyond There is by no means any consensus regarding
these limits and recover the critical reason of Habermas' plea for a 'New Critical Theory.'
the Enlightenment, he argues, must shift to a Many see his shift to the theory of communi-
philosophy of language and a theory of com- cative action as a shift away from the emanci-
munication. (See *communication theory.) patory interests of 'critical theory' toward the
Although Habermas has never directly practical interests of hermeneutics. An impor-
treated the question of the status of art and lit- tant figure in contemporary *sociocriticism,
erature except through his commentary on the and another member of this generation, Peter
earlier members of the tradition, his controver- Burger, continues to work through a 'critical
sial plea for a 'New Critical Theory' based in a theory' of literature and aesthetics, taking up
philosophy of language has important conse- some of the concepts and concerns first raised
quences for the theory of aesthetics for which by Benjamin and Adorno. For the latter, the
the tradition has been famous. Habermas de- approach of 'critical theory' to cultural produc-
velops his position in The Theory of Communi- tions requires a split presupposition. Art and
cative Action (1984), adding four new fields literature are seen as both institutional prod-
previously ignored by the tradition. His main ucts and as institutions themselves. In The
concept, *communicative action, is founded on Theory of the Avant-Garde (1984), Burger
his argument for a 'universal pragmatics' of shows how in the i8th and igth centuries au-
speech and action, first outlined in Communica- tonomous art separated itself from day-to-day
tion and the Evolution of Society (1977). He ar- social life and as such created its own institu-
gues for a theory of transubjectivity that is tion. He goes on to argue that the avant-garde
developed from the rational logic of communi- movements of the 2oth century must be inter-
cative action wherein the subject speaker is preted as attacks against art and literature as
seen to share conjointly certain responsibilities institutions. Burger's analysis privileges the so-
with the listener. cial function of art as the primary object of
Because utterances must be intelligible in or- analysis. Internally, the aesthetic practices of
der to make validity claims, Habermas argues the institution work themselves out across the
for a second field of study in order to recap- maze of discursive norms and codes that refer
ture the possibility of developing a normative to the entire history of art and literature. (See
theory of communicative action. The intelligi- *code.) In any period, art and literature as in-
bility of the utterance requires an apprentice- stitution gives a definition to this discursive
ship in communicative competence. Emancipa- maze and thereby establishes a stratified scale
tion of the subject occurs in the 'ideal speech of genres and subgenres. Narrative styles be-
situation/ where there are only attempts at come the receptacles of social discourse itself.
understanding and where communication can- Aesthetic objects then both stratify and are
not be distorted. A maximum discourse can be stratified; they are both a social product and a
expressed with a minimum set of constraints. social force. The ambiguity inherent in this
But because the apprenticeship of communica- proposition stems from an attempt, on the one
tive competence occurs as social systems move hand, to privilege the potentiality of the aes-
in and out of 'life-worlds,' colonizing primary thetic object (as in Benjamin, Adorno, Hork-

63
French feminist criticism
heimer) and, on the other, to explain how the Fraser, Nancy. 'What's Critical About Critical The-
process itself becomes objectified (as in Haber- ory? The Case of Habermas and Gender.' New
mas). German Critique 35 (1985): 97-131.
Guess, Raymond. The Idea of Critical Theory: Haber-
This split assumption that posits art and lit-
mas and the Frankfurt School. London: Cambridge
erature as both products of social norms and UP, 1981.
as potentially emancipatory agencies refers di- Habermas, Jurgen. Communication and the Evolution
rectly to the organizing and regulating prac- of Society. Trans. T. McCarthy. Boston: Beacon P,
tices of social institutions in general. The 1979.
Frankfurt tradition consistently defines these - 'The Entwinement of Myth and Enlightenment:
practices as being combined in the creation of Rereading Dialectics of Enlightenment.' New Ger-
a condition of production, and any discussion man Critique 23 (1982): 14-29.
that holds them separate is seen to be purely - Legitimation Crisis. Trans. T. McCarthy. Boston:
analytical. At one pole, at least since Benja- Beacon P, 1975.
- The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity. Trans. F.
min, the organizing practice is seen to bring
Lawrence. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT P, 1987.
together all the elements of the technical and - The Theory of Communicative Action: Vol. I, Rea-
discursive infrastructure of the institution, its son and the Rationalisation of Society. Trans. T.
systems of reproduction and distribution. At McCarthy. Boston: Beacon P, 1984.
the other pole, from Adorno on, the imaginary - Volume IT. Lifeworld and System: A Critique of Func-
negative knowledge of aesthetic practice brings tionalist Reason. Boston: Beacon P, 1988.
together all the elements (codes, norms, Horkheimer, Max. Critical Theory. 1968. New York:
themes, narrative) of the creative life-world. Seabury, 1972.
(See also *theme, *literary institution.) 'Critical - and T. Adorno. Dialectic of Enlightenment. Trans. ].
theory' teaches that the judgments of the ge- Cunning. New York: Seabury, 1972.
Jay, Martin. Adorno. London: Fontana, 1984.
nius of aesthetic objects can only be derived
- The Dialectical Imagination: A History of the Frank-
from the specific reflections of immanent furt School and the Institute for Social Research,
critique. 1923-1950. Boston: Little Brown, 1973.
GREG NIELSEN Jameson, Fredric. Late Marxism: Adorno, or, the Per-
sistence of the Dialectic. New York: Verso, 1990.
Primary Sources Lowenthal, Leo. Literature and the Image of Man.
Boston: Beacon P, 1957.
Adorno, Theodor. Aesthetic Theory. Trans. C. Len- - Literature, Popular Culture and Society. Englewood
hardt. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1984. Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1961.
- Introduction to the Sociology of Music. New York: Lukacs, Georg. Theory of the Novel. Trans. A. Bos-
Seabury, 1976. tock. London: Merlin P, 1971.
- Negative Dialectics. New York: Seabury, 1973. Mannheim, Karl. Ideology and Utopia. New York:
- Notzen zur Litcratur. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1981. Harvest Books, 1975.
- Philosophy of Modern Music. Trans. A. Mitchell Marcuse, Herbert. The Aesthetic Dimension: Toward a
and W. Bloomster. New York: Seabury, 1973. Critique of Marxist Aesthetics. Boston: Beacon P,
- Prisms. Trans. Samuel and Shierry Weber. Lon- 1978.
don: Neville Spearman, 1967. - One-Dimensional Man. Boston: Beacon P, 1964.
Arato, Andrew, and Hike Gebhart, eds. Tlie Essential
Frankfurt School Reader. New York: Continuum,
1982.
Benjamin, Walter. Charles Baudelaire: A Li/ric Poet in French feminist criticism.
the Era of High Capitalism. Trans. H. Zohn. Lon- See feminist criticism, French
don: New Left Books, 1973.
- Illuminations. Trans. H. Zohn. New York: Har-
court, 1969.
- The Origin of German Tragic Drama. Trans. ]. Os- Game theory
borne. London: New Left Books, 1977.
- Understanding Brecht. Trans. A. Bostack. London: Games have probably always been with us,
New Left Books, 1973. and theories of them in the West go back to
Burger, Peter. 'The Institution of Art as a Category the classical Greeks. Heraclitus, Aristotle and
in the Sociology of Literature.' Culture Critique 2 Plato, for example, viewed games as valid con-
(1985): 5-33. tests of strength, power and wit. In ancient
- The Theory of the Avant-Gardc. Minneapolis: U of
Greece games were part of public entertain-
Minnesota P, 1984.
ment in the form not only of athletic contests

64
Game theory

but also of religious rites and related dramatic by reason as a higher form. Kant in The Cri-
presentations, as well as debates among tique of Pure Reason and Schiller in OH the Aes-
learned men and rhetoricians. Although the thetic Education of Man in a Series of Letters
idea of game is often conflated with or con- speak of the value of play as governed by the
fused with that of play, Plato, for one, in the rules of reason - that is, as a sort of game. The
Phaedrus separates the two. For him play (pai- principle of game, however, lacks the meta-
deia) is unstructured and lacking in rules and physical connotations it later comes to assume;
goals, whereas game (Indus) has certain rea- play and game for the iSth-century thinker are
soned moves, rules and goals, and therefore restricted to the liberation of art and aesthetic
provides activities and models for the young judgments from the utilitarian demands of rep-
and diversions for adults. ('Ludic,' however, resentational *mimesis or scientific claims to
has become a fashionable academic term that truth.
stands for all play, whether or not formal A recent 20th-century thinker indebted to
game structures are involved.) Games, accord- Kant's and Schiller's formulations is Hans-
ing to Plato, are less arbitrary and more con- Georg Gadamer who in Truth and Method con-
sidered than play, although both are subject to ceives of play as fundamental to art, both in
accident, chance, and the fated moves of the the sense of art as a playful exercise and art as
gods. (See theories of *play/freeplay.) lacking final goals or necessary purposes. Both
Plato's distinction between game and play game and art are forms of play, though art dif-
has been generally accepted and his attitude fers from game insofar as it exists less for the
toward games has traditionally carried consid- play of forms than for the enjoyment of the
erable authority, but in modern times it has audience or spectator. Art for Gadamer seems
come under review and, especially in the 2oth more complicated than game and ultimately of
century, under attack. Within the last 200 a higher order, yet Gadamer restores value to
years, several philosophers and thinkers have game in the relationship between art and the
presented alternative views of games. These interpreter. A work of art exists within certain
include 18th-century German idealists (Kant rules or boundaries circumscribed by cultural
and Schiller), later- igth-century thinkers tradition and individual artistic creation; the
(*Nietzsche) and 20th-century theoreticians interpreter, however, brings her or his own ex-
(*Wittgenstein, *Heidegger, *Derrida, *Bakhtin, periences into play. The interaction or contest
*Gadamer, Fink, and Axelos). Later writers of subject (interpreter) and object (artistic
who synthesize these theories and see their in- work) creates a game of a very high order. For
fluence in culture at large include Huizinga, Gadamer, then, game is part and parcel of the
Callois, Ehrmann, and Spariosu. In addition, artistic process from creation to interpretation.
within the last decade a number of important It is infinitely repeatable but with new permu-
discussions of game theory have appeared that tations each time it is played, for it is neither
link it not only with traditional areas of sport, wholly restricted to one set of existing rules
theatre and religion but also with non-tradi- nor detached from guidelines, rules, standards,
tional fields such as *literature, political philos- or structures in general. To use an analogy
ophy, economics, business management, and that arises from Gadamer himself, just as we
science. are born into language and yet are able to use
Until the i8th century, most thinkers in the and command it and to develop individual
Western tradition tacitly consented to Plato's styles, so the field of art creates possibilities
pronouncements. Even the 18th-century phi- for artists and interpreters, and yet it is
losophers, mainly German, who considered changed by the background and activity of
the role of play and game, did not really re- both creator and perceiver.
vise the hierarchical preference of game over If Kant and Schiller restored the concept of
play, though they did reassess the value of play and game to the intellectual forum and
play in human lives. In equating play and art Gadamer modified their discourse for modern
and in liberating them from scientific observa- *hermeneutics, it was Friedrich Nietzsche and
tion and strict rational constraints, Immanuel Martin Heidegger who took the issue even fur-
Kant and Friedrich Schiller paved the way for ther. For Nietzsche in Ecce Homo, The Gay Sci-
later reassessments of the field, but they both ence and The Birth of Tragedy, play is not
followed Plato in accepting unfettered play as 'mere' play, but a kind of primal, arbitrary,
'mere play' and play related to and regulated unstructured, and anarchic activity stripped of

65
Game theory
reliance upon reason. Unconcerned with a con- modern artists who like to play with the sense
ception of game as opposed to play, Nietzsche of the past and imbed it in their works. (See
considers both as worthwhile in themselves *postmodernism.) This dialogue between past
and instrumental in disrupting traditional val- and present or fiction and non-fiction dismays
ues and modes of operation within culture. As some critics, but Bakhtin's view of carnival as
in the ancient contests, play and games can be transgression has had a significant impact
used for combative strategies but their sites are upon the creation and interpretation of art.
ubiquitous and their subversive roles unend- Other 20th-century game theories, which are
ing. Game is a strategy, a process and a goal. invariably linked to language, derive not only
from Heidegger but also from Ludwig Wittgen-
Contemporary theories stein and *Ferdinand de Saussure. In speaking
of 'language-games,' Wittgenstein in Philosoph-
Martin Heidegger further helps to restore the ical Investigations compares language to games
importance of game and in the process takes insofar as both have resemblances or charac-
the concept beyond that of Nietzsche. In his teristic similarities that form a 'family.' These
view, everyone is involved in the great game resemblances constitute their rules of expres-
of life and world play, although the rules and sion, main structures and behaviour within
goals are shadowy at best. More than eras and across periods. Saussure, too, talks
Nietzsche and much more than Kant and about structures of language in The Course in
Schiller, Heidegger explores many different as- General Linguistics, but his primary influence
pects of this game of being and establishes it lies in his discussion of the relationship be-
as a concept that can be profitably explored tween signifiers and signifieds, which he as-
philosophically and one that has relevance to sumes to be in stable linkage. Saussure's
every aspect of existence. He accepts Nietz- linguistic theories lead to conceptions of signs
sche's 'concept of the Will to Power, thus and of organized systems of signs like writing
consolidating the latter's return to the prera- and society themselves. (See *signified/signi-
tional, archaic notion of power as Weltspiel - a fier/signification, *sign.)
violent, arbitrary, and ecstatic play of forces in Within literary criticism in the last two dec-
which man is both player and plaything' (Spa- ades, Jacques Derrida's views of games have
riosu, Dionysus Reborn 124). This agonistic received considerable attention. They bear rec-
game of *power, dependent upon and me- ognizable relationships to the metaphysics of
diated and produced by language, gives rise to Nietzsche and Heidegger and the investiga-
Reconstruction and the most influential views tions of Wittgenstein and Saussure. Like
of game for literary criticism. Nietzsche, Derrida in 'Structure, Sign, and
Affected by Heidegger's views of game as Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences'
well as by the writings of Karl Marx, Mikhail and Of Grammatology sees play and game as a
Bakhtin in Rabelais and His World discusses means of disrupting hierarchies and privileged
how, in the late medieval and early Renais- positions which have exercised power over in-
sance period, forms of social play and game dividuals in Western society. He does, how-
such as carnivals and fairs became forums ever, distinguish between play and game,
where the populace could, through disguised preferring the notion of play, because it is less
performances, protest against governmental structured and has no particular goals; game
and clerical policies. (See *carnival.) These gives patterns and structures to society, its
were coded affairs, in which only certain myths and preferred forms of belief. While
members of the audience were expected fully game is no less arbitrary than play, it carries
to understand the allusions and *parody. This with it socially determined, observed, and rei-
'carnivalization' was a political act, one which fied rules and goals. Play is the random dis-
helped to undermine received opinion and rec- rupter, the leveller, the disseminator, whereas
ognized *authority. Clearly, then, games can games are the privileged structures, meanings
be acts of transgression and *subversion. This or signifieds that arise from the play. Conse-
is, so to speak, Heidegger as read by Marx: the quently, for Derrida and other French post-
'world play' must be subjected to parody in structural theoreticians, game becomes de-
order to create new kinds of games. As a critic, scriptive of the way society organizes and ap-
Bakhtin has been warmly embraced by post- proves certain kinds of behaviour and ideas; in

66
Game theory
keeping with the rhetoric of Heidegger, this is nonetheless infinite variety and inventiveness
the 'game of the world' (Of Grannnatology 50). of synonyms, while repeating and varying the
(See *poststructuralism.) signifier, so as to affirm the plural existence of
Derrida and like-minded nonconformists and the text, its return' (58). (See *text.) Play opens
deconstructionists pitted against the conform- up the texts (games) of the culture in such a
ists and constructionists see this game of the way as to create new possibilities. Game the-
world as an all-pervasive contest for power. ory for Foucault and Barthes, as for Derrida,
He assumes that playing to excess opens up deals with the conditions for human existence
the game of the world once more, so that new within particular societies and with ways to
games or beliefs and modes of behaviour can expose and alter those rules and significations.
rise to the surface and be moved from the Contemporary studies of games suggest that
margins to the centres of power. (See '"mar- all of these theories have merit: game pervades
gin.) Ultimately, there is a higher game of our culture in more ways than we are at first
meaning and power in which play must be a likely to admit. Mathematicians began to talk
fully functional part. While Derrida's critique about game theory or interest conflict as early
of metaphysics may not immediately change as the 19205, when Emile Borel identified a
the power structure, it has the potential for al- class of game theoretic problems and John von
tering it over time or at least of making people Neumann discussed one player's conflicts with
aware of the privileged games of the past and another. The study of its pervasiveness for lit-
the conditions for winning. (See *metaphysics erature began in earnest with Johan Huizinga,
of presence.) who discovered elements of play not only in
*Roland Barthes and *Michel Foucault both sports, board games, games of chance, and the
suggest related deconstructive uses of game: theatre but, more unexpectedly, in religious
for them games are the rules of society but practices, judicial proceedings, war, philoso-
ones which, when they exceed their own rules, phy, poetry, and other 'serious' activities
open the field of play. In 'What Is an Author?' within the social and political forum. Huizin-
Foucault remarks that writing refers only to it- ga's analysis, structural in nature, identifies
self and 'is always testing the limits of its reg- important elements of these games including
ularity, transgressing and reversing an order the field in which the game is played (the en-
that it accepts and manipulates. Writing un- closed space, arena, sacred spot, or magic cir-
folds like a game that inevitably moves be- cle), the contest itself and its duration,
yond its own rules and finally leaves them governing rules and goals, ways in which
behind' (Language i 16). Barthes explores re- those rules can be broken, and the contestants
lated sign systems, including language and themselves. Huizinga is careful to separate
society, and similarly disputes their reputed game from work. On the one hand, says Hui-
stability. In recognizing that both are struc- zinga, real or ordinary life is serious, involun-
tured upon certain resemblances, he endea- tary and utilitarian, subject to duty and
vours to be analytical and political: he wishes physical resources, and concerned with mate-
to destabilize the myths and games that gov- rial interest and profit. Game, on the other
ern social structures. He looks at ways to turn hand, is playful, voluntary, usually non-utili-
the structures (games) into open-ended dis- tarian, and conducive to physical, emotional,
courses (play). (See *myth, *discourse.) For in- and spiritual re-creation. This definition of
stance, in S/Z he maintains that all literature is games accounts for those which have visible,
a game and that particular aspects of it, such external structures but not for those that are
as metaphor, which have been given special invisible and internal; the latter obviously exist
privilege over time, actually work against them- but are harder to define. (See also *perfor-
selves through excess. (See *metonymy/meta- mance criticism.)
phor.) 'The excess of metaphor,' he says, 'is a Using some of Huizinga's observations
game played by the discourse. The game, which about the nature of games and their appear-
is a regulated activity and always subject to re- ance within culture, Roger Caillois classifies
turn, consists then not in piling up words for games according to four types: competition or
mere verbal pleasure (logorrhea) but in multiply- agon, chance or alea, simulation or mimicry,
ing one form of language (in this case compari- and vertigo or ilinx. All of these are governed
son), as though in an attempt to exhaust the by certain common criteria: they are free, sep-

67
Game theory
arate, uncertain, unproductive, rule-governed, serious activities, for the nature of all activity
and exist within the realm of make-believe. As is play. Indeed, he puts a Heideggerean and
a social critic, Caillois seeks to define the so- Derridean challenge before the reader - to
cial meaning of games, but he also advocates a read in every world-game every other game
conception of games without rules, those and to compose our own rules and goals: 'the
games of 'as if,' which replace ordinary experi- Game of the World is the question. It is for
ence and observation and which are therefore men to play the game of questions and an-
not subject to the same kind of social control. swers' (18). For Ehrmann, Fink and Axelos
Caillois continues to observe Huizinga's dis- game is a metaludic pursuit undertaken at the
tinction between real life and play, but he sees heart of reality.
more practical political and social uses for Another important volume on game theory
game than does Huizinga. is the 1985 issue on Games and the Theories of
In some ways the most seminal and provoc- Games published by The Canadian Review of
ative works on game theory in the past few Comparative Literature, which brings together
decades have been 'Game, Play, Literature,' a an extensive bibliography on the topic as well
special 1968 issue of Yale French Studies, ed- as several articles that highlight recent inter-
ited by Jacques Ehrmann, and a later Fest- pretations of game. Many of these articles by
schrift issue of Yale French Studies, Inside Play Canadian and American academics are espe-
Outside Game, (1979), a memorial to Ehrmann cially indebted to distinctions between game
edited by Michel Beaujour. These issues of and play made by Bernard Suits in The Grass-
Yale French Studies brought together some of hopper: Games, Life and Utopia.
the most prominent European and American Mihai Spariosu and R. Rawdon Wilson also
thinkers on the issue of play and game and al- deserve mention for their exhaustive and fair
lowed Ehrmann himself a forum. Ehrmann as- treatment of the subject of play and game. In
sesses both Huizinga and Caillois, discovering Dionysus Reborn, Spariosu explores the differ-
in their treatments a certain duality that pits ence between a prerational and a rational
seriousness, usefulness and work against concept of play and game. The origin of prera-
game, leisure, and gratuitousness. The duality tional, agonistic games of power lies in pre-So-
Ehrmann perceives is reminiscent of the agon- cratic Greece and the rational games in post-
istic struggle that Nietzsche and Heidegger Socratic Greece, but their manifestations can
perceive; it is one that is endemic to Western be found in most philosophies of play and in
cultures and one that should be overcome; modern scientific discourses such as evolution
Ehrmann advocates a culture in which bound- (Spencer, Groos, Dawkins, Monod), psycho-
aries disappear between play and the worka- analysis (*Freud, Efickson, Piaget, Bateson),
day world, one in which play, reality, and biology (Thorn), and physics (Planck, Ein-
culture as terms, categories and functions stein, Schrodinger, Heisenberg, Bohm, Capek).
would be inseparable, synonymous and inter- (See also *psychoanalytic theory.) Others who
changeable. speak of the philosophy of science more gen-
Other essays in the same volumes pick up erally as game include Vaihinger, Feyerabend
similar refrains. Eugen Fink takes an existen- and Kuhn.
tial, metaphorical and ontological view of More recently, R. Rawdon Wilson has iden-
games, as centred on themselves, with no ap- tified eight categories or models of play and
parent external purpose, but also serving as a game which pertain not only to the larger
metaphor of the ways in which reality is sphere of human activities but specifically to
'played' within culture. He senses that the the production of literary texts, the plots and
same operative rules apply to game and life - activities of characters, and the use of lan-
both have players, play worlds, playthings, guage. These models include (i) educative
play atmospheres, and play communities - but play or paideia, which teaches children cultural
play confronts all realities: 'it absorbs them by perspectives, social values and patterns of re-
representing them. We play at being serious, sponsibility; (2) ideational play, in which hu-
we play truth, we play reality, we play work man beings realize their highest aspirations
and struggle, we play love and death - and we and fulfill their greatest potential; (3) psychic
even play play itself (22). Another of the play, in which the unconscious manipulates
game critics, Kostas Axelos, accepts this view the ego or conscious, assails the foundations of
that play should not be set against other more coherent rationality, and calls into question

68
Game theory

human language and textual activities predi- Beaujour, Michel, ed. In Memory of Jacques Ehrmann:
cated upon consciousness; (4) role-playing or Inside Play Outside Game. Yale French Studies 58
role-simulation games, in which each person (1979): 1-237.
lives out various fantasies or wishes - in an Caillois, Roger. Man, Play and Games. Trans. Meyer
Burash. New York: Free P, 1961.
everyday context or in a simulated environ-
Derrida, Jacques. Of Grammatology. Trans. Gayatri
ment that could include literary texts; (5) Chakravorty Spivak. Baltimore/London: Johns
games as logical primitive activities that are Hopkins UP, 1976.
governed by specific rules and that constitute - 'Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the
the basis of all complex activities, including Human Sciences.' In The Structuralist Controversy,
language; (6) games that are based upon math- ed. Macksey and Donate, 247-72.
ematical and logical procedures and that can Ehrmann, Jacques, ed. Game, Play, Literature. Yale
be mapped as 'trees/ based on analysis of French Studies 41 (1968).
choice, sequences of action, and plots; (7) - 'Homo Ludens Revisited.' Yale French Studies 41
games, such as those in fantasy, in which cer- (1968): 31-57.
Fink, Eugen. 'The Oasis of Happiness: Toward an
tain rules are laid down and observed within
Ontology of Play.' Yale French Studies 41 (1968):
the particular context of a work but are not ne- 19-30.
cessarily plausible or observable outside the - Spiel als Wcltsymbol. Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammar,
text; and (8) the games of free play in which 1960.
the parameters and rules of language, logic and Foucault, Michel. The Archaeology of Knowledge.
culture are continually called into question. For Trans. A.M. Sheridan Smith. London/New York:
Wilson the most important thinkers contribu- Routledge, 1972.
ting to this understanding are Bakhtin, Gadamer - Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays
and Derrida, though his book particularly ex- and Interviews. Ed. Donald F. Bouchard. Ithaca:
plores Bakhtin's model of transgression and Cornell UP, 1977.
Gadamer, Hans-Georg. Truth and Method. Trans.
Bernard Suits' clarification of game features.
Garrett Bardes and John Cumming. New York:
Wilson's predominant concern is to relate Seabury P, 1975.
these models and theories to the study of nar- Game and the Theories of Game / Jeu et theories des
ration. In so doing, he raises basic questions jeux. Canadian Review of Comparative Literature 12
about the ways in which literature as a game (June 1985): 177-370.
differs from other forms of game. He argues Heidegger, Martin. Nietzsche. 4 vols. Trans. Frank A.
that literature is self-contained, set apart from Capuzzi. New York: Harper and Row, 1982.
the workaday world, and consists of its own Huizinga, Johan. Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play
rhetoric of game. But, unlike other games, the Element in Culture. New York: Roy Publishers,
conventions and strategies of literature are not 1950.
Macksey, Richard, and Eugenio Donate, eds. The
enforceable and the goals not consistent.
Structuralist Controversy: The Languages of Criticism
The ideas of game and play obviously have and the Sciences of Man. Baltimore/London: Johns
a long and distinguished history; however, Hopkins UP, 1972.
only within this century have so many authors Marino, James A.G. 'An Annotated Bibliography of
written on the topic in such different ways and Play and Literature.' Canadian Review of Compara-
with such varied insights. Numerous critical tive Literature 12 (June 1985): 306-58.
analyses have been published which apply Saussure, Ferdinand de. Course in General Linguistics.
these insights to particular periods and forms New York/Toronto: McGraw Hill, 1966.
of literature, but the field remains open to new Spariosu, Mihai I. Dionysus Reborn: Play and the Aes-
players. thetic Dimension in Modern Philosophical and Scien-
tific Discourse. Ithaca/London: Cornell UP, 1989.
G O R D O N L;. S L E T H A U G
- Literature, Mimesis, and Play: Essays in Literary
Theory. Tubingen: Gunter Narr Verlag, 1982.
Primary Sources Suits, Bernard. The Grasshopper: Games, Life and Uto-
pia. Toronto/Buffalo: U of Toronto P, 1978.
Axelos, Kostas. 'Planetary Interlude.' Yale French Wilson, R. Rawdon. In Palamedes' Shadow: Explora-
Studies 41 (1968): 6-18. tions in Play, Game, and Narrative Theory. Boston:
Bakhtin, M.M. Rabelais and His World. Trans. Helene Northeastern UP, 1990.
Iswolsky. Cambridge, Mass: MIT P, 1968. Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Philosophical Investigations.
Barthes, Roland. The Pleasure of the Text. Trans. Trans. G.E.M. Anscombe. New York: Macmillan,
Richard Miller. New York: Hill and Wang, 1975. 1
953-
- S/Z. Trans. Richard Miller. New York: Hill and
Wang, 1974.

69
Genetic criticism

Genetic criticism gent) revolutions in methodology: the appeal


to psychology and more particularly to the no-
Problems of literary genesis - the story behind tion of the unconscious in the study of artistic
the story - have been of interest to academic creativity; and the application of traditional ed-
specialists for at least a century and to a wider itorial procedures to modern or near-contem-
public, writers included, for much longer. porary authors. Only recently has the first
Since 1970, no doubt in part as a reaction acquired a solid theoretical basis, particularly
against a structuralist orthodoxy that played in the work of Jean Bellemin-Noel. Long be-
down the role of both author and historical fore *Sigmund Freud, however, journals such
context in literary production, a new school of as L'Annee psychologique discussed the psycho-
genetic studies has arisen. (See also *structur- logical basis of the imagination; the translation
alism, *literature.) A recent survey (see Texte 7, and popularization of Freud's work in the
1988), while making no pretence of complete- 19205 built on a well-established tradition.
ness, lists nearly 700 items. Livingstone Lowes' Road to Xanadu (1927) was
Interest in the artistic process (as opposed to the most celebrated work in this psychological
the finished product) may be traced at least as vein; while Pierre Audiat's Biographic de
far back as the Romantic movement; more I'oeuvre litteraire (1924) anticipated many of
specifically, it may be linked to the way cer- the tenets of modern genetic studies by insist-
tain writers such as Coleridge and the Schle- ing on the need for a precise chronology of
gels envisaged their craft: a common preoccu- composition and recognizing that every act of
pation with origins (whether of languages, cul- literary creation involves both conscious deci-
tures or institutions); a tendency to think of art sions that may be recovered by posterity and
as an organic process (rather than a well-made unconscious impulses that may not. (See also
object); and a predilection for the Gesamtkun- *psychoanalytic theory.)
stwerk, a work synthesizing many genres and Despite these pioneering studies and the
often, for the Romantics, spanning an entire Freudian vogue among artists themselves in
career (such as Goethe's lifelong preoccupation the 19205, critics continued to concentrate on
with Faust, the successive versions of Holder- new readings of established texts rather than
lin's Death of Empedodes and Wordworth's on the lessons to be drawn from the history of
much-revised Prelude). Writers between 1770 these texts. Thus *Rene Wellek and Austin
and 1830 appear to have grown more aware of Warren could still argue that 'drafts, rejections,
the dynamics of their craft because of a chang- exclusions and cuts ... are not necessary to an
ing view of the role of the artist in post-Revo- understanding of the finished work' (Theory of
lutionary society. If art is seen as a kind of Literature). (See *text.)
religion - a commonplace of Romantic aesthet- The other essential precondition for any sys-
ics - it was a logical step to value both the tematic study of literary genesis - the use of
separate stages and the material traces of what traditional bibliographical methods to edit
was essentially, in Paul Benichou's terminol- modern and contemporary texts - enjoyed a
ogy, a sacred task. steadier and relatively unproblematic growth.
Yet the Romantics never developed a poetics Initially focusing on 'national' poets (for in-
of composition to stand alongside their theo- stance, the Weimer edition of Goethe, the Im-
ries of the imagination. For this, a second form primerie nationale edition of Hugo), these
of self-consciousness was required, that of the editorial projects now embrace near contem-
artist as bricoleur or conscious craftsman, poraries like Brecht and *D.H. Lawrence and
rather than divine messenger. Here Poe's cele- even entire national literatures (such as the
brated account of the genesis of The Raven projet d'editions critiques in Quebec under the
(1846) deserves pride of place in emphasizing general editorship of J.-L. Major). While the
the autonomous, generative power of poetic principal aim is to produce a 'definitive' text,
forms. the tendency has been towards historical-
Modern literary genetics, as practised by critical editions providing the reader with a
20th-century editors and critics, began life complete text-history.
around the turn of the century and owes its Vigorously pursued in all major European
existence to two parallel (but rarely conver- literatures during the first half of the 20th cen-
tury, the genetic studies derived from psycho-

70
Genetic criticism
logical criticism and textual editing have taken trary to the idea of a singular, fixed text. (See
many forms, ranging from detailed examina- also *performance criticism.)
tions of evolving style to more general discus- (3) Finality: the genetic study of literature
sions of authorial revision, the most typical has been overwhelmingly end-related. The te-
approach being, perhaps, the 'biography' of los may change from author to author or genre
specific works. Yet despite their scope and so- to genre but the basic assumption - that one
phistication, they have been pursued for the textual state is interesting only in as far as it
most part in a theoretical limbo, an area contrasts with, leads up to, or deviates from
whose precise methological frontiers have yet another - has remained constant, at least until
to be drawn and which - at least in Anglo- the mid-igyos. Only gradually is it being rec-
American circles - is still without a name. La ognized that the dynamics of textual growth
critique genetique has been current in France may be interesting in itself, that preliminary
since the early 19705 and the cognate German, sketches may follow poetic laws of their own.
Italian and Spanish equivalents appear to be (4) Authorial intention: every form of artistic
equally well established. As confusion with composition occurs over a period of time and
scientific usage, or with the genetic structural- involves a multiplicity of choices. For tradi-
ism of *Lucien Goldmann, is unlikely, the ad- tional scholars, these choices are the result of
aptation of the English equivalent appears long individual acts of will; authors are seen as free
overdue; the more so in that a clear distinction agents; and studies of literary genesis have
can now be drawn between textual criticism, tended to rely heavily on biography, a bias
the purpose of which is to produce an authori- which has brought scathing criticism from
tative text, and genetic criticism, which uses many quarters over the last two decades, par-
preparatory material, variant textual states or ticularly in France - with Gustave Lanson as
any other evidence of the compositional pro- the principal scapegoat. (See *intention/inten-
cess for purposes of interpretation and evalua- tionality.)
tion. Traditional textual scholarship has been These ideological battles of the late 19605
based on the twin premises of faulty transmis- seem to have been inspired by a fundamental
sion and inadequate data. The modern literary confusion about what textual scholars actually
geneticist's characteristic dilemma, however, is do, but their effect was to produce a new gen-
too much rather than too little textual evi- eration familiar with contemporary literary
dence. Modern genetic scholars are usually theory, who brought to the study of textual
more concerned with well-authenticated au- evolution concepts borrowed from other areas
thorial changes than with anonymous textual such as linguistics, *semiotics, Marxism, psy-
deterioration; and in recent years, some of choanalysis, and feminism. (See also *Marxist
them have begun to cast serious doubts on the criticism, *feminist criticism.) Much of the re-
critical assumptions of their bibliographically cent work in the field takes as its starting-
trained predecessors, particularly with regard point a new ontology of literary production.
to the following questions. Authors are now seen as only a part of a
(1) Value: traditional genetic criticism as- larger communication network made up of
sumes the intrinsic critical value of preparatory printers, publishers, critics, and, above all, real
material and variant states; to know the his- as well as implied reading publics. (See *liter-
tory of a text is to be better placed to under- ary institution.) Stylistic changes, often high-
stand it. That genetically minded critics, almost lighted by genetic evidence, are studied as the
invariably specialists, have so rarely felt the result of formal constraints, generic models or
need to explain how exactly such material ena- conditions of intelligibility, rather than mere
bles us to read better, or differently, may ac- reflections of authorial will. Conscious aes-
count for their relative isolation and their thetic decisions, of the kind so lucidly de-
modest impact on critics of other persuasions. scribed in Flaubert's correspondence, Gide's
(2) Singularity: until recently scholars have diary and James' prefaces, once subjected to
clung to the idea of the literary text as a single psychoanalytical scrutiny, may be shown to
object, despite the fact that evidence before hide carefully concealed unconscious ones.
them seems to point in the opposite direction, (See *Henry James.) Above all, textual varia-
to a cluster of related texts, and that the nature tion, the very stuff of genetic studies - as it is
of certain media, such as the theatre, runs con- of so much medieval scholarship - is no

71
Genetic criticism

longer subject to a predetermined hierarchy of Texte (7): 'Ecriture - Reecriture: La Genese du texte.'
values, with the author's first or last thoughts Toronto: Les Editions Trintexte, 1988.
setting the standard by which all other read-
ings are to be judged; variation as such may Secondary Sources
simply be the expression of polysemy or se-
mantic latency. Beach, J.W. The Making of the Audcn Canon. Minne-
In the light of these and other trends - such apolis: U of Minnesota P, 1957.
Bellemin-Noel, J. Lc Texte et I'avant-tcxte: Les Brouil-
as the use of computers to sort out large (and
lons d'un poemc de Milosz. Paris: Larousse, 1972.
formerly unmanageable) quantities of textual Benichou, P. Lc Sacrc de I'ccrivain 1750-1^30. Paris:
data - text-history and text-theory, far from Corti, 1973.
being in opposition, seem to have entered a Cerquiglini, B. Elogc de la variante: Histoire critique
period of fruitful collaboration. Moreover, as de la philologie. Paris: SeuiL 1989.
currently practised, genetic studies tend to Dimoff, P. La Genese de 'Lorenzaccio/ Paris: Droz,
confirm what writers and literary sociologists 1936.
have suggested in other contexts: that books, Flaubert, G. 'Un Cocur simple': En appcndice, edition
in one sense, write themselves; and that, in diplomatique et genetique des manuscrits. Ed. G.
Bonaccorso et al. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1983.
another, they are produced by the society that
Gardner, H. The Composition of 'Four Quartets.' Lon-
enjoys them.
don: Faber and Faber, 1978.
GRAHAM FALCONER
Hugo, V. L'Ane. Ed. P. Albouy. Paris: Flammarion,
1966.
Primary Sources Joyce, lames. 'Ulysses': A Critical and Synoptic Edi-
tion. Ed. H.W. Gabler et al. 3 vols. New York:
Audiat, P. La Biographic de I'oeuvre litteraire: Esquisse Garland, 1984.
d'une methode critique. Paris: Champion, 1924. Lanson, G. Etudes d'histoire litteraire reunies. Paris:
Biasi, P.-M. de. 'Vers une science de la litterature: Champion, 1929.
L'Analyse des manuscrits et la genese de Lowes, J. Livingstone. The Road to Xanadu: A Study
I'oeuvre.' In Encyclopedia universalis: Symposium. in the Ways of the Imagination. Boston: Houghton
Paris: Encyclopedia universalis, 1985, 466-76. Mifflin, 1927.
Cahiers de textologie. Paris: Minard, 1985-. Major, Jean-Louis. Projet d'cditions critiques. 19 vols.
Editio: International yearbook of scholarly editing. Tu- Montreal: P de 1'Universite de Montreal. Biblio-
bingen: Niemeyer, 1987-. theque du nouveau monde, 1986-.
Espagne, M. 'Les Enjeux de la genese.' Etudes fran- McGann, J.J. Textual Criticism and Literary Interpreta-
qaises 20.2 (1984): 103-22. tion. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1985.
Essais de critique genetique. Ed. L. Hay. Paris: Flam- - Social Values and Poetic Acts. Cambridge, Mass.:
marion, 1979. Harvard UP, 1988.
Falconer, G. 'Oii en sont les etudes genetiques?' McKenzie, D.F. Bibliography and the Sociology of
Texte 7 (1988): 267-86. Texts. The Panizzi Lectures. London: The British
- and D.S. Sanderson. 'Bibliographic des etudes Library, 1985.
genetiques litteraires.' Texte 7 (1988): 287-325. Nadal, O. 'La Jeune parque': Manuscrit autographe.
Langages no. 69. Ed. A. Gresillon and J.-L Lebrave. Texte de I'edition de 1942. Etats successifs et brouil-
'Manuscrits-ecriture: Production linguistique.' lons inedits du poemc. Paris: Club du meilleur
1983. livre, 1984.
Leqons d'ecriture: Ce que disent les manuscrits. Ed. A. Parker, H. Flawed Texts and Verbal Icons. Evanston:
Gresillon and M. Werner. Paris: Minard, 1985. Northwestern UP, 1984.
Madden, D., and R. Powers. Writers' Revisions: An Pommier, J. Creations en litterature. Paris: Hachette,
Annotated Bibliography of Articles and Books about 1
955-
Writers' Revisions and Their Comments on the Crea- Ponge, F. La Fabriquc du prc. Geneva: Skira, 1971.
tive Process. Metuchen, NJ, and London: Scarecrow Ricatte, R. La Creation romancsque chez les Goncourt.
P, 1981. Paris: A. Colin, 1953.
Martens, G., and H. Zeller, eds. Texte und Variantcn: Rudler, G. Les Techniques de la critique et de I'histoire
Problems ihrer Edition und Interpretation. Munich: litteraires en litterature franc^aise moderne. Oxford:
C.H. Beck, 1971. Oxford UP, 1923.
Tadie, J.-Y. 'La Critique genetique.' In La critique lit- Stallworthy, J. Between the Lines: Yeats' Poetry in the
teraire au XXeme siecle. Paris: Belfond, 1987, Making. Oxford: Clarendon P, 1963.
275-93-
Text: Transactions of the Society for Textual Scholar-
ship. New York: AMS Press, 1984-.

72
Geneva School

Geneva School *text is more importantly organized by struc-


tures of consciousness. Authors project a series
The Geneva School of literary criticism links a of imaginative worlds in order to comprehend
group of 20th-century critics who have varying their existential identity; readers adopt a text's
ties to Geneva. Despite their different em- mental universe in order to understand a hu-
phases, these critics share a general distaste for man experience other than their own. A com-
formalist or 'objective' methods and prefer a mon analytic method is to extrapolate and
phenomenological approach that aims to re- correlate words showing perceptions of space
constitute an author's world-view from literary and time, the two broad categories of physical
language. (See *phenomenological criticism, experience. Recurrent patterns of space-time
*New Criticism.) Geneva critics pursue a her- experience are examined throughout an au-
meneutic strategy that awaits an interpretive thor's work and also delineated as broader
'signal' from the work; they seek an empa- models in literary history. A basic metaphor is
thetic identification with the individual human that of an inner space, an initial void from
experience or cogito as it is disclosed through which consciousness emerges to plot the char-
words embodying structures of consciousness. acteristic architecture of its experience. While
(See *hermeneutics.) Marcel Raymond and Al- Geneva critics reject aesthetic evaluation or
bert Beguin, the earliest Geneva School fig- any judgment from external criteria, in practice
ures, and Raymond's students *jean Starobinski they prefer works demonstrating an existential
and *Jean Rousset have all taught at the Uni- authenticity in which patterns of consciousness
versity of Geneva. *Georges Poulet, born in are accepted, explored in all their contradic-
Belgium, was the first to offer a complete tions, and given a coherent resolution.
methodology representing the Geneva ap-
proach; Poulet was directly influenced by Ray- Early figures
mond and later taught in Zurich, Switzerland,
for many years. Jean-Pierre Richard, a French- Although his work does not claim to present a
man, and *J. Hillis Miller, an American, both philosophical method, Raymond was clearly
recognize Poulet's influence on their work, al- influenced by phenomenological thought while
though Miller has since rejected Geneva criti- teaching at the University of Leipzig. Lectures
cism in favour of *deconstruction. Work by by colleague Hans Driesch taught him that
Rousset, Richard and Starobinski moves be- 'consciousness always has an object' and that
yond the focus on an individual author to in- poetic experience could be considered a means
clude contexts in art history, psychoanalysis, of knowledge separate from rationality. Al-
intellectual history, and linguistics. ready sympathetic to an anticlassical literary
tradition represented by Renaissance and ba-
Origins roque *literature, Raymond returned to France
to prepare a book on modern French poetry
This Geneva School is often called the 'sec- that would examine the anticlassical 'genius'
ond' Geneva School in contrast to an earlier as a visionary search for reality through exper-
Geneva School of linguistic theory associated iments with poetic form - his influential De
with *Ferdinand de Saussure, Charles Bally, Baudelaire au surrealisme [From Baudelaire to
and Albert Sechehaye. The later Geneva critics Surrealism 1933; trans. 1950], the first of the
(especially Starobinski) have commented on Geneva School studies. Beguin's work was
Saussure's work but there is no real connec- more directly influenced by German literature,
tion between the two schools. The relevant and his best-known book, L'Ame romantique et
context for the 'second' Geneva School is to be le reve [The Romantic Soul and Its Dream 1937]
found in phenomenological theory (see *Ed- is a comparative study of German Romantic
mund Husserl and *Gaston Bachelard), in the and igth/aoth century French poetry. Anal-
Romantic literary tradition, in the thematic yses by Raymond and Beguin seize on pas-
intellectual history of A.O. Lovejoy, and in sages that express a precritical or preconscious
Henri Bergson's analyses of perception of time. moment of awareness, that reveal a profound
The second Geneva School rejects 'objective' and undifferentiated experience which has yet
views of a work and believes that the literary to be structured at a conscious level. Raymond
later developed his view of an antirational, an-

73
Geneva School
ticlassical tradition pervading French literary historical model. Essays on various writers are
history in his studies of baroque and Renais- not chronological accounts of a life and work
sance poetics, of Romantic and mystical au- or critical analyses of a series of texts but ef-
thors, and of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, about forts to imagine the author's spiritual identity,
whom he has written extensively. Beguin, al- grasping the experience of the cogito as it pro-
ways interested in an author's unifying or jects various inner worlds to explore the sense
mythic vision, turned exclusively to religious of self. Everything an author has written offers
themes after Balzac visionnaire [Balzac the Vi- evidence of an individual mental universe. Lit-
sionary 1946] and to Catholic poets and novel- erary language is the richest source of informa-
ists. tion about the cogito, however, because it
constitutes the most thoroughly worked-out
Major theoretician network of phenomenological themes. There is
always a generating core inside this mental
Georges Poulet retains some of the historical universe, a foyer or starting-point (both terms
framework of Raymond and Beguin to which borrowed from Charles Du Bos 1882-1939)
he has given more systematic development. that governs individual patterns of conscious-
The main figure in the modern Geneva ness. Readers must try to identify with the
School, Poulet is also the first to offer analyti- cogito by an act of sympathetic imagination;
cal coordinates for the representation of hu- they must place themselves in the mental
man experience in literature: the Kantian space or interior distance of the world of the
categories of space and time through which text. Poulet's criticism has also been called a
human beings perceive their existence in the critique ^identification [criticism of identifica-
world. He examines an author's complete tion].
work for examples of the way time and space Works after the first two Studies build upon
are presented, accumulating and citing evi- the notion of space and time as broad exper-
dence out of context in a way that has out- iential patterns (Les Metamorphoses du cercle,
raged stylistic critics but follows logically from The Metamorphoses of the Circle 1961 [trans.
his idea of literature as a mode of existence 1966]; Le Point de depart, The Starting Point
given shape in words. He is not interested in 1964), or as individualized models for different
the text as an aesthetic construct, or in the authors (L'Espace proustien, Proustian Space
symbolism of individual images. For him, liter- 1963; La Poesie eclatee, Exploding Poetry [Bau-
ary history is a history of the human con- delaire and Rimbaud], 1980). Critics too have
sciousness and the most basic literary criticism discernible patterns of experience (La Cons-
is a critique de la conscience [criticism of con- cience critique, The Critical Consciousness 1971).
sciousness]. As a historian, Poulet structures With Le Point de depart, Poulet briefly de-
his Etudes sur le temps humain [Studies in Hu- scribed the criticism of consciousness as a *ge-
man Time 1949-68] very similarly to Lovejoy's netic criticism: not in the New Critical sense of
The Great Chain of Being (1936), which de- 'genetic' as a positivist belief in traceable
scribed broad cultural shifts in metaphysical causes, but as an attempt to show how the lit-
perception and value from the Greeks to Ro- erary work is generated by and constituted of
manticism. The introduction to Poulet's first dispersed and fragmented moments of con-
book describes, century by century, changes in sciousness. In his most recent work, La Pensee
the perception of time and divinity from the indeterminee [Indeterminate Thought 1985-],
Middle Ages to the present. The second vol- Poulet returns to a broad historical framework
ume in the series, La Distance interieure [The while following the notion of 'indeterminate
Interior Distance 1952; trans. 1959] emphasizes thought,' an intuitive mode of perception that
analogous changes in conceptions of space. he pursues as a general category over and
These space/time analyses offer more than above the study of individual writers. This
statistical observations. They are keys to con- latest enterprise no longer privileges literary
cepts of being: to ideas of creation and conti- works and replaces the extended study of indi-
nuity, of identity and difference, and to the vidual authors with an openly metaphysical
human being's consciousness of existing in the inquiry that is illustrated by a series of brief
world. excerpts from a range of philosophers and reli-
Similarly, Poulet's analysis of individual au- gious writers.
thors is different from the traditional literary-

74
Geneva School
Later figures 'Ulysses theme'), but what he calls 'internal'
themes, categories of experience seen as forms
After Poulet, the chief European practitioners of phenomenological perception. In earlier
of the Geneva approach are jean-Pierre Rich- studies, such themes organize an author's per-
ard, Jean Rousset and ]ean Starobinski, each of sonal struggle to resolve conflicting impulses
whom develops a separate area of inquiry. and achieve full existential authenticity by
Closest in many ways to Poulet's analyses testing out different manners of being. The
of space and time are Jean-Pierre Richard's two books on Mallarme suggest a Freudian
studies of interior landscapes. Where Poulet interpretation of many themes, and subsequent
emphasizes the imagining subject, however, essays examine word sounds and clusters of
Richard concentrates on the materiality imag- phonemes for their subconscious associations.
ined by that subject. Like the philosopher Gas- (See *Sigmund Freud.) After 1979, Richard
ton Bachelard, who examines the symbolic life prefers to work on a smaller 'myopic' scale
of 'intuitive' images like earth, air, water, and that starts from individual texts to capture the
fire, and later develops a poetics of space and 'grain' of a complex libidinal landscape. Here
of reverie, Richard analyses the symbolic rela- the thematic organization moves from details -
tionships created by objects as they appear motifs, images, scenes, individual words - to
and change inside a work's mental landscape. larger formal patterns and horizons of desire
The way objects are presented in an author's that participate in a continuous play of psycho-
work defines a specific way of perceiving the existential meaning. (See *theme.)
world, a 'sensuous logic' that structures the re- Jean Rousset is more specifically concerned
lationship between self and not-self at a pre- with style than are other members of the Ge-
conscious level. neva School, although he too focuses on its
Object and landscapes in the text therefore existential impact and not on aesthetic evalua-
symbolize larger attitudes towards reality and tion. Rousset is particularly known for his
demonstrate a manner of being. The essays of studies of the baroque imagination both as a
Literature et sensation [Literature and Feeling period concept (La Litterature de I'age baroque
1954 with a preface by Poulet] and Poesie et en France, The Literature of the Baroque Age in
profondeur [Poetry and Profundity 1955] show France 1953) and as a poetic and theatrical tra-
how the material and metaphysical worlds of dition juxtaposing appearance and reality (L'ln-
19th-century novelists and poets are coordi- terieur et I'exterieur, Interior and Exterior 1968).
nated by various themes such as the prolifera- A key term is foyer, a focus or generating core
tion of vegetal life, a sense of accessible or that unites a cluster of related experiences:
blocked-off space, the presence of precisely water is such a focal image for the baroque
defined objects or of vague outlines, and cate- age because it represents both physical and
gories of solidity or dispersion that juxtapose metaphysical instability, reflection and meta-
images of vapour, coagulation or stone. The morphosis. Rousset characteristically starts
notion of a significant interior landscape occurs with a specific literary form: epistolary novels
throughout Richard's work, both in book- or Claudelian dramatic structure (Forme et si-
length studies like L'Univers intaginaire de Mal- gnification, Form and Meaning 1962), variations
larrne [Mallarme's Imaginary Universe 1961], in the first-person narrative (Narcisse roman-
Paysage de Chateaubriand [Chateaubriand's cier, Narcissus as Novelist 1973), a sequence of
Landscape 1967], and Proust et le monde sensi- scenes describing falling in love which ulti-
ble [Proust and the Perceptual World 1974] and mately become a model of the reader's en-
in collections of essays from Onze Etudes sur la counter with a text (Les Yeux se rencontrerent,
poesie moderne [Eleven Studies on Modern Po- Their Eyes Met 1981). In each case, form be-
etry 1964] through Pages paysages: Microlec- comes an agent of existential change. Writers
tures H [Pages Landscapes: Microreadings II do not merely express the variations of an un-
1984]. derlying subjectivity in their works, but ac-
Richard's criticism has sometimes been tually create their moi profond or core identity
called a thematic criticism, inasmuch as it or- through the process of writing. Readers are en-
ganizes the literary representation of reality gaged in a narrative situation that confirms or
around themes and subthemes. These are not challenges their visualization of the world.
the formal themes of traditional objective criti- While Rousset echoes Raymond and Poulet in
cism (for instance, the 'theme of love' or the the use of a literary-historical framework, he

75
Geneva School
alone in the Geneva School draws such close to portray a gradual liberation of cultural and
connections between literary style and its im- intellectual vision around the time of the
pact on the individual imagination. French Revolution. An account of medical dis-
Jean Starobinski is the polymath of the Ge- course in the Renaissance supports his analysis
neva School. Trained in medicine as well as in of Montaigne's discovery of bodily (as opposed
literature, he draws on art, literature, music, to rational) knowledge (Montaigne en mouve-
history, linguistics, and medical discourse to rncnt, Montaigne in Motion 1982). Cultural his-
describe the processes of the creative imagina- tory is not the end of Starobinski's criticism,
tion. The governing metaphor of his criticism however, for like other Geneva School think-
is that of vision, of a regard [look, gaze] that ers he gives primary importance to the human
never gains access to its object but instead es- subject interpreting a complex field of external
tablishes an intentional relationship between and internal relationships.
subject and object or between one subject and J. Hillis Miller stands in a different relation-
another. Montesquieu's rationalizing view of ship to the Geneva tradition. An American
things is an attempt to control reality (Montes- scholar coming out of New Criticism, he met
quieu par lui-meme, Montesquieu on Himself Poulet and was influenced by him when the
1967); Rousseau looks in vain for a human latter taught at Johns Hopkins. For over a dec-
'transparency' and tries to establish a viable ade, Miller described how an author's work
self-identity between the opposite poles of displays a unique way of experiencing the
seeming and being (Jean-Jacques Rousseau, la world and how writers seek a 'true and viable
transparence et {'obstacle; Jean-Jacques Rousseau, identity' by exploring different imaginative
Transparency and Obstruction 1957). Linked to universes. When examining the stages of Dick-
this duality of seeming and being is the alien- ens' world-view (Charles Dickens, The World of
ating condition of melancholia, whose history His Novels 1958) or showing how reality is
is written by Starobinski as physician (Histoire formulated differently by igth- and 20th-cen-
du traitement de la melancolie, History and tury American poets (The Disappearance of God
Treatment of Melancholy 1960), while as liter- 1963; Poets of Reality 1965), Miller made use
ary critic he analyses the masks and disguises of different Geneva themes: the work's foyer or
of art (Portrait de I'artiste en saltimbanque, generating core, the author's quest for personal
Portrait of the Artist as Acrobat 1970). Similar coherence or authenticity, the metaphysical
themes of alienation and expression occur in opposition of alienation and harmony, and the
L'Oeil vivant [The Living Eye 1961], La Relation framework of history of consciousness. Retain-
critique [The Critical Relationship 1970] and Les ing a New Critical interest in the workings of
Mots sous les mots: Les anagrammes de Ferdi- literary language, he continued to discuss indi-
nand de Saussure [Words upon Words: The Ana- vidual works and internal stylistic patterns.
grams of Ferdinand de Saussure 1971]. Language After The Form of Victorian Fiction (1968) and
here is not a means of naming but rather part Thomas Hardy, Distance and Desire (1970),
of a sign system displaying codes of human Miller abandoned the Geneva attempt to re-
perception; only literary language has any construct totalizing models of individual con-
claim to authenticity, because it directly ex- sciousness and moved towards deconstruction
presses human experience (understood as a as a language-oriented criticism emphasizing
structure of intentional relations). (See *sign, literature's 'heterogeneity.' Again, there is a
*code.) some continuity with his earlier work. Study-
Unlike other members of the Geneva ing seven English novels in Fiction and Repeti-
School, Starobinski makes frequent use of tion (1982), he focuses on the generating
broad interdisciplinary frameworks and pays power of repetition and difference as two
considerable attention to historical evidence. In modes of conceiving the world inside an oppo-
La Relation critique he describes, after Schleier- sitional history of Western ideas about repeti-
macher, a hermeneutical circle of understand- tion. Where Geneva criticism valued existential
ing that correlates history, language and authenticity, he seeks in The Ethics of Reading
subjective experience. (See *hermeneutic cir- (1987) to identify an ethical moment of writ-
cle.) In LTnvention de la liberte [The Invention ing, reading, and criticism, and recommends
of Liberty 1964] and 1750; Les Emblernes de la 'good reading' as a cultural necessity which -
raison [1789: The Emblems of Reason 1973] his since it focuses on the 'grain of language' - is
analysis draws on visual arts and social history

76
Geneva School
best executed through rhetorical or deconstruc- criticism in that both explore the phenomenol-
tionist theory. (See ""rhetorical criticism.) ogy of reading, but the former differs by em-
phasizing the text's formal structures as the
Influence source of reader response. (See *Wolfgang Iser,
""Constance School of Reception Aesthetics,
The Geneva School has broad recognition and *genre criticism.)
influence but has not produced a generation of Geneva critics also avoid analytic models
followers - appropriately enough, since this that de-emphasize individual human con-
'school' has no central doctrine or manifesto sciousness. Their emphasis on the search for
and its members pursue different lines of in- existential coherence allies them with human-
quiry. Geneva books and essays are widely istic tradition and sets them off from structur-
translated as individual studies and not as ap- alist or poststructuralist approaches that
plications of a single approach. Even the most employ a transindividual or decentred model.
distinctive Geneva School activity - tracing a (See ""structuralism, *poststructuralism.) While
single consciousness throughout an author's Geneva critics and structuralists both use the-
entire work - is no longer common practice matic categories, in structuralism these cate-
among its members. In the U.S.A, the most di- gories derive meaning from the human sciences.
rect influence of the European school appears (See *Claude Levi-Strauss.) Poststructuralist or
in J. Hillis Miller's early work. Other phenom- deconstructionist theories also reject the Ge-
enological analyses derive from a general tra- neva reliance on unified models of selfhood,
dition for which the Geneva School has given and investigate instead the way patterns of ex-
the most specific literary application. Citing perience become visible in the decentred sys-
Miller, Poulet, and Bachelard, Paul Brodtkorb tems of language. Finally, historically oriented
examines the way the interwoven conscious- theories such as Marxism, *New Historicism,
ness of materiality and time creates a world of reception theory or the various forms of cul-
meaning in Islunael's White World: A Phenome- tural criticism would accuse Geneva criticism
nological Reading of Moby Dick (1965). David of minimizing the effect of economic, political,
Halliburton alludes to the combined influence and gender-related forces in constituting the
of Poulet, Bachelard, *Auerbach, and others in phenomenological ego. (See *Marxist criticism,
presenting Edgar Allan Poe: A Phenomenological ""materialist criticism, ""cultural materialism.)
View (1973), and Jean Mudge cites Miller, Geneva criticism marks the first consistent
Bachelard and Gerard Manley Hopkins as attempt to derive formal analytic categories for
sources for the inscape described in Emily the representation of experience in literature.
Dickinson and the linage of Home (1973). The Ranging from the subjective focus of the cogito
current impact of Geneva criticism also over- to complex fields of relationship in art, music,
laps with other approaches: with the related literature, and history, Geneva critics propose
hermeneutic approach ot ""reader-response crit- diverse models of consciousness as ways to
icism, or with forms of psychoanalytic criticism grasp the perceptual world projected by liter-
that emphasize reciprocal 'readings' inside a ary texts. The fact that they do not rely on
transference-conntertransference relationship. aesthetic principles opens the way for anti-
(See ""psychoanalytic theory.) canonical applications in spite of their own
emphasis on canonical works of the Western
Relations and implications tradition. (See ""canon.) From the point of view
of objective or aesthetic criticism, however,
Geneva critics are opposed to any form of 'ob- they err by disregarding the formal structure of
jective' reading, since they examine structures individual works in order to shape patterns of
of subjectivity. Unlike New Critics, they lift authorial consciousness. Indeed, Geneva criti-
passages out of context and frequently from cism does not recognize texts as autonomous
different books in order to reconstruct the pic- linguistic systems to be studied apart from a
ture of an underlying phenomenological ego. projected phenomenological ego. Later work
They are not interested in intrinsic aesthetic by Geneva School members does expand their
criticism or in the formal history of genres. inquiry to include other modes of criticism.
Reader-response criticism is similar to Geneva Unchanging, however, is an attachment to the
analysis of patterns of consciousness and to

77
Geneva School
the concept of literature as an intersubjective Raymond, Marcel. De Baudelaire au surrealisme.
experience fully realized only in the act of 1933. From Baudelaire to Surrealism. Trans. G.M.
reading. New York: Wittenborn, Schultz, 1950.
SARAH LAWALL - Jean-Jacques Rousseau: La Quete de soi et la reverie.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Reverie and the Search for
the Self. Paris: Corti, 1962.
Primary Sources Richard, Jean-Pierre. Litterature et sensation. Litera-
ture and Feeling. Paris: Seuil, 1954.
Beguin, Albert. L'Ame romantique et le reve. The Ro- - Microlectures l-H. Microreadings l-ll. Paris: Seuil,
mantic Soul and the Dream. Marseille: Cahiers du 1979-84.
Sud, 1937. - Onze etudes sur la poesie moderne. Eleven Studies on
- Balzac lu et relu. Balzac Read and Reread. Paris: Modern Poetry. Paris: Seuil, 1964.
Seuil, 1965. - Paysage de Chateaubriand. Paris: Seuil, 1967.
- Balzac visionnaire. Balzac the Visionary. Geneva: - Poesie et profondeur. Poetry and Profundity. Paris:
Skira, 1946. Seuil, 1955.
- Poesie de la presence. Poetry of Presence. Neuchatel: - Proust et le monde sensible. Proust and the Percep-
Cahiers du Rhone, 1957. tual World. Paris: Seuil, 1974.
Brodtkorb, Paul. Ismael's White World: A Phenomena- - L'Univers imaginaire de Mallarme. Mallarme's Ima-
logical Reading of 'Moby Dick'. New Haven: Yale ginary Universe. Paris: Seuil, 1961.
UP, 1965. - 'Verlaine's Faded Quality.' 'Fadeur de Verlaine.'
Halliburton, David. Edgar Allan Poe: A Phenomena- Trans. Sarah Lawall. Denver Quarterly 15.3 (Fall
logical View. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1973. 1980): 27-43.
Miller, J. Hillis. Charles Dickens, The World of His Rousset, Jean. Forme et signification. Form and Mean-
Novels. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1958. ing. Paris: Corti, 1962.
- Ethics of Reading. New York: Columbia UP, 1987. - LTnterieur et I'extcrieur. Paris: Corti, 1968.
- The Form of Victorian Fiction. Cambridge: Harvard - La Litterature de I'age baroque en France. The Litera-
UP, 1968. ture of the Baroque Age in France. Paris: Corti,
- Fiction and Repetition. Cambridge: Harvard UP,
1953-
1982. - Narcisse romancier. Paris: Corti, 1973.
- Poets of Reality. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1965. - Les Yeux se rencontrerent. Their Eyes Met. Paris:
- Thomas Hardy, Distance and Desire. Cambridge: Corti, 1981.
Harvard UP, 1970. Starobinski, Jean. 1789: Les Emblemes de la raison.
- The Disappearance of God. Cambridge: Harvard 1789: The Emblems of Reason. Paris: Flammarion,
UP, 1963.
1973-
Mudge, Jean. Emily Dickinson and the Image of Home. - Histoire du traitment de la melancolie des origines a
Amherst: U of Massachussetts P, 1975. 1900. Basle: Geigy, 1960.
Poulet, Georges. Etudes sur le temps human I-IV. - LTnvention de la liberte, 1700-1789. 1964. The In-
Studies in Human Time. 1949-68. Vols. i-m, Paris: vention of Liberty, 1700-1789. Trans. Bernard C.
Plon; vol. iv, Paris: Gallimard. Vol. i: Studies in Swift. Geneva: Skira, 1964.
Human Time. Trans. Elliott Coleman. Baltimore: - Jean-Jacques Rousseau, la transparence et I'obstacle.
Johns Hopkins UP, 1956. Vol. n: The Interior Dis- 1957; enl. ed. 1971. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Trans-
tance. Trans. Elliott Coleman. Baltimore: Johns parency and Obstruction. Trans. Arthur Goldham-
Hopkins UP, 1959. Vol. in: The Metamorphoses of mer. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1988.
the Circle. Trans. Carley Dawson and Elliott Cole- - Montaigne en mouvement. 1982. Montaigne in Mo-
man. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1966. tion. Trans. Arthur Goldhammer. Chicago: U of
- L'Espace proustien. 1963. Proustian Space. Trans. Chicago P, 1985.
Elliott Coleman. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, - Montesquieu par lui-meme. Paris: Seuil, 1967.
1977. - Les Mots sous les mots: Les Anagrammes de Ferdi-
- La Conscience critique. The Critical Consciousness. nand de Saussure. 1971. Words upon Words: The
Paris: Corti, 1971. Anagrams of Ferdinand de Saussure. Trans. Olivia
- Entre moi et rnoi: Essais critiques sur la conscience Emmet. New Haven: Yale UP, 1979.
de soi. Between Me and Myself: Critical Essays on - L'Oeil vivant. The Living Eye. Paris: Gallimard,
the Consciousness of Self. Paris: Corti, 1976. 1961.
- La Pensee indeterminee. Paris: PUF, 1985. - L'Oeil vivant II: La Relation critique. 1970. The Liv-
- 'Phenomenology of Reading.' Neiv Literary History ing Eye. Trans. Arthur Goldhammer. Cambridge:
i (Oct. 1969): 53-65. Harvard UP, 1989.
- La Poesie eclatee. 1980. Exploding Poetry, Baude- - Portrait de I'artiste en saltimbanque. Geneva: Skira,
laire/Rimbaud. Trans. Francoise Meltzer. Chicago: 1970.
U of Chicago P, 1980.
- Le Point de Depart. Paris: Plon, 1964.

78
Genre criticism
Secondary Sources genre raises fundamental questions about the
nature and status of literary texts, there are
Carrard, Philippe. ' H y b r i d Hermeneutics: The Meta- perhaps as many definitions of 'genre' as there
criticism of Jean Starobinski.' Stanford Literature are theories of ""literature. Beneath this bewil-
Review (Fall 1984): 241-63. dering variety of approaches, however, lurk a
de Man, Paul. 'The Literary Self as Origin: The
number of persistent questions. How many
Work of Georges Pouiet.' In Blindness and Insight.
genres are there and where do they come
New York: Oxford UP, 1 9 7 1 , y q - i o i .
Derrida, Jacques. 'Force and Signification.' In Writing from? Are genres to be regarded as descriptive
and Difference. Trans. Alan Bass. Chicago: U of or prescriptive categories? Are they to be
Chicago P, 1978, T,--\O. understood as timeless, universal forms pos-
Grotzer, Pierre, ed. Albert Beguin et Marcel Raymond: sessing some underlying essence or are they
Collogue de Cartigni/ sous la direction de Georges historically conditioned and subject to change?
Pouiet, Jean Rousset, jean Starobinski, Pierre Grotzer. A number of 20th-century critical schools (the
Paris: Corti, i 979. Russian formalists, structuralists, Neo-Aristote-
'Hommage a Georges Pouiet.' MNL 97.s (Dec. 1982): lians) and many individual theorists ^Bene-
v-xii.
detto Croce, *Northrop Frye, *E.D. Hirsch,
I.awall, S.N. Critics of Consciousness: The Existential
Ralph Cohen, *Tzvetan Todorov, among oth-
Structures of Literature. Cambridge: Harvard UP,
K)6«.
ers) have formulated responses to these ques-
Miller, J . H . 'The Geneva School.' In Modern French tions. (See ""Russian formalism, *structuralism,
Criticism. Lid. |.K. Simon. Chicago: U of Chicago *Neo-Aristotelian or Chicago School.)
P, 1472.
Pour un temps / jean Starobinski. Paris: Centre History of genre theory
Georges Pompidou, i t j H s . Collection Cahiers pour
un temps, dirigee par Jacques Bonnet. Genre theory has been irrevocably shaped by
Schvvar/,, Daniel R. 'The Fictional Theories of J. Hil- Aristotle. The opening sentence of his Poetics
lis Miller: H u m a n i s m , Phenomenology, and De-
announces the central aim of classical genre
construction in /'//(• Form of Victorian Fiction and
criticism: 'I propose to treat of Poetry in itself
Fiction and Repetition'. In The Humanistic Heritage:
Critical Theories of the hnglish Novel from James to and of its various kinds, noting the essential
Hillis Miller. Fd. Daniel K. Schwartz. Philadelphia: quality of each.' In the third book of Plato's
U of P e n n s y l v a n i a P, u)H6, 222-66. Republic Socrates had proposed a rudimentary
taxonomy of three literary forms, based on the
poet's manner of presentation: either a pure
imitation of speech or dialogue (tragedy, com-
Genre criticism edy) or the recital of the poet's own words (di-
thyrambic poetry or choric hymn) or a mixture
'Genre/ one of the most ancient theoretical of the two (epic, in which narrative alternates
concepts in the history of criticism, derives with dramatic presentation). Accepting Plato's
from the Latin genus, meaning 'kind' or 'sort.' basic generic divisions, Aristotle introduces a
As this etymology implies, genre criticism has more sophisticated method for discriminat-
traditionally concerned itself with ( i ) the clas- ing among the three kinds, namely, by dis-
sification and description of literary texts and tinguishing in each instance 'the medium,
(2) the evolution or development of literary the objects, [and] the manner or mode of pre-
forms. (See *text.) In modern genre theory sentation.'
these two concerns have often been supple- Each of these has inspired its own distinct
mented or supplanted by other issues such as approach to the question of literary kinds, but
the question of a text's 'literariness' or the role the last criterion, that of 'manner' of imitation
of genre in framing the author's choices and (impersonal narration, dramatic presentation or
the reader's responses. direct speech), has produced the most endur-
Despite its long and impressive historical pe- ing of generic systems: the familiar triad of
digree, the theory of genres is anything but a epic, drama and lyric. German writers and
settled branch of criticism. The multiplicity of theorists from Hegel, Schiller and Goethe
names t h a t 'genre' has assumed in English - onwards have been especially influenced by
kind, species, type, mode, form - attests to the these generic archetypes: Goethe declares
Babel-like confusion surrounding this critical them the three 'natural forms of poetry.' Many
*discourse. Indeed, because the concept of modern theorists, however, regard these large,

79
Genre criticism
amorphous categories as 'modes' or, as Frye Alexander Pope's witty justification of deco-
puts it, 'radicals of presentation,' rather than rum in An Essay on Criticism (1711) highlights
specific genres. Unlike more narrowly defined some key differences between neoclassical and
genres, these 'modes' are common to all West- modern genre theory. Pope's comparison of
ern and many other literatures. Much disagree- literary styles and genres to fashions of cloth-
ment remains about the definition of modes ing implies a link between generic and social
and their relation to genres. hierarchies and underscores the extent to
Aristotle's other criteria for distinguishing which classical genre theory is 'regulative and
genres have also greatly influenced subsequent prescriptive/ based, as Roger Fowler observes,
theorists. Northrop Frye, for instance, has de- 'on fixed assumptions about psychological and
veloped an elaborate theory of fictional modes social differentiation.' Contemporary genre
from Aristotle's remarks about 'objects' of imi- theory, by contrast, avoids such overt value
tation: 'Since the objects of imitation are men judgments (about what are the best or most
in action ... it follows that we must represent prestigious genres) and aims rather to describe
men either as better than in real life, or as genres and their interrelations.
worse, or as they are.' From this Frye devises Despite these differences, the theoretical
a five-fold classification of fictional works awareness of many modern genre critics, in-
(mythic, romantic, high mimetic, low mimetic, cluding Rosalie Colie, Ralph Cohen and Alis-
ironic), based on 'the hero's power of action, tair Fowler, has been shaped profoundly by
which may be greater than ours, less, or the theory and practice of writers in earlier
roughly the same.' Perhaps the most conspicu- periods. Colie and Cohen, in particular, have
ous example of Aristotle's enduring influence shown that a great deal of experimentation
is the Chicago or Neo-Aristotelian School of with generic categories occurred, producing
critics, whose reworking and expansion of numerous mixed forms like the works of Rabe-
ideas in the Poetics is described below. But lais, Burton and Swift. Their awareness of this
equally telling is the widespread currency of flexibility has led them to a historically based
other principles laid out by Aristotle. Thus, his understanding of genre and generic change.
theory of catharsis (his claim that tragedy pro- Colie argues that a genre-system offers the
duces pity and fear in the beholder) lays the writer 'a set of interpretations, of "frames" or
basis for theories that distinguish genres ac- "fixes" on the world.' As changes occur in the
cording to their effects on the audience, and ways that societies perceive and understand
his insistence that tragedy should portray a the world around them, corresponding changes
single action offers a structural criterion for take place in the genres employed by writers:
identifying genres. literary kinds are connected with 'kinds of
Other classical writers who have contributed knowledge and experience.' Cohen argues that
significantly to the exploration of genre in- in order to explain this process of literary
clude the rhetoricians (Cicero, Quintilian), change, we must think of genres as colloca-
whose elaborate rules for different kinds of or- tions of various features that shift in relative
atory form the basis for Renaissance and i8th- importance as literary purposes alter. Cohen
century systems of genre classification, and the suggests that such a genre theory (of mixed
Roman poet Horace, whose poem Art of Poetry forms and shared generic features) can be used
reformulated and popularized Aristotelian pre- to elucidate the existence and character of post-
cepts. Though not himself an original thinker, modern literary genres. (See *postmodernism.)
Horace is important chiefly as a bridge be-
tween classical thought and the Renaissance. Foundations of contemporary genre theory
Much of the Renaissance restatement of classi-
cal genre theory is guided by Horace's urbane The real departure point for modern genre the-
pronouncements. Thus, his emphasis on order ory is the Romantic rebellion against the per-
and coherence in the work of art is echoed in ceived rigidity of traditional generic rules. With
the neoclassical doctrine of the unities (of their emphasis on individuality and their in-
time, place and action), and his idea of deco- sistence on the literary work as the expression
rum, the insistence that each genre has a sub- of the author's sensibility, Romantic writers
ject-matter, characters, language, and metre play down and sometimes even reject generic
appropriate to it becomes a central doctrine in norms as tyrannical constraints upon individ-
17th- and 18th-century criticism. ual feeling. At its most extreme this leads to

80
Genre criticism
Benedetto Croce's nominalistic rejection of any tiated on the basis of a 'purely sociological
generic categories whatsoever, with his insis- classification.' With its preference for intrinsic
tence that each work is, in a real sense, a over extrinsic literary qualities, Wellek and
genre unto itself. Warren's approach to genre is marked by the
Croce's exasperation with the concept of then-prevailing theoretical bias towards for-
genre can also be explained in part as a reac- malism, but their insistence on two equally
tion to the 19th-century penchant for deter- weighted criteria for determining genre points
ministic, pseudo-biological accounts of the the way to a more inclusive, descriptive meth-
evolution of genres, such as Ferdinand Brune- odology in genre theory.
tiere's L'Evolution des genres dans I'histoire de la The Chicago or Neo-Aristotelian critics
litterature (1890). Though Brunetiere has been represent an important response to New
ridiculed for the reductiveness of his Darwin- Criticism. They argue that the revival and ex-
ian biological analogy, his theoretical approach tension of an Aristotelian method in criticism
raises important questions about the ways in will furnish a more comprehensive theory of
which genres change: the evolutionary model literature than existing 'partial' criticisms: Aris-
has remained, in one form or another, an at- totle is said to take into consideration a wide
tractive explanation for such historical change. range of 'causes' of the work of art. Applying
Even Frye's theory of modes, which traces the Aristotelian categories to the novel, *R.S.
displacement of European fiction over the last Crane develops a set of principles for studying
15 centuries from *myth to greater and greater prose fiction: the plot of a novel is a synthesis,
realism, implies a process of historical evolu- in varying proportions, of the elements of
tion (though Frye himself regards his scheme action, character and thought, which has the
as cyclical, with the ironic mode signalling a power to affect the reader's emotions and
return to myth). opinions in certain ways. Crane's generic anal-
In various ways these antigeneric tendencies ysis attempts to show how the Aristotelian
have made themselves felt throughout the analysis of genre can be adapted to the study
present century. The New Critical emphasis on of a wide range of modern forms.
the literary text as a 'linguistic fact,' centring
the meaning of a poem on internal patterns of Formalist and structuralist approaches
imagery, *metaphor, *paradox, and *irony, to genre
tends to devalue the generic features of a text
as extrinsic to its essential literariness. (See Reliance on a synchronic rather than a dia-
*New Criticism.) Similarly, the concept of *tex- chronic approach to genre has been most
tuality introduced by deconstructive theory, marked among formalist and structuralist crit-
with its insistence on the ""indeterminacy of ics. In particular, the Russian formalists and
textual meaning (texts being endless chains of the French structuralists have each developed
signifiers), overthrows any interpretive privi- distinct, though related, views on genre. Both
lege or literary *authority that the concept of groups were influenced by the linguist *Ferdi-
genre may be said to have. (See *deconstruc- nand de Saussure, who argued that the rules
tion.) Poststructuralist theory in general, with governing language constitute a system in
its focus on 'text,' 'ecritiire,' and 'discourse/ which the function or meaning of a given lin-
leaves little room for generic classifications. guistic unit is determined by its relation to the
(See also *signified/signifier/signification.) other units in the overall system. Structuralists
But questions of genre have not disappeared extended this idea, maintaining that meaning
from view altogether. *Rene Wellek and Aus- in a literary work arises from a structure that
tin Warren (1962), for instance, suggested a permits a sequence of words or sentences to
practical solution to the perennial problem of have meaning. For them, genre is an important
determining the criteria upon which a defini- component of this structure.
tion of genre should be based. Each genre The Russian formalists, however, sought to
must be defined in terms of its 'outer form' constitute literature as a genuinely autono-
(specific metre or structure) and its 'inner form' mous science, a goal that entailed the explora-
(attitude, tone, purpose). This double scheme tion of 'literariness': those formal and linguistic
recognizes the detective novel as a genuine qualities that distinguish literary works from
genre but rejects a category like the campus or other forms of discourse. The defining charac-
university novel because the latter is differen- teristic of a text's 'literariness' is its ability to

81
Genre criticism
defamiliarize or 'make strange' our normal that he regards as axiomatic in genre studies
habits of perception and the customary lan- by critiquing the generic system proposed by
guage we use to describe the world. (See *de- Northrop Frye. Todorov marks with approval
familiarization.) Thus, the study of literature is the theoretical principles for the study of liter-
the study of those devices, forms and struc- ature enumerated by Frye - criticism is a sci-
tures through which literary texts achieve the ence whose object, literature, is a self-con-
goal of defamiliarization. A new literary text tained system - but he is critical of the var-
will therefore employ formal mechanisms to ious, overlapping schemes of classification laid
lay bare or make strange the familiar conven- out in Frye's Anatomy of Criticism (1957). Frye
tions of the genre to which it belongs (such as offers a cyclical system of archetypal forms or
the novel's continual reinvention of its formal mythoi associated with the seasons: comedy
realism). *Viktor Shklovskii's 'law of the can- (spring), romance (summer), tragedy (fall), and
onization of the junior branch' outlines an satire and irony (winter). Frye also extends the
important mechanism by which generic trans- classic generic triad of drama, lyric, and epic
formations occur: literature renews itself by with a fourth category, prose, consisting of
drawing on the strategies and devices of previ- works intended to be read (rather than per-
ously marginal or subliterary forms such as formed or sung). Other classifications traced in
ballads, farces or detective stories, and by in- Anatomy of Criticism include patterns of sym-
corporating them into existing, ossified genres bolism and imagery (apocalyptic, demonic and
as a means of revitalizing them. (See also analogical), classifications of prose fiction
*canon.) (confession, romance, anatomy, and novel),
Structuralist critics have pressed rigorously and the broad division of thematic and fic-
the view that literature, like language, has a tional types of writing. All these categories in-
'grammar' or structure which enables it to teract in complex ways to produce a dizzying
communicate and generate meaning. Central array of generic taxonomies. (See also *arche-
to this structure are the conventions of genre, typal criticism.)
for without some shared conception of what a Todorov argues that Frye's classifications are
poem or a play is, writers would be unable to logically incoherent, employing different crite-
communicate with their readers. 'A genre,' ria or categories of explanation in each case.
maintains "Jonathan Culler, 'is a conventional As a consequence, Todorov notes, Frye's ap-
function of language, a particular relation to proach cannot go beyond taxonomy, however
the world which serves as norm or expectation ingenious it may be. A proper theoretical basis
to guide the reader in his encounter with the must be found for the choice of categories on
text.' which generic distinctions are based: they
For the structuralists, genres are not systems must not be borrowed from non-literary
of classification but codes of communication. sources like philosophy or psychology. More-
(See *code, ""communication theory.) The pro- over, the structures that constitute genres can-
cess by which strange texts are naturalized or not be located on the surface of texts, at the
made to correspond to familiar modes of order level of observable images (which is where
is called vraisemblablisation or naturalization. Frye finds them); on the contrary, 'all the im-
This occurs at various levels, the most simple mediately observable elements of the literary
being the text's assimilation to a conventional, universe [are] ... the manifestation of an
'commonsense' notion of reality. Another level abstract and isolated structure, a mental con-
of vraisemblance is that of genre, 'a set of liter- struction.' Todorov's own definition of the fan-
ary norms to which texts may be related and tastic as a genre relies precisely on such an ab-
by virtue of which they become meaningful stract construct, in this instance, the mental
and coherent' (Culler, Structuralist Poetics 145). uncertainty between a naturalistic or superna-
At other levels of vraisemblance, the text may tural explanation for an unusual event. Given
draw attention to its own conventionality or the indispensability of structure and of genre's
the text may *parody and repudiate certain ge- place in that structure, Todorov has a ready
neric conventions. These strategies complicate answer for those modern sceptics who doubt
but do not foreclose the process of naturaliza- the continuing relevance of genre: an unwill-
tion by which texts are rendered intelligible ingness to recognize the existence of genres
and made to communicate. amounts to a claim that a new work bears no
Tzvetan Todorov introduces those principles relation to any existing literary work.

82
Genre criticism
Claudio Guillen's assertion that 'a genre is the work. Generic assumptions play a key role
an invitation to form' is another structuralist in establishing this 'horizon of expectations.'
formulation. Guillen sees an intimate connec- The concept of genre is built up through the
tion between theoretical 'restlessness' about reception of a succession of related texts, each
genre and poetics in a given historical period of which varies, corrects, alters, or simply re-
and the writer's capacity to create a new work. produces the existing literary and generic ex-
In particular, theories of genre assist artists by pectations of its audience. Sometimes a work
opening up possibilities tor writing - not so will break through the horizon of literary ex-
much in recommending a certain literary 'mat- pectations so completely that an audience only
ter' or 'form/ as in suggesting a principle for gradually develops for it. Jauss rejects an 'es-
matching the one to the other. Far from exert- sentialist' conception of genre: like the literary
ing a deadening, tyrannical influence, the idea work itself, a genre must be grasped histori-
of a genre is a necessary condition for artistic cally in the changing horizon of its successive
creation. manifestations. (See ""reader-response criticism,
*Constance School of Reception Aesthetics,
Hermeneutic and reader-oriented theories *essentialism.)
of genre
New directions
Hermeneuticists and reader-response critics
emphasize those problems of genre most ger- Jauss' work contributes not only to a reader-
mane to their mode of inquiry: the function of centred theory of genre but also to a re-valua-
genre as a hermeneutical frame of reference tion of the relation between genre and literary
for the reader and the role genre plays in the history. As Barbara Lewalski points out, 'Rec-
changing 'horizon of expectations' that permits ognition that generic codes change over time
a text to be apprehended differently in succes- has engaged modern genre critics with issues
sive historical periods. (See *henneneutics, of history, politics, gender, and audience ex-
*horizon of expectation.) E.D. Hirsch, an expo- pectation as well as with complex literary his-
nent of the view that literary texts have a de- torical issues of mixed genre and generic
terminate meaning, places genre at the centre transformations.' Feminist critics like *Sandra
of his theory, arguing that the author's inten- Gilbert and Susan Gubar have contended that
tion determines the essential meaning of any traditional genres are the historical product of
text. In order for this meaning to be communi- a patriarchal social order - forms devised by
cable to an audience, however, it must be a men to tell male stories about the world. (See
'type.' A type is a meaning that can be repre- *feminist criticism, *patriarchy.) Female writers
sented by more than one utterance; in a liter- have responded in various ways to the male-
ary text the type that embraces the whole devised genres they have inherited, from the
meaning of the utterance is the text's genre. self-doubt that perceives the obverse of literary
The verbal meaning or type never changes but 'paternity' to be 'female literary sterility' and
the significance of a text (what it means for us the self-denying acceptance of the lesser
today) can and does change. The former is the sphere of minor genres (journals, diaries, chil-
object of interpretation, while the latter is the dren's books), to a *subversion or deconstruc-
domain of criticism. tion of patriarchal generic norms and a
At the opposite end of the scale from questioning of the male-dominated generic tra-
Hirsch's antihistoricist insistence on the deter- dition. Similar expressions of doubt have come
minacy of literary meaning is the reader-orien- from other quarters, including writers from mi-
ted criticism of *Hans Robert Jauss, *Wolfgang nority cultures and the Third World. (See
Iser and others. Jauss argues that a literary *postcolonial theory.) By drawing attention to
text cannot be understood as a self-standing genres as historical and political constructs,
object that presents the same face to successive these voices from the 'margins' have conferred
generations of readers. The text is an event new importance on theories of genre that ex-
rather than a fact and can be realized only plore such issues as the formation of genres,
through the continuing responses of readers. generic change and transformation, and the in-
When a literary work appears, its audience terrelation of forms. (See *margin.)
brings to it a set of expectations that may be The work of *Mikhail Bakhtin has become
challenged and altered in the course of reading increasingly influential in shaping critics' re-

83
Genre criticism

sponses to these issues. His conception of these insights in a pragmatic synthesis that
genre is grounded in the view that language is provides the practical critic with a working
thoroughly 'heteroglot': language is socially in- repertoire of definitions and distinctions. Thus,
scribed with the countless and contradictory he suggests that representatives of a given
intentions and usages of every conceivable so- genre are related in the Wittgensteinian sense
cio-ideological group. Genres exist in everyday of displaying 'family resemblances/ that is,
life as well as in literature and include such 'making up a family whose septs and individ-
forms as private letters, shopping lists and ual members are related in various ways, with-
telephone calls. In fact, without minimal, out necessarily having any single feature
shared generic frameworks, communication it- shared in common by all.' (See *Ludwig Witt-
self would be impossible. genstein.) Fowler's model leaves ample room
For Bakhtin, generic features are socially for historical and cultural variations in a form
contextual constructs rather than components without abandoning the continuities that link
of an abstract, synchronic system; as such, disparate writers and texts. Similarly, he clari-
they must be understood as a mediation be- fies the often muddled terminology of genre
tween world and text and should be studied in theory, distinguishing carefully between
the performance: 'Genre is reborn and re- 'mode/ 'genre' and 'subgenre.'
newed at every new stage in the development Perhaps the greatest challenge that the con-
of literature and in every individual work of a cept of genre poses to contemporary theory is
given genre.' Bakhtin distinguishes sharply be- its refusal to disappear, its insistence on a rap-
tween poetry and prose, arguing that the lan- prochement, rather than a rupture, between
guage of poetry tends to be stratified and the old and the new in theoretical discourse.
singular, as opposed to the 'dialogic' and 'het- Though protean and endlessly variable, genre
eroglot' character of prose language, especially remains an irreducible characteristic of verbal
in the novel. Bakhtin's conception of genre un- art; as Fowler insists, literature 'cannot move
derscores his sense of literature's cultural im- away from genre altogether without ceasing to
portance and its grounding in specific social be literature.'
circumstance and ideological struggle. (See FRANS DE BRUYN
*ideology, *double-voicing/dialogism, *dial-
ogic criticism.) Primary Sources
Marxist critic *Fredric Jameson, who also
sees genre as a mediating concept, argues that Aristotle. Poetics. In Criticism: The Major Texts. Ed.
genres undergo a process of 'sedimentation' Walter Jackson Bate. New York: Harcourt, Brace,
over time. An emerging genre contains a more Jovanovich, 1952.
or less explicit ideological 'message,' which re- Bakhlin, Mikhail M. The Dialogic Imagination: Four
mains sedimented in the form when it is re- Essays. Ed. Michael Holquist. Trans. Caryl Emer-
son and Michael Holquist. Austin and London: U
vived and 'refashioned' in a different social of Texas P, 1981.
and cultural context. Consequently, literary - Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics. Trans. Caryl
texts are composed of heterogeneous and often Emerson. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1984.
contradictory generic strands and discourses. Cohen, Ralph. 'Do Postmodern Genres Exist?' Genre
Jameson argues that this model of generic 20 (1987): 241-58.

function (the inevitable layering and mixing of - Historical Knowledge and Literary Understanding.
several genres in any text) obviates the 'typol- Papers in Language and Literature 14 (1978):
ogizing abuses' of traditional genre theory. 227-48.
The diachronic emphasis of these and other Colie, Rosalie L. The Resources of Kind. Ed. Barbara
K. Lewalski. Berkeley: U of California P, 1973.
recent studies of genre offers the most promis-
Critics and Criticism. Ed. R.S. Crane. Chicago: U of
ing new perspective on traditional problems in Chicago P, 1952.
genre theory. With their respective commit- Culler, Jonathan. Structuralist Poetics: Structuralism,
ments to dialogic and dialectical methodolo- Linguistics, and the Study of Literature. Ithaca: Cor-
gies, for example, Bakhtin and Jameson have nell UP, 1975.
reoriented the focus of genre criticism - away Dubrow, Heather. Genre. London and New York:
from typologies and recurrent patterns, and to- Mt'thuen, 1982.
wards generic models conceived in terms of Fowler, Alistair. Kinds of Literature: An Introduction to
process, interaction and change. Alistair Fow- the Theory of Genres and Modes. Cambridge: Har-
ler's Kinds of Literature incorporates many of vard UP, 1982.

84
Grotesque, theories of the
Frye, Northrop. Anatomy of Criticism. Princeton: position.) Reader-response theorists note that
Princeton UP, 1957. the grotesque simultaneously attracts and
Gilbert, Sandra M., and Susan Gubar. The Mad- repels, excites laughter and terror, invites
woman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the pleasure and disgust. (See "reader-response
Nineteenth-century Literari/ Imagination. New
criticism, "Constance School of Reception Aes-
Haven and London: Yale UP, 1979.
Guillen, Claudio. Literature as Si/stem: Essays toward
thetics.) However, modern and postmodern
the Theory of Literary History. Princeton: Princeton theories divide over the psychological source,
UP, 1971'. social purpose and philosophic meaning of the
Hernadi, Paul. Beyond Genre: Neio Directions in Liter- grotesque; questions remain over whether it
ary Classification. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1972. is found only in the visual image or also in
Hirsch, E.D., Jr. Validity in Interpretation. New larger structures and fictional 'worlds.' In the
Haven and London: Yale UP, 1967. first half of the aoth century, the grotesque
Jameson, Fredric. The Political Unconscious: Narrative was finally accepted as a meaningful aesthetic
as a Socially Symbolic Act. Ithaca: Cornell UP,
category, owing to the efforts of Wolfgang
1981.
Kayser (1906-60). However, his emphasis on
Jauss, Hans Robert. Tou'ard an Aesthetic of Reception.
Trans. Timothy Bahti. Theory and History of Lit-
fearsome demonic aspects of grotesque is often
erature 2. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1982. modified in successor theories. "Mikhail Bakh-
Renaissance Genres: Essays on Theory, History, and tin, by contrast, emphasizes the comic aspect
Interpretation. Ed. Barbara K. Lewalski. Harvard and restates grotesque dualities in terms of the
English Studies 14. Cambridge: Harvard UP, carnival spirit as a positive awareness of natu-
1986. ral degeneration and regeneration, destruction
Rosmarin, Adena. The Power of Genre. Minneapolis: and renewal. Both theories have formed im-
U of Minnesota P, 1983. portant bases for a current understanding of
Theories of Literary Genre. Ed. Joseph P. Strelka.
the grotesque and have made significant con-
Yearbook of Comparative Literature 8. University
tributions to postmodern discussions of the
Park: Pennsylvania State UP, 1978.
Todorov, Tzvetan. The Fantastic: A Structural Ap-
subject. (See "postmodernism, "carnival.)
proach to a Literary Genre. Trans. Richard Howard.
Ithaca: Cornell UP, 197=;. Origins of the grotesque
- Genres in Discourse. Trans. Catherine Porter. Cam-
bridge: Cambridge UP, 1990. Although the grotesque does not enter theoret-
Wellek, Rene, and Austin Warren. Theory of Litera- ical discourse until the i8th century, the phe-
ture. 3rd ed. New York: Harcourt, Brace, and nomena are ancient. Originating in religious
World, 1962. festivals of early Western societies which cele-
brated fertility, death and resurrection, gro-
tesque images occur in fabulous hybrid
Grotesque, theories of the creatures such as monsters and the primitive
deities of Mediterranean mythologies. Both co-
The idea of the 'grotesque' provides historical medic and tragic, the dualities of pagan revels
and verbal unity to a vast range of phenom- survived in grotesque carnival-Lent games and
ena. Among these are the fantastic hybrid other festivities of medieval Christian society,
monsters of the ancient world, certain medie- during which time official order was over-
val sculpture, Raphaelite ornamentation, the turned and mocked for brief periods of holi-
works of Aretino and Rabelais, the commedia day. Burlesque rituals were performed by
dell' arte, early opera, Gothic fiction, and mod- disguised players and religious plays or mys-
ern "literature from Kafka and Joyce to Gunter teries, mingled with comic parodies, were pre-
Grass and Thomas Pynchon. Efforts to find a sented by amateur groups. In the Renaissance,
'universal' and abiding principle in the diverse while masked dancing and riotous behaviour
production of the grotesque remain inconclu- continued to mark holiday celebrations, profes-
sive. (See "universal.) Yet some theoretical sional acting groups turned festive play to
consensus has been achieved: many agree that profit, adopting carnival antics for improvised
the grotesque is dual in its external features performances of commedia dell'arte which
and in the response it evokes. It is a structure came to be known as 'grotesque-comedy.'
comprehending binary oppositions or a syn- These were licentious neoclassical parodies
thesis of contradictory ideas. (See *binary op- with clowns and buffoons and fantastic plays

85
Grotesque, theories of the
with magicians, demons and fairies. Much of The debate continued in Germany even after
the material was derived from popular com- the popular grotesque-comic theatre was
munal activities which the first social histori- banned in 1770. The first history of popular
ans identified as grotesque, grotesque culture, by the German scholar Karl
Friedrich Flogel, was a further defence of the
Early theories grotesque as a genre. Flogel examined mani-
festations of the grotesque in the low bur-
For their fantastic parodies and anticlassical lesque and farce of ancient literature and
plots, commedia plays of the iyth century, traced the dramatic form of 'grotesque-com-
called 'burlesque' or 'grotesque' by the French edy' from the fantastic masks of Aristophanes'
academicians led by Nicolas Boileau, met with Birds to the character masks of commedia
increasing disapproval from religious and state dell'arte in the i6th century and their French
institutions, abetted by neoclassical critics in and German descendants in the lyth- and
iSth-century Europe. Early aesthetic theories iSth-century theatre of improvisation. Like
were essentially polemics that placed social Bakhtin much later, he devoted a major por-
and moral values on the art forms. A rational- tion of his work to medieval grotesque festiv-
ist or neoclassical school, exemplified by Ed- ity, which he viewed as a joyous and creative
mund Burke, attempted to establish an force of the people. Although Flogel agreed
aesthetic for heroic and learned matter that with neoclassicist critics that the old French
qualified as 'sublime' or 'beautiful,' while it mystery plays were 'grotesque' because they
disregarded or rejected the popular, creative were constructed without an orderly plan, de-
grotesque. A theoretical understanding of the fied Aristotelian unities and mingled folk dev-
grotesque as a serious aesthetic category was ils with scriptural subjects, he was the first to
as yet impossible given the dominance of such memorialize the subliterary, popular festivities
neoclassical views. of the Middle Ages and Renaissance and to ar-
The grotesque of Augustan England was gue that popular culture would survive in spite
made synonymous with any inventive or 'ir- of recurrent bans. (See *Neo-Aristotelian or
regular' representation and associated with the Chicago School.) Finally, Flogel proposed as
vulgar, the ridiculous, the bizarre, and the ugly the grotesque's psychological source the popu-
from its reliance on disjunctive imagery of a lar 'tea-kettle' theory, which held that the sub-
comic-horrific nature and on chaotic scenarios literary grotesque expressed an essential need
that Violated' classical forms. Commonplace in of mankind to find comic relief from the mo-
iSth-century commedia dell'arte was what the notony of work by letting off steam through
Germans called 'grotesque-comic' opera and indulgence in the crude pleasures of carnival
drama in which a Harlequin figure almost al- festivity.
ways appeared. The populist school which op- Flogel's history, revised and republished
posed classicist views attempted to assert the throughout the igth century, set the pattern
validity of the 'grotesque-comic' using a socio- for further studies. Like Flogel, Thomas Wright
psychological viewpoint. In defence of this believed that the study of popular (grotesque)
popular genre which many countries regulated art and literature was the study of man and
and banned before the end of the i8th cen- society and he traced its history from the 'be-
tury, the German playwright Justus Moser, an ginnings' to 1800, finding ludicrous-horrific
admirer of Henry Fielding and William Ho- (ergo ugly) grotesque forms in ancient Egyp-
garth, defended the entire corpus of 'gro- tian, Greek, Roman, and later European cul-
tesque-comic' literature which was under tures. Working in the intellectual idiom of his
severe attack. Using Harlequin as his narrator, day, Wright was convinced that the production
Moser objected to the narrowness of neoclassi- of the grotesque was a 'universal' human tend-
cal categories of the comic and argued that ency, instinctive and enduring. In a special
many comic types of drama were possible, in- sense of the literary grotesque, Wright recog-
cluding burlesque, grotescjue and farce, for the nized Rabelais' extraordinary books of Panta-
ancients themselves had embraced hybrids in gruel (1532) and Gargantua (1534) as new
their literary genres as well as in their visual frontiers of achievement in the grotesque and
arts. In the grotesque, specifically, Moser acknowledged both comic and terrible aspects
stressed its comic principle as an instinctive of the genre as descending from a long line of
human necessity. (See also *genre criticism.) grotesque satire from ancient Egypt to the

86
Grotesque, theories of the
Renaissance. In France Jules Fleury (Champ- horrific in this period of grotesque had Freud-
fleury) fused concepts of distortion and exag- ian implications. Jennings defined the gro-
geration in caricature with the tensions of the tesque as a double image of fearsome
comic-horrific grotesque; historically, he cov- primordial impressions which, arising in the
ered much the same ground as Flogcl and demonic region of the artist's unconscious, are
Wright, from the antique satyr to the political disarmed of their danger by their ludicrous as-
caricatures of the French Revolution. John Ad- pect. Similarly, Thomas Cramer explained the
dington Symonds, like Schneegans afterwards, grotesque in E.T.A. Hoffman as a feeling of
saw the need to distinguish hybrid types of art anxiety over the confusion induced by ex-
from one another, but failed to see these comic tremes of the comic that is also annihilated by
genres in a serious philosophical light. the comic. Grotesque dualities in Swift, Coler-
idge and Dickens were also the essence of
Psychological dualities of grotesque Arthur Clayborough's Jungian-based theory,
which proposed that the grotesque is most
A new conception of the grotesque emerged in usually produced from a 'progressive-negative'
the pre-Romantic and Romantic arts that was or 'regressive-negative' state of mind, that is,
not derived from folk culture but from the an- from the artist's conscious or unconscious con-
ticlassical inclinations of individual artists. This flicts between his religious sense of the eternal
new creative activity revived the chimerical and his perception of the real world. (Sec
qualities of earlier grotesque but introduced a *Freud, *Jung, *psychoanalytic theory.)
subjective new emphasis on terror and night-
mare. The external forms of grotesque pro- Other approaches
duced by William Blake in England, Edgar
Allan Poe in America, and Bonaventura in A very different and important aesthetic the-
Germany exhibited an ironic laughter from the ory of the grotesque was developed by John
point of view of the devil who contemplates Ruskin, who examined the subject more for-
the destruction of mankind. (See "irony.) mally than others had before and who laid the
Along with this new literature, discussion of foundation for modern refinements of his
the psychological operation of ludicrous and ideas. In 'Grotesque Renaissance,' Ruskin ex-
fearsome dualities in the artist's mind began to amined certain sculptures of Venice, respond-
emerge in 19th-century theory. Friedrich ing to their external features with a sense of
Schlegel, in Gesprach iibcr die Poesic [Discourse the playful and the terrible; he was the first to
on Poetry 1800] and various published frag- admit the grotesque into serious aesthetic dis-
ments, responded to intrinsic oppositions of course. Making moral judgments of these
the grotesque which he described as a clash works, he determined that the 'noble' and
between contrasting form and content that 'true' types of comic-demonic grotesque sculp-
produced both terrible and ludicrous emotional ture were those imperfectly carved out of sin-
effects. And Jean Paul (Friedrich Richter) in cere belief in the Middle Ages; the 'ignoble' or
Vorscliule der Asthetik [Primer of Aesthetics 'false' grotesques were usually (Renaissance
1804] wrote of an annihilating idea of humour, works, which he perceived as frivolous imita-
that is, a type of 'destructive humour' that was tions, artificial, sensual, and base. In terms of
comic and metaphysically painful at the same its external qualities, the grotesque was a
time because it turned the world into some- comic genre based on the juxtaposition of the
thing alien. To Jean Paul this destructive hu- ludicrous with the fearful, portrayed in varying
mour pertained as much to medieval feasts of degrees. But for Ruskin these external features
fools as to Rabelais and Shakespeare, while depended on the internal state of the artist's
the positive aspect of this grotesque pertained mind, and were identified by four types of
to the freedom or release that occurred outside humanity which corresponded to the two gro-
the work of art, after h u m o u r had annihilated tesque species: artists who play wisely and
all. produce the 'pure' grotesque; those who play
The key to these new theories was in the of necessity and produce the fanciful and ca-
deployment of external features of grotesque to pricious grotesque; those who play inordi-
penetrate the artist's m i n d . In pre-Romantic nately and produce the sensual grotesque; and
German literature, as Lee Byron Jennings has those who do not play, thereby producing the
explained, the coexistence of the comic and terrible grotesque. The significance of Ruskin's

87
Grotesque, theories of the
theory arises not from his penetration of the as artistic intention that coincided with reader
artistic psyche or moral condition but from his responses of 'alienation' and confusion, Kayser
recognition of the grotesque as meaningful, ar- linked the paintings of Bruegel, the fantastic
tistic creation with metaphysical capabilities, world of commedia dell'arte, and the spirit of
and from his acknowledgment of its artistic in- 'Sturm und Drang' to the realistic grotesque of
dividuality and of the artist's capacity to give the German romantics Keller, Vischer, Busch;
external form to interior conflicts between the to 20th-century writers in German - Wedek-
terrible and 'sportive' sides of his nature. ind, Schnitzler, Kafka, Mann; the surrealist
While Ruskin's definition of the grotesque painters Chirico, Dali, Ernst; and the fantastic
gave significance to the genre in its sculptural grotesque art of Ensor, Kubin, and Weber,
form, the igth century also introduced the gro- among others. In spite of his overemphasis on
tesque to literary theory in an important genre the fearsome, Kayser made an important con-
study by Heinrich Schneegans, who defined it tribution to modern theory for he was the first
as a moral and satirical genre invented by to demonstrate that the grotesque was a 'com-
Rabelais and distinct from caricature and bur- prehensive structural principle' with meaning-
lesque. He described its generic form as an ex- ful implications for serious philosophical
aggeration beyond caricature, carried to fantas- discourse.
tic extremes but with serious literary purpose. Mikhail Bakhtin's study of Rabelaisian gro-
tesque and medieval carnival (folk rites and
Modern theory festivities), completed as an unpublished dis-
sertation in 1940 and revised for publication
Wolfgang Kayser undertook a new investiga- (1965; trans. 1968), falls within the same time
tion of the subject, reacting against theories of frame as Kayser's work. Like Kayser, Bakhtin
'grotesque-comedy.' He was the first in this reacted to earlier aesthetic writers who had ex-
century to attempt a new 'universal' theory, cluded the grotesque from the realm of art and
using the then-current methodology of struc- aesthetics and had dismissed popular creative
tural analysis as well as the traditional histori- activity as vulgar manifestations of 'low' soci-
cal review. Beginning his work in 1932 and ety. There were important differences between
completing it in 1957 with the publication of them, however. Kayser attempted to elevate
Das Groteske ..., Kayser drew his materials the grotesque from low opinion by emphasiz-
from his own reception of unsettling aspects of ing its demonic, fearsome aspects and endow-
literature and art which he associated with the ing them with metaphysical significance, so
grotesque. He pointed out the serious, eerie that the subject would be understood as a seri-
qualities of Spanish painting and the strange ous aesthetic category. Bakhtin elevated the
fantasies of commedia dell'arte. Most of his grotesque by embracing its laughter and the
study examined the metaphysical, demonic 'low' comic aspect of popular culture. He en-
qualities of German Romantic and modern lit- dowed the comic principle of folk carnival
erature and art. Proceeding from this Gothic with meaningful philosophical content that ex-
bias, Kayser formally defined the grotesque as presses Utopian ideals of 'community, freedom,
a structure of the 'estranged world'; its playful equality, and abundance.'
element a game with the absurd that arises Bakhtin's concept of medieval grotesque was
from that alienated world; its laughter 'invol- a system of material imagery, created by the
untary and abysmal'; and its primary purpose 'culture of folk humour,' which found its full-
'to invoke and subdue the demonic aspects of est literary expression in Rabelais, Shakespeare
the world' - a formulation better known as and Cervantes. As had been noted in earlier
'Gothic grotesque.' (See also *game theory.) histories, the medieval carnival world, in
Kayser, believing that earlier aesthetic writ- which grotesque imagery flourished, was usu-
ers had failed to examine the intrinsic structure ally permitted by church and civil authorities
of the chimerical grotesque, sought to rescue it in the spirit of holiday. Bakhtin reinterpreted
from trivialization. Taking hints from Jean its entire social history (omitting antique and
Paul and other Romantics, he isolated the as- certain imitative Renaissance grotesques) and
pect of the 'nightmarish and ominously de- identified medieval carnival culture with a
monic' in the Romantic grotesque and located world that was diametrically opposed to the
its philosophical depth in images of 'the world official, stultifying world of institutionalized
going to pieces.' With a sense of the grotesque authority, even including permissible festivity.

88
Grotesque, theories of the
After the Renaissance, Bakhtin explained, car- grotesque species also continues to attract
nival freedom was increasingly restricted by postmodern scholars like G.G. Harpham, who
the state. The grotesque survived in later cen- reinterprets Ruskin's grotesque as artistic con-
turies in literary traditions, although divorced tradiction in Bronte, Poe, Mann, Conrad, and
from folk culture. Flannery O'Connor. Most recently, Bernard
Bakhtin's structuralist analysis of the Rabe- McElroy returned to Ruskin for his theoretical
laisian grotesque revealed its language and im- system of a hybrid, sportive-terrible grotesque
agery in terms of the subliterary carnivalesque to analyse the fiction of Kafka, Joyce, Grass,
world of medieval popular culture. (See *struc- and Pynchon.
turalism.) Its images of feasts and the body F R A N C E S K. B A R A S C H
(particularly the lower bodily stratum) were
the literary exemplar of the positive, regenerat- Primary Sources
ing humour of folk grotesque. Although Bakh-
tin's study primarily examined the grotesque Bakhtin, Mikhail. Tvorchesto Fransua Ruble. Moscow,
as the literary achievement of Rabelais, it also 1965. Rabelais and His World. Trans. Helene Iswol-
endowed medieval carnival culture with the sky. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1968.
Barasch, Frances K. The Grotesque: A Study of Mean-
positive philosophical significance of comic re-
ing. The Hague/Paris: Mouton, 1971.
generation. The importance of Bakhtin's study,
Boileau-Despreaux, Nicholas. L'Art poctique. 1674.
however, goes far beyond Rabelais in its social Trans. Sir William Soames. Rev. John Dryden.
assumptions about class hierarchies, Utopian London 1710.
ideals and aesthetics. For Bakhtin 'high' cul- Bristol, Michael D. Carnival and Theater: Plebeian
ture stifles creativity, 'low' culture renews and Culture and the Structure of Authority in Renais-
regenerates. His analysis of Rabelais and car- sance England. New York/London: Methuen,
nival challenged all 'finite' hierarchies and 1985.
opened popular culture to serious discussion. Burke, Edmund. Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin
(See also *dialogical criticism.) of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful ... New
York, 1863.
Clayborough, Arthur. The Grotesque in English Litera-
Postmodern grotesque theory
ture. Oxford: Clarendon, 1965.
Cramer, Thomas. Das Groteske bei E.T.A. Hoffman.
Postmodern critics have usually chosen to deal Munich: W. Fink, 1966.
with grotesque dualities in literature by creat- Fleury, Jules (Champfleury). E'Histoire de la Carica-
ing syntheses of Kayser's and Bakhtin's theo- ture ... 4 vols. 2nd ed. Paris: Dentu, 1872.
ries or by rethinking older aesthetic systems. Flogel, Karl Friedrich. Geschichte des Groteske-Ko-
Thus Neil Rhodes found that a combination of rnischen. 4 vols. Liegnitz u. Leipzig, 1784-7. Repr.
Schneegans' and Bakhtin's concepts of gro- 1788. Rev. Friedrich W. Ebeling, 1862-. Rev. Max
tesque realism explained Thomas Nashe's Brauer, 1914.
prose of the Elizabethan period. Michael D. Harpham, G.G. On the Grotesque. Princeton: Prince-
ton UP, 1982.
Bristol employed Bakhtin's theoretical perspec-
Hugo, Victor. Cromwell. Paris: Editions J. Hetzel,
tive to discuss the grotesque or carnivalesque 1867.
in dramatic literature of the English Renais- Jennings, Lee Byron. The Ludicrous Demon: Aspects of
sance. Peter Stallybrass and Allon White ap- the Grotesque in German Post-Romantic Prose.
plied Bakhtinian principles of grotesque to Berkeley: U of California P, 1963.
show how Augustan poets, searching for ele- Johnson, Toni O'Brien. Sygne: The Medieval and the
vated discourse in the neoclassical mode, ap- Grotesque. Totowa, N): Barnes and Noble, 1982.
propriated the 'low' grotesque in their attempts Kayser, Wolfgang. Das Groteske: Seine Gestaltung in
to restrain and reform it, but also became de- Malerci und Dichtung. Oldenburg: 1957. Trans. Ul-
rich Weisstein. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1962.
pendent on its inclusion in order to define the
McElroy, Bernard. Fiction of the Modern Grotesque.
'high' culture they wished to create. To ana-
New York: St. Martin, 1989.
lyse the work of Synge, Toni O'Brien Johnson Moser, Justus. Harlekin oder Verteidigung des Gro-
combined Victor Hugo's 1827 aesthetic of the teske-komischen. 1761. In Sarnrntliche Werkc. 7 vols.
dualistic, antithetical structure of the grotesque Berlin, 1798. Trans. J.A.F. Warnecke. Harlequin: or
with Philip Thompson's definition of grotesque a defence of grotesque comic performances. London,
as 'the unresolved clash of incompatibles in 1766.
work and response/ and views from Kayser Rhodes, Neil. Elizabethan Grotesque. London: Rout-
and Bakhtin. John Ruskin's svstematization of ledge and Kegan Paul, 1980.

89
Hermeneutics
Ruskin, John. Stones of Venice. Vol. 11 of The Works. cle': a part of something is always understood
Ed. Alexander Wedderburn and E.T. Cook. 31 in terms of the whole and vice versa. (See
vols. New York: 1871—1907. *hermeneutic circle.) The meaning of a word,
Schneegans, Heinrich. Geschichte dcr Grotesken Sa- for example, is determined by the sentence of
tire. Strassburg, 1894.
which it is part and yet the sentence can only
Stallybrass, Peter, and Allon White. The Politics and
Poetics of Transgression. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1986. be understood through the words comprising
Symonds, John Addington. Caricature, the Fantastic, it. Understanding occurs as a continual ad-
the Grotesque. 1890. In Essays Speculative and justment between these two. This circle, he
Suggestive. 2 vols. London/New York: AMS P, claimed, is unavoidable in matters of under-
1970. standing - a point of view that continues into
Thomson, Philip. The Grotesque. London: Methuen, 20th-century hermeneutics. On this basis Sche-
1972. liermacher claimed that we are able to know a
Wright, Thomas. A History of Caricature and of Gro- past author better than the author could know
tesque in Art and Literature. 1865. Intro. Frances K. him- or herself because we can view the au-
Barasch. New York: F. Ungar, 1968.
thor within a broader historical context than
was previously available.
Schleiermacher outlines both a grammatical
Hermeneutics hermeneutic concerned with the language and
semantics of the text itself and a technical her-
Traditionally hermeneutics is the theory or sci- meneutic which goes beyond the language to
ence of interpretation. The term hermeneutics the subjectivity of the author. In his later
goes back to the Greek herrneneuein: to inter- works, emphasis is placed on this technical or
pret or translate into one's own idiom, to 'divinatory' character of the hermeneutic task.
make clear and understandable, to give expres- The philological studies of Wilhelm von
sion to. In Greek mythology, Hermes inter- Humbolt are also a precursor to contemporary
prets the often cryptic messages of the gods to hermeneutics. By claiming that one's language
mortals. It is not surprising therefore that her- shapes one's view of the world, Humbolt
meneutics as a discipline began as scriptural brought questions concerning the nature of
exegesis and was closely allied to philology. language and interpretation to greater philo-
The Reformation debate with the Catholic sophical importance. But it is with another
church's dogma that it alone had competence German, *Wilhelm Dilthey, that hermeneutics
in the interpretation of Scripture was met by is worked into a broad philosophical position.
Protestant insistence on the self-sufficiency of Dilthey saw that the human sciences all in-
the holy text and the determination to demon- volve at a basic level the hermeneutical prob-
strate the basic intelligibility of the Scriptures. lem of interpreting human expressions. To
(See "text.) The general body of theory and understand human beings is to understand
practice which resulted formed the basis of their cultural expressions - not merely texts
hermeneutics. The gradual systematization of but also the various forms of art and actions
this material into a methodology of textual (historical culture in general). Unlike scientific
interpretation developed in the late igth cen- investigation of the natural world, however,
tury into a broader philosophical theory stress- the investigators in the human sciences cannot
ing the crucial importance of interpretation to exempt themselves from the equation. To
most if not all aspects of human endeavour understand the human, one must be human -
and culture. Through the impetus of the early another restatement of the hermeneutic circle.
work of *Martin Heidegger, hermeneutics Dilthey saw this understanding as basically
deepened into a general philosophy of human empathic, involving the projection of oneself
understanding with implications for any disci- into the mind of the other (the creator)
pline concerned with the interpretation of hu- through the reception of the cultural expres-
man language, action or artefacts. sions. Such cultural expressions he called the
The German theologian Friedrich Schleier- 'objective mind.' We work back from the
macher was the first scholar to seek a general expression to the lived experience of the au-
theory of interpretation, one applicable not thor. Hermeneutics thus becomes a form of
only to religious texts. Schleiermacher formu- speculative and intuitive psychology which
lated what is known as the 'hermeneutic cir- seeks not merely what a text says but the ge-

90
Hermeneutics
nius of its creator. Dilthey is thus very much less the expression of an individual's thoughts
indebted to Schleiermacher's divinatory her- or intentions than the raising to consciousness
meneutics. of a world or world-view. One experiences in
By the end of the iqth century, hermeneu- literature a world portrayed by the author
tics gained considerable respectability particu- rather than particular and idiosyncratic mental
larly in Germany as a philosophical discipline states or intentions. Heidegger's later writings
with relevance to all human studies, not sim- contain numerous reflections and insightful
ply to ancient texts. But Dilthey's approach meditations on the works of various poets and
was later seen as too romantic in its search for on language, but they appear more mytho-
the soul of the author. He was accused of poetic than methodological.
'psychologism' because of his strong appeals *Hans-Georg Gadamer, a student of Heideg-
to intentions, empathy and minds. To avoid ger, is one of the most eminent exponents of
this situation, some of Dilthey's inheritors con- philosophical hermeneutics. His work is de-
centrated on the text itself and the experience pendent on his teacher's insights into lan-
of reading rather than on the author or the guage, temporality and understanding, but is
problematic notion of authorial intention. A more focused on traditional hermeneutic prob-
text, it was claimed, can be read and under- lems of textual interpretation. In his very influ-
stood even when its author is quite unknown. ential Truth and Method (1960), Gadamer is
One need not even privilege the author's read- primarily concerned with describing the act of
ing of his or her own text. The important sub- understanding in its relation to our present
jectivity is the reader's, not the author's. (See practices and to tradition.
also ""reader-response criticism.) Gadamer accepts the Heideggerian position
Nineteenth-century hermeneutics was also that the goal of textual interpretation is not
accused of 'historicism': that we have no true authorial intentions but the text itself. The
objectivity in matters of textual interpretation hermeneutic problem is one of overcoming al-
because our interpretations are always restric- ienating distanciation: how a work cut off from
ted by our historical situation and the limits its original culture and historical circumstances
imposed by our concepts and practical con- communicates with or is understood by a con-
cerns. These are still important problems, ones temporary audience. The problem recurs with
that have led to accusations of outright relati- all art works and in fact with all attempts to
vism. This is particularly true of the 20th-cen- understand other cultures and other people.
tury phenomenological hermeneutics arising The goal of a hermeneutical understanding is
from the work of Martin Heidegger. not what an artefact meant to its original audi-
Heidegger has had an enormous influence ence or author but what it can mean to us in
on continental philosophy, from existentialism the present, though this need not imply that
to contemporary hermeneutics and Derridean we take liberties with the work. Hermeneutical
*deconstruction. (See *Jacques Derrida.) He understanding is the result of an authentic dia-
was a student of *Edmund Husserl, the foun- logue between the past and our present which
der of phenomenology. (See *phenomenologi- occurs when there is a 'fusion of horizons' be-
cal criticism.) In his early seminal work Being tween the two. In the end this is an act of self-
and Time (1927), Heidegger instituted an anti- understanding, of understanding our own his-
subjective form of hermeneutics that stresses torical reality and its continuity with the past.
our thorough locatedness in both history and Contrary to a more scientific approach, Gad-
language. The problem of understanding is amer maintains that we can only understand
completely separated from a scholarly inquiry because of our prejudices (historical and cul-
into another person's mind. Instead, the em- tural conditioning), not by ridding ourselves of
phasis is on our embeddedness in a temporal them. There can therefore be no final or defin-
world whose meaning precedes us but of itive meaning to a work. A classic, for exam-
which we have a tacit understanding. We ex- ple, develops a history of meaning as it
ist, says Heidegger, understandingly, and the becomes interpreted differently and experi-
aim of interpretation is to make explicit this enced differently in different centuries. The
pre-understanding that we already have of our condition of the possibility for such under-
being-in-the-world. standing is tradition itself which is primarily
*Literature, on this Heideggerian model, is embodied in art works, institutions and espe-

91
Hermeneutics
daily language. If our inherited prejudices do semiotic analyses of the content and form of a
not come down to us from the same tradition work; (2) the reading process wherein the
as the work to be understood, then serious world of the text is actualized; reader-response
problems may arise with authentically under- theory is especially concerned with this level;
standing the work - it remains alien. Authentic finally, (3) the stage of existential and reflec-
understanding presupposes our taking on or tive appropriation of the meaning of the text
belonging to the traditions and culture that to one's self. The second stage already pre-
surround us (much of which we passively ab- pares the third in that the *concretization of
sorb) and furthering those traditions by means the world of the work is largely dependent
of our own interpretative endeavours. There is upon implicit features of the reader's own
initial interpretive philological, historical and world and own knowledge and personality.
biographical work to be done when a text fails The work thus draws us into it, distancing us
to communicate across the distance that sepa- from ourselves, but only to deepen our self-
rates us from it. understanding by reflecting aspects of and
Twentieth-century philosophical hermeneu- possibilities for ourselves that we might other-
tics clearly has more than a mere antiquarian wise never encounter.
interest in texts. A text is fully realized only in Ricoeur's recent work concerns the herme-
the reading process, in which the world of the neutical problem of how we come to define
text and the world of the reader meet and and understand ourselves in and through nar-
fuse. The central ideas of Gadamer, as well as ratives and self-narration. Extending the Hei-
the works on literature by the phenomenolo- deggerian analysis of human temporality,
gist *Roman Ingarden, have been of considera- Ricoeur maintains that time becomes human
ble importance for *reader-response theory time to the degree that it takes on a narrative
and particularly for members of the ""Con- form. Literature, both fictional and historical,
stance School. Both *Hans-Robert Jauss and contributes to this important configuring of
*Wolfgang Iser were students of Gadamer. time.
The other major figure in philosophical her- There is also a brand of contemporary her-
meneutics since Heidegger is the French phi- meneutics that owes allegiance to romantic
losopher *Paul Ricoeur. Ricoeur has written hermeneutics but opposes some key tenets of
substantial works on hermeneutic methodol- phenomenological hermeneutics. The Italian
ogy and the human sciences, *metaphor, Emilio Betti published a number of important
Freud's psychoanalysis, and most recently on works in the 19505 and 19605 that detailed a
human temporality and its relation to narra- supposedly more objective method for herme-
tive. (See *Sigmund Freud, *psycho- neutics. The North American inheritor of Bet-
analytic theory.) Hermeneutics and the Human ti's work is the literary theorist *E.D. Hirsch.
Sciences (1981) introduces Ricoeur's major Hirsch's widely read Validity in Interpreta-
themes. Ricoeur is in broad agreement with tion (1967) draws a distinction between the
Gadamer regarding the aims of hermeneutics, meaning of a text and its significance, claiming
though his work is more synthetic of 20th-cen- that Heideggerian philosophical hermeneutics,
tury trends, particularly those of *structural- along with the more radical trends in literary
ism, *semiotics and Anglo-American philos- theory, overlook the distinction and deal one-
ophy of language. sidedly with the latter aspect. Hirsch is not
The goal of hermeneutics involves, for Ri- concerned with whether an interpretation is
coeur, not only a resolution to conflicts of useful or personally enriching, but quite sim-
interpretation but also the attainment of self- ply with whether it is the correct meaning of
understanding. The self, a primary focus in Ri- the text. He wants a criterion for validating
coeur's writings, cannot be understood by a interpretations that does not appeal to mere
form of Cartesian direct scrutiny, but only by significance and his answer is the authorial in-
way of a detour through cultural works, partic- tentions that produced the text. The goal of
ularly works of art. interpretation is, at least in principle, to recon-
We can identify three basic stages to Ri- struct this authorial situation. Without this
coeur's hermeneutical understanding of literary touchstone for truth, we have only a scepti-
works: (i) a more or less objective analysis of cism or relativism in which one interpretation
the text itself; this is the place of structural and could be just as defensible as another. There

92
Hermeneutics
have, however, been numerous criticisms of Primary Sources
Hirsch's phenomenologically inspired and
somewhat idealistic theory of meaning. Dilthey, Wilhelm. Pattern and Meaning in History.
The American critic *Stanley Fish exempli- Thoughts on History and Society. Ed. H.P. Rickman.
fies a more radical hermeneutics. For Fish New York: Harper, 1961.
there is no predetermined meaning to a text; - Selected Works. Ed. Rudolf A. Makkreel and Fritjof
Rodi. 6 vols. Princeton: Princeton UP, 198=;.
its meaning is totally a product of how we in-
- Selected Writings. Ed. H.P. Rickman. New York:
terpret it. Any uniformity in our interpretations Cambridge UP, 1976.
is simply a matter of our having shared in- Fish, Stanley. Is There a Text in This Class? The Au-
terpretive strategies. Fiirsch's appeal to author- thority of Interpretive Communities. Cambridge,
ial intentions is, for Fish, nothing more than Mass.: Harvard UP, 1980.
one of many possible reading strategies. - Self-Consuming Artifacts: The Experience of i7th
Hirsch is often criticized for being too much Century Literature. Berkeley: U of California P,
on the side of the text, while Fish is criticized 1972.
for emphasizing only the interpretive reading - Surprised by Sin: The Reader in 'Paradise Lost.' New
York: Macmillan, 1967.
process. The philosophical theories of both
Gadamer, H.-G. Philosophical Hermeneutics. Trans.
Gadamer and Ricoeur can be seen to strike a
David E. Linge. Berkeley: U of California P, 1976.
middle path, denying autonomy to both the - Wahrheit und Mcthodc: Grundzuke einer philoso-
text and the reader and instead emphasizing phischen Hermeneutik. Tubingen: J.C.B. Mohr,
their mutual enrichment. 1960; 2nd ed. 1965. Trans. Garret Barden and
A final development in hermeneutics that William G. Doerpel. Truth and Method. New York:
should be mentioned concerns the work of Seabury, 1975.
*Jurgen Habermas in critical social theory. (See Habermas, jurgen. Communication and the Evolution
also *sociocriticism.) While not exactly a self- of Society. Trans. T. McCarthy. Boston: Beacon P,
professed hermeneute, Fiabermas has both ab- 1979.
- Knowledge and Human Interests. Trans. J.J. Shapiro.
sorbed the hermeneutic paradigm and devel-
Boston: Beacon P, 1975.
oped important aspects of it. Most notable is
- The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity. Trans.
his stress on the ideological distortions that Frederick Lawrence. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT P,
prevent open communication between speak- 1987.
ers and readers. Hermeneutics here takes a - Theory and Practice. Trans, j. Viertel. Boston: Bea-
critical turn towards what has been called a con P, 1973.
'hermeneutics of suspicion.' Tradition, a cen- Heidegger, Martin. Beitrage zur Philosophic (Vom Er-
tral and productive notion in Gadamer's work, eignis). Gesamtausgabe (GA), vol. 6s. Frankfurt/
becomes politicized and problematized, for it Main: Klosterman, 1989.
not only allows but may also systematically - Sein and Zeit. Tubingen: Niemeyer, 1927. Trans.
John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson. Being and
prevent authentic communication. Habermas'
Time. Fondon: SCM, 1962.
approach leads both hermeneutics and literary Hirsch, E.D. The Aims of Interpretation. Chicago: U
theory into the broader political arena where of Chicago P, 1976.
literature is one ideological instrument - Validity in Interpretation. New Haven: Yale UP,
amongst numerous others. (See *ideology, 1967.
*ideological horizon.) Husserl, Edmund. Cartesian Meditations. An Introduc-
Hermeneutics today is an important philo- tion to Phenomenology. Trans. Dorion Cairns. New
sophical discipline predominantly committed York: Humanities P, 1966.
to the belief that our reality is an interpreted - The Idea of Phenomenology. Trans. W.P. Alston and
reality mediated by both language and our his- G. Nakhnikian. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff,
1964.
torical situation. But hermeneutics is also a
- Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and to a
methodology concerned with the nature of Phcnomenological Philosophy, ist Book. Trans. F.
interpretation and understanding and its re- Kersten. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1983.
sults have had far-reaching effects not only on Ingarden, Roman. Das Literarisches Kunstwerk: Einer
literary studies but also on comparative reli- Untersuchung aus dem Grenzgehiet der Ontologic,
gion, anthropology and numerous other social Logik und Litcratunoissenschaft. Halle: Max Nie-
and human sciences. The principal centres of meyer, 1931. Trans. George G. Grabowicz. The
research continue to be in Germany, the
United States, Italy, and Canada.
A N T H O N Y K E R BY

93
Hrvatsko filolosko drustvo
Literary Work of Art: An Investigation on tlie Border- as Ivo Franges, Aleksandar Flaker, Radoslav
lines of Ontology, Logic and the Tlicon/ of Literature. Katicic, Svetozar Petrovic, Krunoslav Pranjic,
Evanston: Northwestern UP, 1973. and Viktor Zmegac. From other parts of Yugo-
- 0 poznawaniu dziela literackicgo. Lvov: Ossolo- slavia the group was joined by Bratko Kreft,
neum, 1937. Trans, Ruth Ann Crowly and Ken-
Stojan Subotin, Dragisa Zivkovic, and others.
neth R. Olson, 'ihe Cognition of the Literary Work
of Art. Evanston: Northwestern UP, 1973. The group's first concrete endeavor was Po-
Iser, Wolfgang. Der Akt des Lesens: Theorie asthe- gledi 55 [Views 55], a collection of essays pub-
tischen Wirknng. Munich: Fink, 1976. The Act of lished in 1956. What they all had in common
Reading: A Theory of Aesthetic Response. Baltimore: was a general conviction that literature is
Johns Hopkins UP, 1978. umjetnost rijeci ('the art of the word'); hence
— Der itnplizite Leser: Komtnunikationsformen des Ro- the title of their journal.
mans von Bunyan bis Beckett. Munich: Fink, 1972. The founder of the group, Skreb believed in
The Implied Reader: Patterns of Communication in the ontological objectivity of the literary work
Prose fiction from Bunyan to Beckett. Baltimore: of art and its language in relation to the re-
Johns Hopkins UP, 1974.
ceiver. He insisted that the point of departure
Jauss, Flans Robert. Asthetische Erfahrung uud literar-
ische Hermeiieutik. Munich: Fink, 1977. Rev. and in the study of literature ought to be the read-
exp. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1982. Aesthetic Experi- er's reaction to the text. While believing that
ence and Literary Hermeneutics. Theory and His- the language of literature is a deviation from
tory of Literature 3. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota the standard language of communication, he
P, 1982. carefully avoided using the word deviation as
- Literaturegeschichte als Provokatioit der Literatunvis- too general and vague; instead he defined po-
senschaft. [Literary History as a Provocation to Liter- etic language as a linguistic (or stylistic) inten-
ary Scholarship.] Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1970. sification.
- Toward an Aesthetic of Reception. Theory and His- In 'Sprachstil und Stilkomplex' ['Style of
tory of Literature 2. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota
Language and Style Complex'] Skreb differen-
P, 1982.
Ricoeur, Paul. Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences. tiated between 'style complex' and literary
Ed. and trans. John B. Thompson. Cambridge: style period. The first is a higher stylistic unit
Cambridge UP, 1981. which, reappearing in various literary periods,
can play different functions in various works
of literature. The synthetic term 'style' may
designate either a literary current or a specific
Hrvatsko filolosko drustvo attribute of a certain style. In the latter case,
[Croatian Philological Society] Skreb seems to differentiate between the
above-mentioned Stilkomplex [style complex]
Hrvatsko filolosko drustvo founded in 1951 by and Stilzug, that is, a single stylistic trait typi-
faculty members of the Philosophy Depart- cal of a single literary work of art or of a
ment at Zagreb University, initially aimed to writer and having no further artistic conse-
promote research and develop new approaches quences for literary evolution.
to the study of philology in all its possible The members of the Croatian Philological
ramifications. In 1952 the Society split into Society, at least in their initial period of activ-
smaller groups, two of the most prominent ity, showed a preference for and an interest in
being the linguistic section (known since 1960 a stylistic approach to literature, often drawing
as the Zagreb Linguistic Circle) and the Sec- on the achievements of Italian and American
tion of Literary Theory and Methodology of theorists (e.g., Franges, Katicic). At the same
Literary History. time, however, they tried to establish an
Zdenko Skreb was the driving force behind equilibrium between extrinsic and intrinsic
the formation of the group which concentrated approaches to literature. If E. Steiger, the well-
on questions of literary theory and history, in- known German theorist of stylistics (see Skreb)
fluencing the Society's theoretical inquiries and went too far in stressing the singularity and
its organizational, practical activity. In 1957 autonomy of the literary work of art, then
Skreb began to publish Umjetnost rijeci, a * Marxist criticism was too strongly preoccupied
quarterly devoted to the 'science of literature.' with the external conditions of the existence of
(See *literature.) As editor, he brought together the literary work of art and literary process.
a number of prominent Croatian scholars, such For Skreb any explanation of the ontology of a
literary work of art must avoid such one-sid-

94
Marxist criticism

edness or simplification and take into account poetic language is understood as a deviation or
the fact that imaginative literature is both de- 'intensification' of standard language; in the
pendent and autonomous: dependent because second (Katicic), language is nothing more
it is a product of history and autonomous be- than a 'medium'; and in the third (Biti), this
cause it is a work of art created by an individ- relationship is interpreted as a creation of an
ual. Contrary to the political conditions of the intentional or possible 'world.' (See also ""com-
time, which favoured Marxist and sociological munication theory.)
interpretations of literature and art, Zagreb's The theoretical eclecticism of Umjetnost rijeci
critics tried to re-establish or introduce equilib- was most probably dictated by the gradual de-
rium between the intrinsic and extrinsic meth- cline of Marxist criticism in Yugoslavia and the
ods of literary investigation. need to fill the emerging vacuum. It also re-
The members of the group also shared the flected a search for new ways of understand-
belief that literary theory constitutes an impor- ing literature. While the members of the
tant base for the work of literary critics and Society demonstrated a preference for stylistic
historians and that it is particularly useful for a studies, they continued to maintain an open-
close reading of literary texts. In this, perhaps, ness towards other theories and methods of
they can be compared to the Anglo-American research.
*New Criticism or the German analytical EDWARD MOZEJKO
school, the difference being that as a group
they never tried to work out any homogene- Primary Sources
ous theory or consistent terminology. They
may be characterized by their openness to the Pogledi 55. Zagreb: Naprijed, 1955.
achievements of international literary scholar- Franges, Ivo. Stilisticke Studie. Zagreb: Naprijed,
ship and by their attempt pragmatically and 1959.
creatively to adapt its principles. Skreb, Zdenko, ed. The Art of the Word (Umjetnost ri-
jeci). Selected Studies 1957-3967. Zagreb: JAZIU,
Theoretical contributions to Umjetnost rijeci,
1969.
especially those published in the 19705 and - Umjetnost rijeci. Hrvatsko filolosko drustvo. Vols.
19805, are of structuralist inspiration, method- 1-30. 1957-1987.
ologically related to the 'discovery' of Russian
*formalism, Czech *structuralism, Anglo-Ameri-
can New Criticism, and German Literatur-
un'ssenschaft inspired by phenomenological Marxist criticism
thought. (See also *Prague School, *phenome-
nological criticism.) Three basic theoretical Marxist criticism is rooted in the critiques of
presuppositions are representative of this *ideology and culture developed by Karl Marx
periodical. Apart from Skreb's conviction about and Friedrich Engels. While Marx and Engels
the ontological objectivity of the literary work themselves did not engage in extensive literary
of art and its language in relation to the re- or cultural criticism, many of their followers
ceiver, two other views are evident. One em- did. Social Democrats like Franz Mehring
phasizes the gnostic-psychological relativi- wrote important studies of ""literature and
zation of the literary work of art in favour of drama, while Lenin, Trotsky, Mao, and others
the receiver and demonstrates the impossibility wrote reflections on revolution, art and cul-
of mediating through language-constructs the ture. But it was the so-called Western Marxists
specificity of the linguistic art-creation (Rados- who made the most significant contributions to
lav Katicic); the other emphasizes the para- developing a Marxist criticism: theorists like
doxical-dynamic structure of the relationship *Georg Lukacs, *Antonio Gramsci, *Walter
between the literary work and the reader, with Benjamin, *Louis Althusser, Ernst Bloch, *T.W.
the continual interplay between the two (Vla- Adorno, *Jean-Paul Sartre, *Lucien Goldmann,
dimir Biti). and Herbert Marcuse.
These theoretical approaches to the relation- More recently, *Pierre Macherey, *Terry
ship between the reader and the literary work Eagleton and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
of art are paralleled by a corresponding con- have combined Marxist analysis with *structur-
sideration of the relationship between the alism and/or poststructuralist schools like
work of art and the ordinary language of com- *deconstruction to develop new methods of
munication. In the first case (Skreb's approach) textual analysis and cultural criticism. *Fredric

95
Marxist criticism
Jameson and other contemporary Marxist theo- message in favour of realist texts which allow
rists, by contrast, have synthesized Marxism a correct political analysis. Engels continues to
with Hegelian, Lukacsian and Sartrian ap- comment on Harkness' novel City Girl: 'if I
proaches. (See *poststructuralism.) have any criticism to make, it is perhaps that
your novel is not quite realistic enough. Real-
Origins and genesis ism, to my mind, implies besides truth of de-
tail, the truthful rendering of typical character
In The Holy family, Marx and Engels provide under typical circumstances.'
what later would be interpreted as an 'ideol- Other contributions by Marx and Engels an-
ogy critique' of Eugene Sue's novel The Mys- alyse culture in terms of its relationships to a
teries of Paris. For Marx and Engels, cultural mode of production and its specific *social for-
texts are permeated with ideology, with the mation. The mode of production consists of
ideas and values of the ruling class. (See the forces and relations of production which
*text.) Ideology legitimates ruling-class domi- constitute a particular social formation, that is,
nation by making its ideas and norms appear a specific type of society. Thus, for Marx and
natural, just and universal. (See ""universal.) Engels, it is the capitalist relations of produc-
Certain cultural texts, like political treatises, tion which structure political, legal and cul-
contain ideologies which legitimate bourgeois tural institutions of their time. Culture is a
institutions, ideas and practice. Marxist ideol- form of superstructure which articulates the in-
ogy critique discerns these ideologies and criti- terests and ideologies of those who control the
cizes them, thus demystifying the ideological economic base of society. Such a conception
elements. Consequently, analysis of how texts can lead to reductionism and economic deter-
advance class ideologies and viewpoints is an minism. Yet Marx and Engels allowed a rela-
indispensable part of Marxist criticism. For ex- tive autonomy to art. Marx comments in the
ample, Marx and Engels demonstrate how Sue Grundrisse that 'it is well known that some
utilizes bourgeois ideologies of love, suffering golden ages of art are quite disproportionate to
and pity to cover over the true sources of capi- the general development of society, hence also
talist oppression and exploitation. Sue's novel to the material foundation.' Greek art, for ex-
holds out the hope that individual redemption ample, though bound up with obsolete forms
can be won within bourgeois society itself. of social development, continues to have a cer-
Such a representation of individualistic oppor- tain appeal to us today and thus is relatively
tunity is read as an ideological legitimation of free from its origins and social formation.
bourgeois society, suggesting that the society is Other early contributions to aesthetic theory
capable of reform and improvement without and criticism include Mehring's writings on lit-
structural transformation. erature and drama (1893) and Plekhanov's
Yet Marx and Engels also saw cultural texts aesthetic theory (1912) which reduced art to
as sources of social knowledge; many later the reflection of specific social conditions and
Marxist critics also take up this position. (See the class viewpoint of its creator. While Lenin
also *sociocriticism.) Marx wrote of British also maintained a rather narrow instrumental
realist novelists (such as Dickens, Thackeray approach to art, calling for artists to serve the
and Charlotte Bronte) that their 'eloquent and revolution's ideas, in practice he allowed a di-
graphic portrayals of the world have revealed versity of artistic production. The Russian rev-
more political and social truths than all the olution saw a dramatic proliferation of the arts
professional politicians, publicists, and moral- during its first decade. Trotsky defended a
ists put together.' Engels in turn observed that broad range of styles and schools of art,
in Balzac 'there is the history of France from though he criticized Russian formalists and
1815-1848, far more than in the Valulabelles, championed proletarian literature (the so-
Capefigues, Louis Blancs et tutti quanti. And called 'proletkult'). (See *formalism, Russian.)
what boldness! What a revolutionary dialectic Stalin, by contrast, and his cultural commissar
in his poetical justice!' Zhdanov, enforced a narrow aesthetic of so-
Marx and Engels themselves set forth a real- cialist realism, requiring artists to utilize realist
ist conception of art which privileged art that techniques and to advance socialist ideology
accurately reproduced existing social reality. In through idealizing the values, institutions and
a letter to Margaret Harkness, Engels rejects social system being developed in the Soviet
'tendency literature' which conveys a political Union.

96
Marxist criticism
Literary and cultural Marxist theory Against Lukacs, Brecht argued that genu-
inely revolutionary art must revolutionize form
Earlier 'classical' Marxist theoreticians and pol- and content and produce new aesthetic forms
iticians did not really provide a comprehensive for the new social conditions of contemporary
aesthetic theory or develop a fully elaborated life, and that modernist art was revolutionary
Marxist criticism. These tasks were accom- in this sense. Ernst Bloch, in turn, defended
plished by 'Western' Marxists, who began de- the innovative techniques of expressionism
veloping Marxist criticism and aesthetic theory and modernism, while Lukacs retorted that
in the 19205. 'Western Marxism' includes con- modernism expressed a decaying and decadent
tinental Marxists like Lukacs, Brecht, Bloch, bourgeois sensibility and was of no use for
and the *Frankfurt School, as well as Ameri- revolutionary cultural politics. From a related
can and English Marxists. As Perry Anderson point of view, *Mikhail Bakhtin argued that
has noted, Western Marxists tended to empha- some art provided a 'carnivalesque' overturn-
size the importance of culture and philosophy, ing and subverting of ordinary consciousness
topics often ignored by earlier generations of and social order and thus could produce new
Marxists. perceptions and sensibility. (See *carnival.)
Combining approaches which theorize cul- Other Marxist aesthetic debates questioned
ture as modes of domination or liberation, whether the mass media and new forms of
Antonio Gramsci developed a theory of *hege- mass culture provided progressive potentials
mony, which distinguishes between overt, for cultural revolution (Benjamin, Brecht,
physical force and modes of inducing consent Enzensberger) or regressive forms of social
as two forms of social stability and reproduc- control that provided the ruling class with
tion. Bourgeois society, he argues, uses culture powerful instruments of domination (the
to induce consent. A Gramscian criticism Frankfurt School). British Marxists like Christo-
thus analyses the specific modes of hegemony pher Caudwell and those associated with The
dominant in a given society: for Gramsci in Left Review theorized how art could serve rev-
Italy during the 19205, it was religion, idealist olutionary purposes, utilizing Marxian notions
philosophy, bourgeois 'common sense,' Ma- to interpret art. And American Marxists associ-
chiavellian state politics, and new industrial ated with the Communist party and its publi-
developments of Fordism. In opposition to rul- cations, as well as Trotskyist and non-party
ing-class hegemony, Gramsci proposed the Marxists associated with The Partisan Review
need for subordinate classes to develop a revo- and other journals, analysed both high and
lutionary counter-hegemony. popular culture from Marxian perspectives.
Georg Lukacs, by contrast, defended the tra- From the 19605 to the present, Marxist criti-
dition of bourgeois realism and argued with cism of 'mass culture' has been extended from
Marx and Engels that realist art reproduced the the Althusserian school's analysis of ""Ideolog-
social totality, representing typical classes and ical State Apparatuses' to a Marxist analysis
their world-views, delineating the class strug- and criticism of film, television, advertising,
gle, and advancing progressive political posi- and other forms of mass culture. Fredric Jame-
tions. For Lukacs, the historical novels of Sir son, for instance, proposes combining analysis
Walter Scott, Balzac, Tolstoy, and others pro- of ideology and Utopia in a 'double hermeneu-
vided an important source of critical knowl- tic' which will criticize the ideological elements
edge and progressive political enlightenment, of popular culture while analysing their Uto-
delineating the class structures of their socie- pian projections of a better world whereby
ties, depicting class oppression and inequality, they attract an audience.
and presenting critical visions of life in bour- Influenced by Lukacs, Lucien Goldmann de-
geois society. Lukacs also praised the works of veloped a theory of homologies which ana-
realists like Thomas Mann and Solzhenitsyn, lysed the relationship between an artist's class
while attacking 'decadent' modernist art (Ger- position, world-view, literary form, and ideo-
man Expressionism, Kafka, Joyce, Beckett) logical positions, encouraging a reading of cul-
which he believed presented mere fragments tural texts from Racine to Kant as expressions
of a disintegrating bourgeois society. Such a of social experience and ideology. For Gold-
society only produced cynicism and nihilism mann the task of criticism was to reconstruct
and not critical knowledge or progressive po- the historical context of the text and to situate
litical insight. the writer and text within the ideology of their

97
Marxist criticism
class. With certain texts and writers, there are effects. In particular, they believed that the
homologies between text, writer, and the 'trans- new media of radio and film could be used to
individual other' of their historical environ- enlighten the working class concerning its
ment. For example, Goldmann reads Pascal oppression and could be positive forces in a
and Racine as sharing Jansenist religious ideol- revolutionary project. Adorno and his other
ogy, which articulates bourgeois disgust with colleagues in the Frankfurt School disagreed
the aristocracy and the renunciation of the completely, seeing mass culture primarily as
world by a class denied *power. Literary criti- an instrument of domination and social con-
cism thus practised provides knowledge of his- trol.
tory and diagnosis and critique of bourgeois The Althusserian aesthetic position proposes
ideologies. to develop a scientific set of concepts to do lit-
Heller, Feher, Kolakowski, and other Eastern erary analysis and ideology critique (Eagleton
European Marxian theorists have often used 1976) and to develop sets of categories and
Lukacsian positions to defend so-called bour- analyses which show how ideologies exhibited
geois thinkers and artists against the Marxian in texts often fail, deconstruct or unwittingly
social realist orthodoxy that ruled the Soviet present social criticism even when they at-
bloc countries until the late igSos, when Gor- tempt to celebrate the existing society (Mach-
bachev's policy of glasnost opened new possi- erey 1968 and Sprinker 1987). For Althusser,
bilities for cultural expression and experi- art falls between science and ideology and can
mentation and Communist party domination describe the lived experience of dominant
of culture in Eastern Europe ended with the ideologies, as well as subverting or undermin-
collapse of the communist regimes in this area. ing them. For Macherey, it is the task of the
Kolakowski's early work attempted to develop critic to articulate the limits and gaps of bour-
a Marxist humanism which championed cer- geois ideologies which art exhibits. In his early
tain bourgeois philosophers and writers as work, Eagleton (1976) argues that art primarily
contributing to the liberation of human beings reproduces ideological discourses, though texts
- a project that he argued was also the task of also can rework, exhibit and possibly disturb
socialism (1968). ideologies; thus, criticism objectively describes
Several Marxist theoreticians have indeed how ideologies work, how they are textually
seen art as an essential component of libera- produced, and how they affect readers.
tion. Bloch argued that art contained a Utopian While Eagleton later criticized this 'scien-
dimension in which humanity's most deeply tism,' Sprinker believes that Althusser's con-
rooted desires for a better world were en- cepts combined with *Jacques Derrida's
coded. Marcuse too argued that art projects method of deconstruction provide the basis for
images of a better world and upholds deeply a science of criticism. Sprinker attempts to de-
rooted human desires for freedom and happi- velop a scientific Marxian aesthetic theory that
ness. Following Friedrich Schiller, he claimed will theorize the semi-autonomy of art and
that education of the senses and freely emer- will establish aesthetic theory as a discipline
gent play were crucial to human happiness. grounded in scientific concepts. This requires
Marcuse stressed the importance of developing breaking with all narrative, teleological and
a 'new sensibility' as a force of socio-political humanist theories of history and producing a
change and championed a cultural revolution materialist theory of historical artefacts. (See
in which art would transform life. (See also *materialist criticism.)
*play/freeplay, theories of.)
For Marcuse, Adorno and other members of Contemporary developments
the Frankfurt School, it is primarily 'authentic
art' which serves as a vehicle of emancipation. Contemporary Marxist critics develop and ap-
Adorno praised the heroes of high modernism ply these earlier theoretical positions, combin-
(Schonberg, Kafka and Beckett) who systemati- ing them in unique ways. There is really no
cally negated bourgeois ideology, radicalized one unitary conception of Marxist criticism;
the form of art, and provided complex, aes- rather there is a wide variety. For example,
thetic texts which helped produce more critical Jameson advocated Marxism as the most com-
and complex views of the world. Brecht, Ben- prehensive horizon of all interpretation be-
jamin and others by contrast thought that pop- cause it provides a pre-eminently context-
ular forms of art too could have progressive ualizing and historicizing method which both

98
Marxist criticism

interprets texts in terms of their context and eral "pluralism and loses its specific identity.
also grasps historical contexts through the Eagleton (1983) answers by insisting that gen-
reading of texts. (See "ideological horizon.) uine Marxist criticism retains its identity pri-
*Raymond Williams has presented a system- marily in terms of its political commitments.
atic delineation of Marxist cultural perspec- Thus, he combines a diversity of theoretical
tives, providing an inventory and explication methods with what he calls a 'political criti-
of key concepts of Marxist criticism (1977), cism' that is the key criterion for a Marxist ap-
complemented by new concepts of his own. proach.
For Williams, culture constitutes a continuum Most recently, Marxist criticism has inter-
of artefacts, ranging from television programs vened in the debate over "postmodernism.
to opera, that are worthy of a materialist anal- Jameson utilizes the Marxist critique of capital-
ysis that focuses on production, on the codes ism to interpret postmodernism as 'the cultural
and other socio-cultural constituents of the logic of late capital' (1984). He argues that
text, and on reception. This conception influ- Marxist theory provides the best framework
enced Stuart Hall and other British cultural for interpreting contemporary culture and has
Marxists associated with the Birmingham conducted a wide variety of studies to validate
School of cultural studies. (See "cultural mate- this claim.
rialism, *code.) Other Marxist critics, such as Stuart Hall and
Against this 'humanist' Marxian tradition, his colleagues in the Birmingham School of
more 'scientific' and structuralist tendencies Cultural Studies, however, have criticized ele-
have emerged. Consequently, there are impor- ments of postmodernism while attempting to
tant debates within the Marxian tradition as incorporate its progressive elements, such as
well as between Marxists and other traditions. its intense focus on popular culture and its
Most structuralist Marxists, for instance, tend criticism of modernism and modernity. Some
to see culture as a form of domination, while Marxist theorists incorporate elements from the
the humanist Marxists see it as a potential postmodern theories of "Jean Baudrillard,
vehicle for emancipation. In terms of textual "Jean-Francois Lyotard, "Michel Foucault, and
analysis, humanist Marxists are more inter- others into a revitalized Marxist criticism,
ested in the meaning and ideological content while others, like "Jurgen Habermas, attack
of texts and employ hermeneutical methods, postmodernity as a form of bourgeois ideol-
while more structuralist Marxists are concerned ogy-
with analysing how texts work and produce Marxist criticism continues to be a vital force
meaning and ideology through an analysis of in the contemporary scene, although many
their formal elements and operations. Further, have argued against the excessive focus on
structuralists and poststructuralists focus on class in favour of expanded focus on race, gen-
the contradictions and fissures of the text and der, ethnicity, and other 'subject positions.'
the way that ideology reveals itself (Macherey, Most Marxist criticism today does indeed carry
Spivak), while the Frankfurt School and others out a multidimensional critique of ideology
focus attention on the ways that ideology and continues to attempt to incorporate new
functions and on the text's 'strategies of con- theoretical developments into the Marxian the-
tainment' (Jameson). ory. This leads on the one hand to increasing
In addition, m a n y contemporary Marxist eclecticism and diversity among Marxist criti-
critics have combined classical Marxian ideol- cism, while on the other it produces a more
ogy critique with Freudian theory, feminism, open and supple theory.
poststructuralism, *hermeneutics, and other DOUGLAS KELLNER
contemporary approaches - just as those
working in each of these areas have also been Primary Sources
drawing on Marxist criticism. Gayatri Spivak,
for instance, combines Derridean deconstruc- Classical Marxism
tion with Marxism, feminism and the analysis
of 'other voices' in Third World, marginal or Baxandall, Lee. Marxism and Aesthetics: A Selective
minority groups. (See "psychoanalytic theory, Annotated Bibliography. New York: Humanities P,
"feminist criticism, "post-colonial theory.) 1968.
- and Stefan Morawski, eds. Marx and Engels on Lit-
This variety raises the question of whether
erature and Art. St. Louis: Telos P, 1973.
such eclectic Marxist criticism falls prey to lib-

99
Materialist criticism
Lenin, V.I. On Literature and Art. Moscow: Progress Macherey, Pierre. A Theory of Literary Production.
Publishers, 1967. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978.
Lifshitz, Mikhail. The Philosophy of Art of Karl Marx. Marcuse, Herbert. Eros and Civilization. Boston: Bea-
London: Pluto P, 1973. con P, 1955.
Mehring, Franz. The Lessing Legend. New York: Spivak, Gayatri. In Other Worlds. New York: Meth-
1938; abridgment of 1893 text. eun, 1987.
Trotsky, Leon. Literature and Revolution. Ann Arbor: Sprinker, Michael. Imaginary Relations. London:
U of Michigan P. Verse, 1987.
Plekhanov, G.V. Art and Social Life. 1912. New York: Wald, Alan. The New York Intellectuals. New York:
Critic's Group, 1936. 1983.
Solomon, Maynard, ed. Marxism and Art. New York: Williams, Raymond. Marxism and Literature. New
Knopf, 1973. York: Oxford UP, 1977.

Western Marxism

Althusser, Louis. Lenin and Ideology. New York: Materialist criticism


Monthly Review P, 1971.
Anderson, Perry. Considerations on Western Marxism. Like many important critical terms, 'material-
London: New Left Books, 1983. ism' is often used as a code-word. In contem-
Bakhtin, Mikhail. Rabelais and His World. Cambridge: porary theory it is sometimes used to denote
MIT P, 1968. any critical practice that seeks to understand
Benjamin, Walter. Illuminations. New York: the *text as a 'process.' Sometimes it is used as
Schocken, 1968. a code-word for Marxism. Most often 'materi-
Bloch, Ernst. The Principle of Hope. 3 vols. Cam- alism' implies a combination of meanings: a
bridge, Mass.: MIT P, 1986.
sense of process, an acknowledgment of his-
- et al. Aesthetics and Politics. London: New Left
Books, 1977.
torical implication, and an *authority grounded
Brecht, Bertolt. Brecht on Theater. New York: Hill in something called 'the material.' (See also
and Wang, 1964. *Marxist criticism, *cultural materialism.)
Caudwell, Christopher. Illusion and Reality. London: Any argument for a particular definition of
Lawrence and Wishart, 1937. materialism must deal with the complex and
Eagleton, Terry. Criticism and Ideology. London: New sometimes contradictory ways in which the
Left Books, 1976. term has historically been defined. *Raymond
- Walter Benjamin or Towards a Revolutionary Criti- Williams identifies three main historical mean-
cism. London: New Left Books, 1981. ings for 'materialism': (i) the proposition that
Enzensberger, Hans-Magnus. The Consciousness In-
matter is 'the primary substance of all living
dustry. New York: Seabury, 1974.
Goldmann, Lucien. The Hidden God. London: Rout- and non-living things, including human
ledge and Kegan Paul, 1984. beings'; (2) a related 'highly various set of ex-
Gramsci, Antonio. Prison Notebooks. New York: In- planations and judgements of mental, moral
ternational Publishers, 1971. and social activities' based on the idea of the
Habermas, Jiirgen. The Philosophical Discourse of primacy of matter; and (3) the derogatory
Modernity. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT P, 1987. sense of 'an overriding or primary concern
Hall, Stuart. 'Gramsci's Relevance for the Study of with the production or acquisition of things
Race and Ethnicity' and 'The Problem of Ideology and money.' A complex pattern of interaction
- Marxism without Guarantees.' Journal of Communi- can be traced between these three senses, with
cation Inquiry 10.2 (1986): 5-27.
those opposed to (i) and (2) often taking ad-
Jameson, Fredric. Marxism and Form. Princeton: Prin-
ceton UP, 1971. vantage of the negative associations of sense
- The Political Unconscious. Ithaca: Cornell UP, (3) (Williams 163).
1981. The roots of the modern term are found in
- 'Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late the old distinction between the material and
Capital.' Neui Left Review 174 (1984): 53-92. the ideal. Materialist inquiries explain phenom-
Kolakowski, Leszek. Toward a Marxist Humanism. ena in terms of natural laws and reject theo-
New York: Grove P, 1968. logical or metaphysical explanations. The
Lukacs, Georg. The Historical Novel. Boston: Beacon extension of materialist explanations into the
P, 1963- spheres of society and morality has had a
- Realism in Our Time. New York: Harper and Row,
strong impact on thought since the i8th cen-
1964.
tury. One extreme result of this can be found

100
Materialist criticism

in 19th-century 'naturalist' fiction, which as- closely related to the 'physical/ to the raw ma-
sumes that the lives of human beings are en- terials and products of economic production,
tirely determined by natural laws. the unequal distribution of which determines
Marx's intervention into materialist inquiry the class structure of society. Yet the passage
still underlies most contemporary attempts to itself suggests a second reading, one which
define a 'materialist criticism.' What is difficult emphasizes the importance of 'the relations of
about the Marxist 'materialist theory of history' production' as much as the economic or mate-
is that it is constructed by way of a double po- rial base. For most contemporary Marxists a
lemic. On the one hand, Marx rejects tradi- dialectical relationship exists between the rela-
tional materialism, particularly as it is played tions of production and the economic base, so
out in the economics of Adam Smith, on the that each, in a sense, determines the other.
grounds that such analyses naturalize the pres- *Louis Althusser tries to account for this mu-
ent (capitalistic) relations of production. On tual determination by arguing that the *social
the other hand, he also rejects criticisms of formation is an 'overdetermined structure in
materialism that are intended to maintain me- dominance/ in which the superstructural ele-
taphysical or idealist explanations. The double ments have a 'relative autonomy' from, and
polemic sets Marxism against both idealism effect a reciprocal action on, the economic base
and what could be called 'vulgar,' 'mechani- (Lenin and Philosophy 130). (See *overdetermi-
cal/ or 'undialectical' materialism. From this nation.)
point of view, materialism resists both poles of Attempts to define a materialist literary criti-
the 'objectivist/subjectivist' dichotomy. So in cism have followed both readings of this pas-
Marx, for instance, the concept of 'mode of sage. Classical Marxist literary theory was
production' sometimes invokes a quasi-meta- constructed almost uniformly on the first inter-
physical 'real' (an underlying structure that ex- pretation, according to which literary texts
plains the 'real' lives of 'real' individuals) and were seen as passive embodiments of the his-
sometimes insists on historical relativity (the torical or material conditions in which they
succession of modes described in the German were produced. This led to a version of mate-
Ideology is intended to call into question the rialist criticism, in writers like Christopher
'naturalness' of the capitalistic mode of pro- Caudwell and the early Raymond Williams,
duction). that was very close to a sociology of literature.
The complexity of the materialist project can (See *sociocriticism.) Also associated with early
be hinted at by two different readings of materialist criticism is the theory of 'reflection'
Marx's famous epigrammatic definition of his- most often associated with *Georg Lukacs. Re-
torical materialism in the preface to A Contri- flection theory established criteria for the anal-
bution to the Critique of Political Economy: Tn ysis and evaluation of texts on the basis of
the social production of their life, men enter their 'correspondence with the immanent
into definite relations that are indispensable meaningfulness of historical life' (Frow 13).
and independent of their will, relations of pro- Though Etienne Balibar and *Pierre Macherey
duction which correspond to a definite stage of have tried to recuperate 'reflection' by refer-
development of their material productive ence to its original complexity (see Balibar and
forces. The sum total of these relations of pro- Macherey 82-3), the concept remains an es-
duction constitutes the economic structure of sentialist one, dependent on a mechanical
society, the real foundation, on which rises a materialist interpretation of the base/super-
legal and political superstructure and to which structure model. (See also *Frankfurt School,
correspond definite forms of social conscious- *essentialism.)
ness. The mode of production of material life Most contemporary attempts to define mate-
conditions the social, political and intellectual rialist criticism have tried to go beyond reflec-
life process in general. It is not the conscious- tion theory. In so doing, they build on the
ness of men that determines their being, but, implications of the second reading of Marx's
on the contrary, their social being that deter- passage. One way to summarize these read-
mines their consciousness' ('Preface' 4). ings is by noting that contemporary materialist
One reading of this passage assumes a de- criticism seeks to understand the text as a 'his-
terminism in which the historical 'real' is an torical process/ with all the connotations of
expression of the economic 'mode of produc- that phrase. As a historical process, the text is
tion.' From this point of view, the 'material' is the product of a specific social formation and

101
Metacriticism
is marked in some fashion by this formation; tration of language and history, so that, for
as a historical process, the text is not a simple instance, the psychoanalysis of *Jacques La-
expression of an outside 'real' economic base, can is taken as a 'materialist' (that is, as a
but is rather part of an on-going production, a social and historical) description of the human
production that - like the historical transfor- subject because it describes the construction of
mation of modes of production - is never com- the subject in language. (See *psychoanalytic
plete. theory.) Although poststructuralist analysis is
Materialist criticism, then, grapples with two not incompatible with many aspects of materi-
impulses derived from Marx's double polemic: alism, there are dangers in such a use of 'ma-
it seeks to root the text in history, but also to terialist.' There is, for instance, the danger of
understand the text as an on-going process. returning to a vulgar materialist position that
The second of these approaches challenges the substitutes the 'signifier' for the 'physical,' and
possibility of the first, yet also implies its ne- the mirror opposite of the signifier's untrans-
cessity. Rather than settling for one approach latability for the physical's empirical certainty.
or the other, materialist criticism works posi- More important, the use tends to efface the
tionally, adopting its own form in response to political consequences of what it means to be
what it is working against. It also makes the historically implicated. In literary production,
existence of the different, sometimes contradic- 'taking a position' means in part to 'actively
tory approaches into itself an object of analy- politicize the text,' as Tony Bennett argues
sis. In this way materialist criticism becomes (168), but also - perhaps more important - to
dialectical. As defined by *Fredric Jameson, di- acknowledge the already political context in
alectical thought aims 'not so much at solving which all reading takes place. (See also *ideol-
the particular dilemmas in question, as at con- ogy, *ideological horizon.)
verting those problems into their own solu- J A M I E DOPP
tions on a higher level, and making the fact
and the existence of the problem itself the Primary Sources
starting point for new research' (Marxism and
Form 307). Althusser, Louis. Lenin and Philosophy and Other Es-
Finally, materialists accept the responsibility says. Trans. Ben Brewster. London: New Left
and limits of taking a position. The demands Books, 1971.
Balibar, Etienne, and Pierre Macherey. 'On Literature
of materialist analysis suggest that the study of
as an Ideological Form.' In Untying the Text: A
literature must be non-reductive - that is, it Post-Structuralist Reader. Ed. Robert Young. Lon-
must attend to the specificity of literary struc- don: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1981.
tures and systems; yet it also maintains that Bennett, Tony. Marxism and Formalism. London: Me-
literary texts cannot and should not be sepa- thuen, 1979.
rated from ordinary political struggle. Material- Bottomore, Tom, et al. A Dictionary of Marxist
ist analysis is always part of the wider practice Thought. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1983.
defined by Marx in the nth thesis on Feuer- Frow, John. Marxism and Literary History. Cam-
bach: 'The philosophers have only interpreted bridge: Harvard UP, 1986.
the world, in various ways; the point, how- Jameson, Fredric. Marxism and Form. Princeton: Prin-
ever, is to change it.' ceton UP, 1971.
Marx, Karl. A Contribution to the Critique of Political
With the advent of post-Saussurean linguis- Economy. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1970.
tics, the term 'materialist' is now also com- Williams, Raymond. Keywords: A Vocabulary of Cul-
monly applied to analyses that accept the ture and Society. London: Fontana, 1976.
poststructuralist assertion of the primacy of the
signifier. (See also *Ferdinand de Sausssure,
*signified/signifier/signification, *structural-
ism, *poststructuralism.) In this use, the signi- Metacriticism
fier is understood to embody the 'materiality'
of language, the graphematic or 'written' qual- The study of criticism, metacriticism examines
ity described by ""Jacques Derrida, and the theories or critical approaches to textual mean-
effects of the signifier's primacy - the un- ing, author-text-reader relationships, and the
decideability of meaning, and so on - are criteria by which texts and other cultural arte-
taken to be 'materialist' effects. Aligned with facts should be judged. Metacriticism is some-
this is an argument for the close interpene- times referred to as *hermeneutics (although

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Metacriticism
hermeneutics can also refer to a specific ap- preted: the words of Jesus or the views of first-
proach to metacriticism) or as meta-interpreta- generation Christianity? Even more difficult is
tion since issues of interpretation play a major the metacritical question: can one 'go beyond'
role in metacriticism. the editing to the words of the original author?
What, moreover, is 'an author'? Is the au-
Issues: Micro levels of study thor as a person what is significant about au-
thorship? Or does reference to 'the author'
In illustrating metacriticism, it is helpful to dis- stand as a surrogate for historical and cultural
tinguish between micro and macro levels of dating, as a convenient way of pinning the
study, for each raises a distinctive set of issues. text down to a time and place?
At the micro level, metacriticism focuses on is- Some texts, moreover, have disputed author-
sues involved in the interpretation of a *text: ship. Is Henry VIII Shakespeare's or Shake-
(a) an author produces (b) a text (c) within a speare's and John Fletcher's text? Different
context and with a specific audience in mind responses suggest different interpretive conclu-
which is then subsequently read by (d) a sions. In other cases, we know very little
reader or interpreter who (e) stands within his about the authors - such as Hesiod (Theogony,
or her own context and who (f) offers an inter- Works and Days) and Homer (Iliad, Odyssey}.
pretation of that text (g) either for himself or What, then, in these cases, is the significance
herself or some other audience. of authorship? And, in general, just because an
author wrote the work, does the author have
ISSUES I N V O L V I N G THE AUTHOR
any privileged metacritical position with re-
For texts for which the author is known, meta- spect to the work he or she has produced?
criticism considers the theoretical role which (See also *authority.)
information about the author should play in
ISSUES I N V O L V I N G THE TEXT
interpretation. Should an interpreter, for in-
stance, attempt to discern in texts such as Should different kinds of texts be interpreted
Dante's The Divine Comedy the author's in- differently? Specifically, do the same principles
tended meaning and give it primacy over other apply when making sense of literary, philo-
considerations? Using this approach, an inter- sophical, legal, and religious texts? Do the
preter would attempt to find in the text, or in differences between these fields of inquiry
an author's preface, or in articles written by suggest that their texts receive different kinds
the author what the author intended to com- of considerations? Is there one metacritical ap-
municate to the audience via the text. proach that would apply to all texts? Or are
Alternatively, perhaps an interpreter should there a variety of metacritical approaches, de-
just take into account some details about the pending on the field?
author. In this view, information about the au- What role does the text's genre play in mak-
thor would play a lesser role in ascertaining ing sense of a text? (See *genre criticism.) In
the meaning of the text: it would simply be what sense should the fact that Shakespeare's
one datum amongst many. plays are plays influence their interpretation?
Some texts such as myths and epics do not What role should the dialogue format of Pla-
have an author in the usual sense and their to's writings play in making sense of what
historical origins are often difficult to pin Plato means? What, moreover, is genre? Is
down. How would a metacritical approach that genre, for instance, a textual characteristic
favours a definitive role for the author handle (something inherent perhaps in its form or
an interpretive situation such as this? Or does structure) or is genre classification imposed on
this situation favour the view that authors are the text by the interpreter? Indeed, are genre
relatively unimportant, at least for this sort of criteria sufficiently precise to be of use? It is
text? (See *myth, *archetypal criticism.) one thing to describe Shakespeare's plays as
Some texts, moreover, have several distinct plays, but for other works the appropriate
authors at different times: for example, the genre classification is far from clear. The Book
parables of Jesus were first uttered by Jesus of Job, for instance, has been variously classi-
but edited in the form we now have them by fied as a tragedy, epic, lament, meditation, and
the early Christian community 40-70 years even comedy, with quite different interpretive
after his death. What, then, is being inter- results.

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Metacriticism
A few genres pose special problems. For about the plight of the Inuit in Canada today).
example, some of Jesus' utterances are called A more moderate view would place limits on
'parables.' But what does this tell us about the extent of what can be attributed to a text
their appropriate mode of interpretation? Are by way of meaning (for example, Sophocles'
they to be interpreted allegorically, morally or play is about pride, the price paid for inquiry
in some other way - perhaps as provocations? or the supremacy of fate, but is not about the
Are Jesus' 'parables' similar in genre to Plato's Inuit).
'parables'? When contemporary works are de- Or should meaning be viewed quite differ-
scribed as 'parables' of the modern predica- ently, perhaps as the result of a creative in-
ment - for instance, T.S. Eliot's The Waste teraction or transaction between text and
Land, Albert Camus' Le Mythe de Sisyphe or interpreter? What role do the interpreter's in-
Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot - are these terests play? If the interpreter has an interest
parables in the same sense as Jesus' or Plato's in art, religion or psychology, what role does
parables? this play in how that person makes sense of a
text? What role, moreover, does the interpret-
ISSUES I N V O L V I N G O R I G I N A L CONTEXT/
er's attitude play? Are hostile or perverse
AUDIENCE
interpretations of a work any less reliable than
Of what metacritical significance is the text's sympathetic or friendly ones? Can there be
original environment? What does it say about 'neutral' interpretations? And, if so, are these
how the text should be understood? This raises more reliable?
the question what meaning to them/there/ What role does the interpreter's ideological
then has to do with meaning to us/here/now. stance play? Does it function, for instance, as a
If the original context is of some metacritical hindrance, blocking out what the text is say-
significance, what interpretive difficulties are ing? Or does ""ideology operate as a means of
there likely to be when the context of the orig- liberation, enabling the interpreter to see
inal text is not now known? In addition, how meaning within the text that the casual reader
extensive is 'context'? What, for instance, is the may not perceive?
context of Shakespeare's Hamlet? Is it the cir- Closely related to this issue is the 'tribal' as-
cumstances of Shakespeare's composing the pect of interpretation: a group of interpreters
play? The events of 1600/1601? The revenge- frequently shares a communality of outlook as
play tradition? An earlier English play about a result of shared methodology (for example,
Hamlet (about which we now know nothing), Freudian, Jungian, deconstructionist), shared
volume 5 of Francois de Belleforest's Histoires ideology (for example, Marxist, feminist),
tragiques (1576) or Saxo Grammaticus' account shared philosophy (for example, Platonic, Aris-
of Amleth in the 12th-century Historiae Dani- totelian, Thomistic, Lockean, Humean) or
cae? shared religious stance (for example, funda-
mentalist, liberal Protestant, modernist, New
ISSUES I N V O L V I N G R E A D E R / H E A R E R /
Age). If the same text receives differing inter-
INTERPRETER
pretations by different tribes of interpreters,
An interpreter is, in some sense, 'an activator' what possibility is there of inter-tribal sharing
of textual meaning. But how influential is the of meaning? Or is all interpretation tribal by
interpreter? Does he or she, for instance, dis- nature and unshareable by those outside the
cern and articulate the meaning that lies inher- commitments and convictions of the group?
ent in the text? In this view, meaning would (See *Sigmund Freud, *psychoanalytic theory,
be something a text possesses, and it would be *Carl G. Jung, *deconstruction, *Marxist criti-
the reader's task to discover, uncover or re- cism, *feminist criticism, *reader-response
cover it. criticism.)
Or should the interpreter be viewed as If interpretation is largely shaped by shared
someone who attributes to the text whatever it beliefs, then this would argue for a view of
represents to him? In this view, meaning interpretation that attributes a large measure of
would be something imputed or attributed to a control to the interpreter of the text. In this
text. At its extreme it would allow the widest case, the interpreter's presuppositions and con-
possible range of meaning suggested by a text victions would play a major role in ascertain-
(for example, Sophocles' Oedipus Tyrannus is ing the meaning of a work. If this is so, then

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Metacriticism
what role does the author or the text play? this one and only one correct interpretation to
Another metacritical issue has to do with the be ascertained? If not, what are the epistemo-
legitimacy of giving older texts readings reflec- logical implications for metacriticism as a field
tive of contemporary stances. For instance, is it of study? Is metacriticism the sort of discipline
legitimate to give Shakespeare's Macbeth a that yields 'knowledge'?
Freudian, Marxist or feminist interpretation On the other hand, perhaps texts can be
when its composition clearly predates these viewed as having a variety of interpretations.
movements? If so, are all interpretations of a work equally
good? Or are some better than others? If so,
issu[•:s I N v o i . v i N c ; r H E I N T E K p R E T E R ' s
how does one tell? If not, what is the purpose
CO N TEX I
of interpretation?
Even broader than the interpreter are metacrit- What is to be made of differing interpreta-
ical issues involving the environment in which tions of the same work? Are they simply the
the reader makes sense of a text. What, for result of the tribal nature of metacriticism? or
instance, is the interpreter's context? In one of differing interpretive purposes, interests or
sense, this question may be construed as ask- attitudes? Are there perhaps different 'levels'
ing what the interpreter's purpose is in inter- of interpretation so that interpretations differ
preting the work. Is it to write a scholarly in terms of degree of insight or depth of un-
study? to give a lecture? a sermon? to prepare derstanding?
an essay for a course? to interest a friend in While many interpretations may differ in
reading the work? to challenge the author's emphasis, there are some instances of incom-
view? to learn more about the topic under patible interpretations of the same work. This
discussion? to provoke someone? In another represents the more difficult form of interpre-
sense, the question may have to do with the tive diversity. Sophocles' Oedipus Tyrannus, for
forum in which the interpretation will appear. instance, has been interpreted as urging a re-
Is it 'private,' for one's own pleasure only. Or turn to traditional Olympian religion or as ad-
is it 'public,' in which challenge and debate vocating the new humanism which opposed
are likely to ensue? The context of academic traditional Olympian religion. Are the grounds
scholarship invites discussion, as do contexts for such hard cases inherent in the original
such as sermons and theological defences, le- work or is this to be attributed to the influence
gal proceedings and constitutional debates, of the interpreter upon the work?
and clinical psychological interpretations of Some texts themselves present incompatible
behaviour. positions. What, then, should the interpreta-
tion favour? Genesis, for example, contains
I S S U E S I N V O I . V I N C; T H E I N T E R P R E T A T I O N
two accounts of creation (Genesis 1:1-2:25, the
What is an interpretation? Is everything said transition from one account to the other occur-
about a text an 'interpretation' of that text? ring in the middle of 2:4), and some details are
What criteria must an interpretation satisfy in incompatible (for example, the role of woman
order to be considered an interpretation of a is equal to man's in Genesis i, but is deriva-
text? Must it, for example, be 'faithful' to the tive in Genesis 2). Furthermore, the New Tes-
original? Must it have the same vitality and tament Gospels, themselves highly edited
impact that the original had? Must it 'mean' documents of a pre-existing and creative oral
the same? Can it be 'applied' differently and tradition, present quite different pictures of the
still be 'an interpretation'? teachings of Jesus. Three of them (Mark, Mat-
What adjectives are correctly applied to thew, Luke) present Jesus putting forth, largely
interpretation? Is 'correct' one of them? Does it in the form of parables, teachings concerning
make sense to speak of 'correct' interpreta- the Kingdom of God; by contrast, John por-
tions? What about 'plausible,' 'well-founded,' trays Jesus as speaking chiefly about himself
'rich,' 'insightful,' or 'acceptable'? (']') in terms of complex images (Son of Man,
Should texts be viewed as having one and Son of God, Bread of Life, Light of the World,
only one correct interpretation? Throughout Good Shepherd, the Resurrection, the True
the history of metacriticism, correctness of bib- Vine), largely in monologue form.
lical interpretation has been important for the
foundation of church doctrines. If so, how is

105
Metacriticism
ISSUES I N V O L V I N G THE I N T E N D E D Does objective understanding exist? Or is all
RECIPIENT OF THE INTERPRETATION understanding at least reflective (if not indica-
tive) of the interpreter's ideology, gender, race,
For whom is the interpretation intended?
class, and position within history? Is all inter-
Often it is the reader himself or herself, mak-
pretation 'personal'? Or 'tribal'? Closely related
ing sense of a work for enjoyment or enrich-
to these controversies are issues concerning
ment. The recipient, however, could be an
the worth, purpose and value of the humani-
audience assembled for the purpose of hearing
ties. Is the objective of the humanities, like
an interpretation: students, the scholarly com-
that of the sciences, to yield knowledge? If so,
munity, a law court, or a congregation. To
what would characterize the humanities' kind
what extent does the knowledge level of the
of knowledge? On the other hand, the purpose
audience impose constraints upon the interpre-
of the humanities may simply be to share in-
tation of the work that is offered? To what
sights. Or perhaps the humanities should be
extent is an interpretation 'adapted' to a partic-
construed as activities aimed at personal en-
ular audience?
joyment, enrichment or enlightenment. From a
metacritical perspective, how should the hu-
Macro levels of study
manities be understood?
In addition, metacriticism seen from a macro
Metacriticism at the macro level is concerned
perspective also considers the range of meta-
with broader issues than the theoretical ones
critical application. Can a theory of interpreta-
involved in the interpretation of a text, al-
tion apply to other human-produced cultural
though much of the discussion is intercon-
artefacts than just written texts? Is there a gen-
nected. (See *polysystem theory, *Empirical
eralized metacritical theory that would cut
Science of Literature.) Several general issues
across a wide swath of fields? For instance,
have received widespread attention and these
should one metacritical theory of interpretation
are illustrated here. As with micro issues, the
apply to texts, dreams, works of art, music,
way in which these controversies are posed is
gestures, actions, and expressions of people?
contentious.
Or must there be separate metacritical theories
Some metacritical issues at the macro level
for each separate field of inquiry?
focus on methodology. Is there a metacritical
None of the issues of metacriticism, at either
method (or methods)? Is there a way (or, are
the macro or micro level, is settled and the
there ways) of arriving at textual meaning? If
literature that emanates from literary, philo-
the goal of metacriticism is regarded as textual
sophical, legal, religious, and psychological
understanding, is understanding an activity
perspectives reflects considerable debate and
that is appropriately viewed as susceptible to
dissension.
methodological pursuit?
Do the humanities (broadly conceived of as HISTORY
including "literature, philosophy, law, religion,
Metacriticism originated in ancient Greek
history), which employ metacritical methods,
thought, primarily at a time when traditional
have a methodology? Is it a distinctive meth-
Olympian religion (and its supporting texts -
odology? Or is it similar in some respects to
Hesiod's and Homer's poems, various works
the methodology used in the natural and so-
by the dramatists) were being called into ques-
cial sciences? Even more radically, is the whole
tion by a more sophisticated audience. The
notion of a metacritical methodology appropri-
question arose, 'How should ancient, gory but
ate to an understanding of the humanities?
nonetheless sacred texts be understood'?
Perhaps the notion of methodology reveals a
Greek thinkers gave various answers. In the
scientific perspective imposing itself upon the
Republic, Plato rejected much of classical
humanities?
Greek literature (Hesiod, Homer and 'the
If the humanities do not employ a method-
poets') primarily on the grounds that it failed
ology, what then is textual understanding or
to do justice to the nature of the gods (por-
insight? A number of metacritical discussions
traying them as weak or immoral) and that
focus on understanding understanding. How is
understanding to be characterized? What such literature influenced young impressiona-
ble children in negative ways (that is, making
would distinguish understanding from little
them fearful or irresponsible). Such works, he
understanding or no understanding at all?

106
Metacriticism
contended, should be banned from his ideal general body of Christian teaching. Augus-
society, which would focus instead on truer tine's model of meaning was widely adopted
representations of reality. In an earlier work, as standard biblical metacritical methodology.
however, the Ion, Plato had advanced a quite However, there were some dissenters from
different view, that poetry is the result of the allegorical model of metacriticism. Theo-
being possessed by the god; thus, while it does dore of Mopsuestia and the Nestorians, whose
not yield knowledge, it embodies divine inspi- metacritical writings have not survived, are
ration (and so presumably has value). known to have adopted a differing model, one
In the Poetics, Aristotle proposed looking at that favoured the literal historical meaning. In
literary works chiefly in terms of their genre, addition, they are known to have developed a
structure and especially their impact on the metacritical theory of typology: an event in the
reader. In this connection Aristotle highlighted Old Testament (such as the passage out of
the importance of an effect he called 'cathar- Egypt through water) may prefigure or fore-
sis.' shadow an event in the New Testament (such
as baptism). Unlike allegory, which is a theory
THE A L L E G O R I C A L APPROACH
of meaning, typology represents a theory of
The answer that found widespread acceptance, events within history.
however, was that originally proposed by the The allegorical approach represented a con-
Stoics, who developed the concept of allegori- genial approach to metacritical considerations.
cal (hidden or deeper) meanings. The gods, It allowed a plurality of interpretations and ap-
they claimed, do not represent personal super- plications, accounted for different levels of un-
natural beings but forces of nature, and inter- derstanding brought to texts by readers, and
actions between gods represent interactions preserved the integrity of the text which, on
between earthly forces. This approach permit- face value, might seem unsuitable for a sophis-
ted texts to be enjoyed at their superficial (lit- ticated and enlightened audience.
eral) level while allowing those with more This approach, however, ignored historical
sophistication to appreciate their insights into circumstances of the text's composition, a mat-
the workings of nature. ter which was not judged critical in the early
The allegorical approach was extensively de- Middle Ages, which favoured a more Platonic
veloped with the arrival of both Judaism and view that relegated reality to a timeless, eter-
Christianity on the Roman scene. Within Juda- nal heaven and left history as part of the
ism, for instance, Philo extensively used the changing, temporal world. The approach also
allegorical approach to present the meanings led to a proliferation of meanings - many
of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) to a so- more than the four of Augustine - and to
phisticated Roman and Jewish audience. On what some later metacritical theorists deemed
the Christian side, Origen proposed a three- fanciful and far-fetched interpretations. In the
fold allegorical approach, corresponding to his early i6th century, for instance, Tyndale vigor-
anthropology. At the most superficial level a ously attacked allegorical interpretation, con-
text has the bodily (or literal) sense; for those tending that it nullified textual meaning and
more advanced, the moral sense; and for audi- arguing that Scripture should be viewed as
ences mature in faith and understanding, the having but one interpretation, namely the lit-
spiritual (or allegorical) sense. eral historical sense.
Augustine and Cassian proposed a four-fold Aquinas in the 13th century, while uphold-
allegorical approach, with levels that corre- ing the model favoured by Augustine, never-
sponded to different levels of reader sophisti- theless suggested that higher (deeper) levels of
cation. For Augustine, these levels were meaning should be congruent with the literal
identified as follows: the historical (or literal historical meaning. This served to orient meta-
level, including metaphor) which was written criticism much more closely to the importance
or done; the aetiological level, which is that of history.
for which something has been said or done;
THE REFORMATION APPROACH
the analogical level, or that which reflects a
congruence of the Old and New Testaments; By the time of the Reformers, much more was
and finally, the allegorical level, which is its known about the ancient languages (Greek,
figurative sense as it pertains to Christ or the Hebrew, Aramaic) and the process of textual

107
Metacriticism
transmission of ancient literary remains (often for a comprehensive theory of the humanities
Greek or Hebrew/Aramaic into Syriac, then (Geisteswissenschaften) based on a methodol-
Arabic, then Latin). In addition, the view of ogy differing from that of the natural sciences.
history changed. Contemporary metaphysics, At times he called the methodology of the hu-
shifting from Platonism and neo-Platonism to manities 'understanding' (Verstehen). His ob-
Aristotelianism, seemed poised to value more jective was to portray the distinctiveness and
highly the changing world in which history value of the humanities in an era in which
plays a major role. these were under attack. Critics of Dilthey,
By and large, the classical 16th-century however, contend that by focusing on method
Protestant reformers (Luther, Calvin, Knox) he was already employing the mindset of the
favoured a metacritical approach that would natural sciences.
result in one and only one interpretation of a The products of the humanities - 'the Mind-
passage, namely that based on the literal his- affected World' or 'cultural achievements' -
torical meaning (unless clearly metaphorical or included, for Dilthey, such human productions
allegorical in the original). This metacritical ap- as works of art, social movements, political
proach grew out of a theological concern, for it ideologies, ideas, texts, dances, constitutions,
was essential that texts speak to readers unam- and laws, political forms, languages, religions,
biguously if true doctrine was to be discerned and mythologies, customs and traditions. In
on the basis of one authoritative text. sum, cultural achievements included all the
An iSth-century Protestant thinker, Ernesti, human creations and expressions that comprise
made modifications to the Reformation model, the humanities. By focusing on 'understand-
suggesting that there was occasional justifica- ing,' Dilthey attempted to develop the founda-
tion for a plurality of meanings for a text tions of the humanities, trying to give them a
when the literal historical sense of the original basis for being treated as a serious academic
clearly allowed for a diversity of meanings. enterprise worthy of inclusion into the curricu-
In practice, while a community could hold lum of a modern university. It was Dilthey's
to the view that the sacred text had one and significance that he raised the foundations of
only one correct interpretation, those who held the humanities as a serious hermeneutical
contrary views as to the text's meaning often problem with wide-sweeping implications.
had to form their own community. Thus, with These questions have preoccupied 20th-cen-
the Protestant approach to criticism, rival com- tury scholarship.
munities with differing views begin to emerge, Since Dilthey, metacriticism has been ex-
and criticism becomes 'denominational.' This plored from a number of critical perspectives -
development served to highlight the 'tribal' hermeneutic, structuralist, positivistic, and
nature of metacriticism. 'other' - and by scholars working in a number
of different fields - biblical and classical stud-
ROMANTICIST APPROACH
ies, literary theory, various psychological ap-
In all of the models advanced hitherto, the proaches, legal theorists, and philosophers of
role of the author had been ignored. In the analytic, positivistic and phenomenological
early igth century, Friedrich Schleiermacher persuasions. (See *structuralism, *phenomeno-
proposed that understanding occurs when an logical criticism.)
interpreter 'goes through' the text to compre- Positivism gained considerable prominence
hend the author's thought, in a sense com- in the 19305 and 19405 in Europe, Britain,
muning with the author about the matter Canada, and the U.S.A. It contended that the
under discussion. As Schleiermacher portrayed works of the humanities were cognitively
it, every act of understanding is the obverse of meaningless and, as such, contributed nothing
the act of *discourse: the interpreter must that was true (unlike the sciences). Rudolf Car-
come to grasp the thought which was at the nap, AJ. Ayer, Otto Neurath, and others led
base of the discourse. the assault on scholarship in the humanities,
challenging academics, literary critics and reli-
CONTEMPORARY APPROACHES
gious thinkers to articulate statements that
Contemporary metacriticism begins with the were capable of being either true or false. The
late-19th-century seminal work of *Wilhelm movement caused considerable excitement but
Dilthey who attempted to lay the foundations eventually floundered because of the difficul-

108
Metacriticism
ties of f o r m u l a t i n g a criterion of meaningful- isolating the different emphases and traditions
ness. within the edited text, and using this to give
Hermeneutics has been developed by theo- the text an interpretation. Similarly, the struc-
rists such as *Hans-Georg Gadamer, Emilio ture of the Book of Job (which consists of a
Betti, *Jurgen Habermas, *Paul Ricoeur, Rudolf Prologue, Dialogue, Monologue of Elihu, Mon-
Bultmann, and many others who, in a variety ologue of Yahweh, and Epilogue) has been
of ways, have attempted to uncover the pre- used in interpretation, although here the meta-
suppositions of criticism. Building upon the critical situation is more complex depending
philosophical contributions of *Martin Heideg- on whether all or only some of the five struc-
ger, Gadamer in particular stresses the role tural units are judged 'authentic.'
that presuppositions ('prejudice') play within Another emphasis on structure has devel-
criticism, along with tradition (and commu- oped out of structuralist research into the na-
nity), and the interpreter's historicity and ture of language. Often this research has been
horizon. (See *hori/on of expectation.) Ac- anthropological (Claude *Levi-Strauss) or lin-
knowledging the interpreter's historicity recog- guistic (*Ferdinand de Saussure) in nature,
nizes the historical situatedness of all beings and this has had some impact on literary ap-
and the role this plays in understanding works proaches to metacriticism. Structuralist ap-
from the humanities. This is clearly illustrated proaches focus on the universe of discourse
in Bultmann's widely adopted hermeneutic created by a set of signs, and attempt to un-
procedure that he called 'de-mythologizing/ derstand this universe in all its distinctiveness.
(See *demythologi/ing.) In order to acknowl- (See *sign.) Structuralist metacritics would
edge the differing historicities of the inter- then focus on 'the language of Sartre/ or 'the
preter and ancient texts, B u l t m a n n proposed language of the Book of Job.' In a way,
using the 'mythology' (pattern of thought) of *Northrop Frye's metacritical stance in The
the original text to uncover its 'kerygma' (mes- Great Code is 'structuralist' in practice in the
sage), then abandoning the original mythology sense that his archetypal analysis focuses on
in favour of embedding the kerygma in a more 'the language of the Bible' in all its unique
current mythological format. Thus meaning patterns.
is preserved (same kerygma) while accommo- For structuralists like *Roland Barthes, more-
dating the differing historicities of author over, language is made up of signs which have
and interpreter (kerygma is 'de-' and 're- two components: the signifier and signified.
mythologi/ed'). (See *signifed/signifier/signification.) Other
In general, a hermeneutical approach to metacritical approaches (such as the herme-
metacriticism favours an approach that em- neutic approach of Ricoeur) would contend
phasi/es the p l u r a l i t y of interpretations for that a third component of language is the re-
interpreters, and for the historical epoch in ferent. (See *reference/referent.) The debate
which they live, and stresses a strong interac- over the components of language raises a me-
tion between text and interpreter. One excep- tacritical issue concerning that about which a
tion is *F.D. Hirsch, Jr., who contends that the text speaks. For Ricoeur, discourse is the vital
author's intended m e a n i n g is the meaning of a movement of the components of language to-
text. As a metacritic and as an interpreter who wards the world. For Barthes it is the organi-
has studied the Romantic poets and Blake ex- zation of the signifiers much more than the
tensively, Hirsch is perhaps the major expo- signified which is of metacritical interest. Thus
nent today in literary metacriticism of the for Barthes literary criticism becomes the mak-
'single sense' approach to hermeneutics, with ing sense of a coherent system of signs.
f u n d a m e n t a l i s t scholars representing a similar Alongside the development of hermeneutics
approach in religious metacriticism. and structuralism is the approach called '*New
There are m a n y metacritical approaches that Criticism,' which originated in the early 19405
favour focusing on the structure of the work. with Robert Penn Warren, *Cleanth Brooks,
Form-critical and text-critical approaches Allen Tate and John Crowe Ransom. This ap-
within religious studies consider stylistic and proach focused on 'the text/ contending that
structural considerations to ascertain meaning. literature should be viewed as a separate and
Such approaches, for instance, consider the self-contained entity. This metacritical focus
metacritical impact of four literary strands set the New Critics apart both from those me-
(J,E,P, and D) w i t h i n the Pentateuch (Torah), tacritics who emphasized the role of the au-

109
Narratology
thor and from those who contended that the - Selected Writings. Ed. H.P. Rickman. New York:
role of the reader/interpreter is not so trans- Cambridge UP, 1976.
parent or self-effacing. The latter would in- Gadamer, H.-G. Wahrheit und Methode: Grundzuke
clude historicist, Marxist and psychoanalytical einer philosophischen Herineneutik. Tubingen: J.C.B.
Mohr, 1960. 2nd ed. 1965. 2nd ed., trans, and ed.
metacritics who emphasized the role of the
Garrett Barden and John Cumming. Truth and
critic's perspective. (See also *New Histori- Method. New York: Seabury, 1975.
cism, *materialist criticism.) - Philosophical Hermeneutics. Trans. David E. Linge.
A more recent approach is deconstruction, Berkeley: U of California P, 1976.
which questions canonicity (that certain works, Grant, Robert M., John T. McNeill, Samuel Terrien.
for whatever reason, have more importance or 'History of the Interpretation of the Bible.' In The
significance than others, or should have more Interpreter's Bible. Vol. i. New York: Abingdon-
dominance in study than others). (See *canon.) Cokesbury, 1952, 718-24.
Accordingly, a text may be pop cultural, my- Hirsch, E.D. The Aims of Interpretation. Chicago: U
thological, historical, or philosophical. Ash- of Chicago P, 1976.
- Validity in Interpretation. New Haven: Yale UP,
trays, Saturday-morning cartoons, operas, and
1967.
pieces of prose are all 'text.' On another level, Margolis, Joseph. The Language of Art and Art Criti-
deconstruction attempts to discern the sup- cism. Detroit: Wayne State UP, 1965.
pressed voice struggling for articulation within Palmer, Richard E. Hermeneutics. Evanston, 111.:
the dominant voice. *J. Hillis Miller, *Paul de Northwestern UP, 1969.
Man and *Harold Bloom have championed Perrin, Norman. Jesus and the Language of the King-
deconstruction in the U.S. during the last 15 dom. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1967.
years. Similarly, feminists such as *Helene Weitz, Morris. Hamlet and the Philosophy of Literary
Cixous, *Julia Kristeva, Alice A. Jardine and Criticism. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1964.
Wilson, Barrie. About Interpretation: From Plato to
*Luce Irigaray have begun to deconstruct text
Dilthey - A Hermeneutic Anthology. New York: Pe-
and language, rejecting centuries of white,
ter Lang, 1989.
male, patriarchal domination. In order to bring - Interpretation, Meta-Interpretation. Berkeley: Center
an end to masculine discourse, Cixous and Jar- for Hermeneutical Studies, 1980.
dine both began to remake language.
Metacritical approaches since Dilthey have
not resolved the micro and macro issues with
which metacriticism is concerned. Theorists are Narratology
still deeply divided about the relationships
between author, text (language, structure, Narratology is the set of general statements on
genre, historicity), reader/interpreter (includ- narrative genres, on the systematics of narrat-
ing tradition, affinities), interpretation (mean- ing (telling a story) and on the structure of
ing, application) and audience (for whom plot. (See *story/plot.) The history of narratol-
the interpretation is rendered). ogy can be divided into three periods: pre-
BARRIE A. WILSON structuralist (until 1960); structuralist (1960-
80); and poststructuralist (including not only
Primary Sources further developments of structuralist ideas
such as *deconstruction but also the recent
Beardsley, Monroe C. The Possibility of Criticism. De- development of narratology into an interdisci-
troit: Wayne State UP, 1970. plinary pursuit). (See *structuralism, *genre
Bultmann, Rudolf. Essays Philosophical and Theologi- criticism, *poststructuralism.)
cal. London: SCM, 1955.
- Jesus Christ and Mythology. New York: Charles Origins
Scribner and Sons, 1958.
- Kerygma and Myth, 1. Ed. W.Bartsch. London: In the third chapter of the Poetics Aristotle
SPCK, 1964.
makes a distinction, still a starting-point in
Crossan, John Dominic. /;/ Parables. New York: Har-
per and Row, 1973.
narratology, between representing an object (a
Dilthey, Wilhelm. Pattern and Meaning in History. 'history') by a *narrator and by characters. In
Ed. H.P. Rickman. New York: Harper and Row, the first case the history is told (*diegesis) and
1961. the text is narrative; in the second, the history
- Selected Works. Ed. Rudolf A. Makkreel and Fritjof is shown (*mimesis) and the *text is dramatic.
Rodi. 6 vols. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1985. The diegetic representation of the narrative

110
Narratology
text may, however, embed mimetic elements formalist, *Vladimir Propp, in Morphology of
as the narrator lets the story be told by the the Folktale (1928). (See *formalism, Russian.)
dialogues and monologues of characters. (See Whereas folklorists formerly classified fairy
*embedding.) tales according to concrete motifs - horses,
Aristotle's remarks fuelled an aesthetic de- witches, princesses - Propp proposed a taxon-
bate among novelists of the late icjth and omy based on the more abstract concepts of
early 2oth century. The concept of mimesis, role and function. Roles such as hero, villain,
wrongly interpreted as 'imitation' ('representa- helper, and desired object define the mode of
tion' is the better translation), became the participation of characters in the plot inde-
standard of reliable narrative. For realist and pendently of their individuating features; func-
naturalist authors, the mode of narration was tions such as reward, mission or test capture
determined by the demands of Ic vraisemblable the strategic significance of events for the story
(appearance of t r u t h , credible representation). as a whole independently of the particular
Some thought that an objective narrator was nature of these events. The same role can be
the best guarantee for a reliable, realistic repre- performed by a frog or an old man, the same
sentation (Zola); others, that the narrator had function fulfilled by cleaning stables or slaying
to be invisible, that only the characters could a dragon.
give a perspective on the events (Flaubert). In Another pioneering contribution to the study
one of the first treatises on narrative technique of plot is the work of *Viktor Shklovskii
(1921), *Percy Fubbock argued against narrato- (1929). Breaking away from the 19th-century
rial intervention and proclaimed the aesthetic view that plots reflect socio-economic and reli-
superiority of a mode of narration which lets gious institutions in folklore, and mostly bio-
characters reveal themselves through their be- graphical data in literature, he argued that
haviour and perceptions. This position, also narrative forms are the product of 'special laws
endorsed by *Henry James (1900), led to an of plot formation still unknown to us' (Theory
increasing use of the 'free indirect style,' by of Prose 18). His studies of plot construction
which the thoughts of a character could be focused on such devices as repetition, parallel-
represented seemingly without mediation. The ism, framing, embedding, juxtaposition, and
ideal of objectivity thus paradoxically moti- the emplotment of puns and riddles, evaluat-
vated subjective modes of narration. ing them in terms of their contribution to what
The theory of narrative technique and he regarded as the global purpose of the tex-
modes of narration was systematized in the tual machinery: the aesthetic effect of *defami-
U.S.A. by *Wayne C. Booth ( 1 9 6 1 ) and the liarization.
Chicago School and in Furope by Franz Stan- In a more formal domain of semantics - the
zel ( 1 9 7 1 , 1984) and Fberhardt Fammert logic of literary communication - the early
(19.=)5). (See *Neo-Aristotelian or Chicago work of Kathe Hamburger (1957) foresaw the
School.) Booth refined the concept of narrator, preoccupations of the 19805 with definitions of
distinguishing this speaking instance from the fictionality and illocutionary approaches to
historical a u t h o r as well as from the implied narrative, though her position challenged,
author who embodies the whole of meanings, rather than supported, contemporary uses of a
norms and values transferred by the text. Be- communicative model of narration.
cause the narrator and the implied author can
be in contradiction w i t h each other, this dis- Structuralist period
tinction contributed to insights into the phe-
nomena of *irony and of unreliable narration. The theoretical foundations of contemporary
In the area of narrative semantics, early con- narratology were laid down in France in the
tributions include the distinction by novelist 19605 by scholars with a common allegiance
*E.M. F'orster ( 1 9 2 7 ) between round and flat to Russian formalism and Saussurean linguis-
characters. The first are complex and dynamic, tics whose impact can be seen in the designa-
the second are simple and static. Forster also tion of units: narremes, mythemes, functions,
raised the question of m i n i m a l conditions of roles, modalities, types of events. These units
narrativity: 'the king died and then the queen are combined in a temporal sequence accord-
died' is a plot, but ' . . . and then the queen dies ing to the rules of a narrative syntax. (See
of grief is a story. The systematic study of the *Ferdinand de Saussure.)
structure of plot was pioneered by a Russian Structuralist narratology moved in two direc-

111
Narratology
tions, following the Russian formalist distinc- goal or object; meets with resistance from an
tion between story and *discourse (fabula and opponent and receives help from a helper; a
siuzhet, in the terminology of *Boris Tomash- decisive power (destinateur) sends the subject
evskii [1925]). *Claude Bremond (1973) defines on the mission. The project benefits a receiver
story as a semantic structure independent of (dcstinataire) (1970, 1971, 1976).
any medium, while discourse is the verbal or 5. *Roland Barthes' concept of narrative
visual presentation of this structure. The main codes (1970) and his classification of narrative
contributions of structuralism to the theorizing events into kernels and satellites (1966). (See
of story include the following. *code, ""narrative code.) Kernels are logically
1. *Claude Levi-Strauss' 'structural analysis necessary to the plot and cannot be deleted
of myth' (1958): the segmentation of myths without leaving a gap in its causal structure.
into basic units of signification (mythemes) Satellites fill in the narrative structure, adding
and the rearrangement of these units into a vividness to the representation of the narrative
matrix which brings together the deep mean- world but without moving the plot signifi-
ing of the myth and the diachronic unfolding cantly forward.
of the plot. (See *myth, *signified/signifier/ 6. In the area of discourse, structuralist nar-
signification.) ratology is dominated by the painstaking tax-
2. *Tzvetan Todorov's (1969) narrative onomic work of *Gerard Genette (1973). The
grammar in which narrative elements function terminology elaborated in his book Figures HI
as syntactic categories: actions are assimilated has become the lingua franca of the field.
to verbs, characters to nouns, and their attri- Genette studies such topics as order of pres-
butes to adjectives. The most original part of entation (disruptions of chronology through
the system is a catalogue of operators inspired analepses [flash back] and prolepses [flash for-
by the verbal modes of language: 'optative,' ward]; duration of representation (distinction
'obligative/ 'conditional,' and 'prescriptive' (as between scene and summary; relations be-
well as the unmarked case of 'indicative'). tween narrated time and time of narration);
Through these operators which modify the mode of representation (the interplay of mi-
verb, the system is able to take unactualized mesis and diegesis); narration (who speaks?
events into consideration and to describe the how does the narrator relate to the narrated
status of these events in the minds of charac- events?); focalization (who sees?); narrative
ters. The introduction of the virtual as a se- levels created by stories within stories; and the
mantic dimension of narrative events represen- concept of *narratee as communicative partner
ted a significant advance over Propp's model, of the narrator.
which limited the plot to a sequence of objec-
tively realized facts. Contemporary trends
3. Bremond's (1973) characterization of nar-
rative logic as a series of choices between al- The poststructuralist era has been character-
ternatives and his elaboration of a semantic ized by an increase of interest in non-literary
system to code narrative action. The elements narratives and by an influx of ideas from other
of this system include the roles fulfilled by the disciplines. In the literary domain narratology
participants (agent, patient, beneficiary, victim, reflects the critical trends of the period: decon-
adjuvant, opponent, and so on); the process struction, feminism and psychoanalysis. (See
taking place among the participants (protec- *feminist criticism, *psychoanalytic theory.)
tion, punishment, trap, revelation); the phase The tradition of close scrutiny of discourse
of accomplishment (planned, under way, com- initiated by Genette continued and his reper-
pleted); and the voluntary status of the process tory of analytical concepts underwent further
(voluntary/inadvertent). refinements. Seymour Chatman (1978) wid-
4. *AJ. Greimas' distinction between surface ened the investigation of narrative discourse to
structures and deep structures, his use of the visual media. Under the influence of *Mikhail
'semiotic square' to describe the latter and his Bakhtin, the narrative text came to be regarded
system of narrative *actants (the last derived as a polyvocal utterance and the question 'who
from Propp's concept of role). (See *semiotics, speaks' opened into an investigation of such
*semiosis.) In this model, characters are classi- phenomena as quotation, *parody, *intertex-
fied according to their function in the fabula. tuality, narrative embedding, the hierarchy of
The subject or main character pursues a certain narrative voices, and narrative *authority

112
Narratology
(Sternberg 1982, Bal 1983, McHale 1978, Mar- (1973) and Teun van Dijk (1972) defined the
tinez-Bonati 1981, Lanser 1981, Dolezel 1980). conditions of narrativity by means of genera-
Working in the framework of Chomskyan lin- tive rules which map stories on tree-shaped
guistics, Ann Banfield (1982) developed a diagrams. Transformational rules were pro-
theory of the representation of thought and posed to account for differences between the
perception which systematized earlier work logical structure of the story and its textual
on free indirect discourse and stream of con- realization.
sciousness (Lips 1926, Humphrey 1954, Pascal Narrative grammars and systems of plot
1977, Cohn 1978), and challenged communica- units were also proposed by cognitive psychol-
tive models of narration. (See *Noam Chom- ogists attempting to capture processes of mem-
sky.) orization, summary and information retrieval
Under the influence of *Jacques Derrida, (Rumelhart 1975, Mandler and Johnson 1977).
proponents of deconstruction read plots as al- In Artificial Intelligence (AI), formal models of
legories of all things textual, paying particular plot are designed as part of the simulation of
attention to mise-en-abyme, an emblematic the mental operations involved in understand-
form of self-reference (Dallenbach 1977). In ing stories (Lehnert 1981, Dyer 1983). The AI
deconstructive readings of narrative texts, Cyn- concepts of 'script' and 'plan' (Schank 1977)
thia Chase (1978) and Jonathan Culler (1981) were integrated into a semantics of narrative
challenged the traditional view of the hier- action (van Dijk 1976, Bruce and Newman
archy between story (fabula) and discourse, ar- 1978). Pavel (1985) invoked *game theory in
guing that discourse does not follow or repeat developing the concept of 'narrative move.'
the fabula but that the fabula is produced by As psychologists investigate the cognitive
discourse. processing of the narrative text, representatives
New critical developments were set in mo- of the humanities raise the converse issue of
tion by an integration of narratology with psy- the cognitive value of narrative structures.
choanalysis. Peter Brooks' Reading for the Plot Historian *Hayden White (1980), critic Peter
(1984) focuses on the 'motor' or drive behind Brooks (1984), and philosopher *Paul Ricoeur
plotting. Ross Chambers (1984), challenging (1982) stressed the importance of narrativity in
the cognitive status of narrative as well as of shaping our experience of reality and in com-
narratology, argued that the authority of the ing to terms with temporality.
storyteller, undermined in modern fiction, is As the scope of linguistic analysis widened
replaced by the *power and authority of the from the sentence to texts and to discourse,
story itself, thus bridging the gap between linguists became interested in narrative data
psychoanalytic and deconstructive narratology. collected in the field: conversational anecdotes
In general, as Silverman (1988) demonstrated, (Polanyi 1979, 1981; Sacks 1977), narratives of
the psychoanalytic focus on the formation and personal experience (Labov and Waletzky
functioning of the subjects intersects with the 1967), tall tales (Bauman 1986). These studies
interests of a subject-oriented narratology. added a pragmatic component to narratology
Bal's later work (1986) explored this intersec- by raising such issues as the relations between
tion systematically. narrative and its context, narrative 'points' and
Feminist studies, especially of film (de Laur- narrative 'tellability,' audience participation,
etis 1988, Silverman 1988), demonstrated the strategies for gaining and keeping the floor,
complicity between narrative form and Oedi- and techniques for highlighting and topicaliz-
pal *ideology as well as the possibility for al- ing narrative information. Inspired by this
ternative forms of storytelling. Bal and then work, literary theorists turned their attention
Susan Sniader Lanser (1986) argued in favour to the pragmatics of literary communication
of a feminist narratology, attributing the same (Pratt 1977) and to narrative contracts between
theoretical importance to the category 'gender audience and storyteller (Chambers 1984).
of narrator' as to narrative point of view or to Under the influence of philosophy of lan-
the distinction between first-person and third- guage and *speech act theory, the issues of
person narration. narrativity and fictionality were separated. In-
The rise of Chomskyan linguistics inspired creasing attention was devoted to the formal
literary theorists to adapt the model of trans- definition of fiction and to the question of the
formational/generative grammar to the case of truth-functionality of fictional utterances (Lew-
narrative. Thomas Pavel (1976), *Gerald Prince is 1978, Woods 1974, Howell 1979, Walton

113
Narratology

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- 'Toward a Feminist Narratology.' Style 20.3 (1986): Propp, Vladimir. Morphology of the Folktale. 1928.
341-63. Trans. Laurence Scott. Austin: U of Texas P,
Lammert, Hberhardt. Rauformeii des Erzahlens. Stutt- 1968.
gart: I.E. Met/lersche Verlag, 19,,. Ricoeur, Paul. Temps et recit I, U, III. Paris: Seuil,
l.ehnert, Wendy. 'Plot U n i t s and N a r r a t i v e Summari- 1982, 1984, 198=;.
zation.' Cognitive Science 4 ( 1 9 8 1 ) : 2 9 ^ — 1 3 2 .

115
Neo-Aristotelian School
Rimmon-Kenan, Shiomith. Narrative Fiction: Contem-
porary Poetics. London: Methuen, 198(1.
Neo-Aristotelian or Chicago
Rumelhart, David. 'Motes on a Schema for Stories.' School
In Representation and Understanding: Studies in
Cognitive Science. Ed. D.G. Bobrow and M. Col- Neo-Aristotelian is a designation applied to a
lins. New York: Academic P, 1975, 211-33. group of scholars and academic critics associ-
Ryan, Marie-Laure. Possible Worlds: Artificial Intelli- ated as students or teachers with the Univer-
gence and Narrative Theory. Bloomington: Indiana
sity of Chicago. Active since the 19305 and
UP, 1991.
Sacks, Harvey. 'An Analysis of the Course of a 19405, the group established its credentials
Joke's Telling in Conversation.' In Explorations in and group identity in Critics and Criticism: An-
the Ethnography of Speaking. Ed. Richard Bauman cient and Modern (1952), a collection of essays.
and Joel Sherzer. London and New York: Cam- The contributors were *Ronald S. Crane, W.R.
bridge UP, 1977, 337-53. Keast, Norman Maclean, *Elder Olson, Bernard
Schank, Roger, and R. Abelson. Scripts, Plans, Coals Weinberg and Richard McKeon. The first four
and Understanding. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erl- were professors of English; Weinberg was a
baum, 1977. professor of Romance languages and litera-
Scholes, Robert. Structuralism in Literature: An Intro- tures; and McKeon was professor of Greek and
duction. New Haven and London: Yale UP, 1974.
philosophy. Although both Weinberg and
- and Robert Kellogg. The Nature of the Narrative.
New York: Oxford UP, 1966. McKeon have considerable reputations as
Searle, John. 'The Logical Status of Fictional Dis- scholars and intellectual historians, the two
course.' New Literary Histori/ 6 (1975): 319—32. principal theoretical apologists for the Chicago
- Speech Acts. London: Cambridge UP, 1969. critics were Crane and Olson. A younger col-
Shklovsky, Viktor. Theory of Prose. 1925. Trans. Ben- league, also at the University of Chicago,
jamin Scher. Elmwood Park, III.: Dalkey Archive *Wayne C. Booth, sometimes identifies himself
P, 1990. with the group.
Silverman, Kaja. The Acoustic Mirror. Bloomington:
Indiana UP, 1988. Origins
Smith, Barbara Herrnstein. OH the Margins of Dis-
course. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1978.
Stanzel, Franz. Typische Formeti des Romans. Gottin- The Chicago Aristotelians should be seen in
gen: Vandenhoek & Ruprecht, 1964. Narrative Sit- the context of the debate among college teach-
uations in the Novel. Bloomington: Indiana UP, ers between 1935 and 1955 concerning the rel-
1971. ative emphasis in literary studies of scholar-
- A Theory of Narrative. Trans. C. Goedsche. Cam- ship and criticism, and of the emergence of
bridge: Cambridge UP, 1984. the *New Criticism in departments of "litera-
Sternberg, Meir. 'Proteus in Quotation-Land.' Poetic ture in the U.S.A. Although the Chicago critics
3.2 (1982): 107-56. consistently denied that they comprised a
Todorov, Tzvetan. Grammaire du Decameron. The
'school,' the several members shared a schol-
Hague: Mouton, 1969.
arly interest in the history of literary criticism
Tomashevskii, Boris. Teoriia Literatury. Leningrad,
1924. (The relevant segment, 'Thematics,' is re- and theory, a deep distrust of New Criticism,
printed in Russian Formalist Criticism: Four Essays. especially of the notion that language was the
Ed. Lee Lemon and Marion Reis. Lincoln: U of distinguishing characteristic of literature and
Nebraska P, 1965, 61—95.) the sole cause of poetry, and an appreciation
Walton, Kendall. Mimesis as Make-Believe. Cam- of Aristotle's Poetics as providing a methodol-
bridge: Harvard UP, 1990. ogy and a terminology, albeit in outline only,
White, Hayden, 'The Value of Narrativity in the for dealing most appropriately with the multi-
Representation of Reality.' In On Narrative. Ed. ple causes of poetic wholes.
W.J.T. Mitchell. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1980, Crane had initially defended the need for a
1-24.
theoretical and philosophical basis for literary
Woods, John. The Logic of Fiction. The Hague: Mou-
ton, 1974.
criticism in 'History versus Criticism in the
Young, Katharine Galloway. Taleworlds and Story- Study of Literature' (1935), but the Chicago
realms: The Phenomenology of Narrative. Dordrecht: critics did not identify Aristotle specifically as
Martinus Nijhoff, 1987. the locus for that basis until the 19403, and
even then Aristotle was seen as a starting-
point, not as the ultimate authority. The Chi-

116
Neo-Aristotelian School
cago critics, though never mindlessly doctri- uniquely conceptualized subject-matter and a
naire, were unremitting in their attacks on crit- particularly determined mode of reasoning. It
ical orthodoxy in the American academy. They follows that the statements made in these var-
found their perspective in Aristotle's four ious languages often appear to be in contradic-
causes of a work of literary art: the efficient tion.
cause (the poet), the final cause (the effect on The Chicago Aristotelians agree in general
the reader), the material cause (the language), with the classification of criticism into dialecti-
and the formal cause (the mimetic content). cal and literal. Dialectical criticism originated
They castigated the New Criticism for its 'criti- with Plato, who analysed art in terms of the
cal monism/ for isolating the material cause as object of imitation, the imitation itself, the exe-
the sole differentia for poetry: hence Crane's cution of the imitation, and the correspond-
seemingly harsh references to *I.A. Richards' ence of each to the ideal (a dialectic of things).
Tavlovian mythology concerning the behavior Dialectical criticism later shifted to a dialectic
of words,' and to *Cleanth Brooks' 'materialist of knowledge and later yet to a dialectic of
monism.' Similar in approach is Keast's dia- processes and relations, where communication
tribe on Robert Heilman's analysis of King Lear or expression replaces imitation. Opposed to
which, he argues, makes of the play 'an infe- dialectical criticism are the several modes of
rior philosophic dialogue' and reduces it to 'an literal criticism, which is concerned with the
episternological discourse in dialogue form.' causes of a literary work conceived as the
(See *discourse.) Given McKeon's and Wein- product of the poet's art and genius, as the
berg's predilection for dissertations on ancient producer of certain effects of pleasure or in-
and Renaissance philosophy and theories of struction in the reader or audience, or as a for-
poetic and rhetoric and Crane's nearly impene- mal structure analysable in terms of its parts.
trable prose style, it can be argued that the in- Since the purposes and methods of the var-
fluence of the Chicago Aristotelians derived in ious modes of criticism differ so radically,
large part from the notoriety of their attacks there should be no surprise to find that state-
on the New Criticism. ments using similar terminology are often at
odds with one another, or that statements
Languages of criticism apparently opposed can at times be in agree-
ment. McKeon summarizes: 'There is doubtless
The Chicago critics agreed that contemporary but one truth in aesthetics as in other disci-
literary criticism was a Tower of Babel, lacking plines, but many statements of it are found to
a common vocabulary and devoid of a valid be adequate, more are partially satisfactory,
philosophical basis. They traced this critical and even more have been defended' (Crane,
dysfunction to the historical breakdown of an ed., Critics and Criticism 473).
Aristotelian method which differentiates
among poetic causes in the face of a Platonic *Pluralism
dialectic which employs a single, subsuming
integral cause and conceives of literature in its The Chicago Aristotelians postulated a solution
relation to other modes of discourse. After to the seemingly contradictory languages of
Longinus' work on the sublime, the distinction criticism in the idea of pluralism. They deliber-
between poetics and rhetoric broke down and ately considered and rejected other possible re-
poetry, rather than being considered as a class sponses such as radical scepticism, historical
of mimetic art, became simply another mode relativism, dogmatism, and synthesisism (syn-
of discourse to be treated in terms extrinsic to creticism). Pluralism recognized that appar-
its formal structure. (See *mimesis.) Although ently inconsistent or contradictory positions
both Aristotelian poetics and Platonic dialectic may simply represent different answers to dif-
are comprehensive systems seeking to account ferent questions. Systems may be compared in
in a complete way for literature, modern criti- terms of their scope, flexibility, and powers of
cism, argued the New Aristotelians, is usually explanation, but in an imperfect world a uni-
partial in that one of several causes is assumed versally satisfactory system is unlikely to be
to be the only explanatory cause of poetry. Lit- found. Systems are 'instruments of inquiry and
erary criticism therefore failed to assert itself as analysis,' not doctrinal absolutes, and the
a discipline and became instead a collection of choice of system is a practical decision de-
distinct languages, each dependent upon a pendent upon the critic's purposes.

117
Neo-Aristotelian School
The new Aristotelianism distinguish between imitative (mimetic) and
non-imitative (didactic) poetry, recognizing
Their conception of pluralism notwithstanding, that different principles of construction are in-
the Chicago critics were united in their 'strictly volved in each, they follow Aristotle in con-
pragmatic and non-exclusive commitment' to centrating almost exclusively on the idea of
the methods of Aristotle. They found in Aris- literary works as imitations of human actions,
totle a spirit of disinterested inquiry and the passions, thought, and characters. Aristotelian
most flexible and comprehensive method of mimesis, however, is interpreted in a more
critical analysis, a method which allowed them sophisticated sense than crude realism. On a
to isolate problems peculiar to literature. practical level, imitation is seen as an artistic
All poetic theory, they believed, is a form of analogue of a natural process or form and is,
causal explanation and such explanation, if it consequently, 'an empirically verifiable hy-
is to be complete and adequate, must take all pothesis for distinguishing objects of art from
the causes of poetic structure into account. natural things' (Critics and Criticism 18). For
Nevertheless, it is the structure and form of lit- Crane in particular mimesis is integral to the
erary works of art that characterize them, in internal causes of a poem that are central to a
Aristotelian terms, as the result of 'productive' proper poetic. In The Languages of Criticism and
science, artefacts valued over and above the the Structure of Poetry he defines mimesis as
particular actions that produce them. It is 'the internal relationship of form and matter
therefore the causes of the formal characteris- characteristic of the class of objects to which
tics of literature that are the proper concerns of poems, or rather some of them, belong' (81).
poetics. Poetics are concerned specifically with
what a poet does as a poet and with the Critical procedure
things that distinguish this activity from what
the poet might incidentally do as a psychologi- The critic proceeds inductively from the partic-
cal organism, a moral being, a philosopher, a ular concrete whole and infers from its nature
member of society, and so on. Such issues are the necessary and sufficient internal artistic
more properly treated by other disciplines: the causes of its form, structure, and effect, that is,
poet's thought and the reader's response are infers the process that constitutes poetic art. It
the concerns of psychology; the means and the is assumed that the aim of the poet's activity
medium of poetic expression are the concerns is the successful execution of the poem within
of rhetoric; the moral and political implications its confines. We derive pleasure from recogniz-
of literature are the concerns of the 'practical' ing and appreciating the poet's success in solv-
sciences of ethics and politics. (See *psychoan- ing the artistic problems in the making of the
alytic criticism, *reader-response criticism, work. We comprehend the poem's structure in
*rhetorical theory.) Neo-Aristotelian poetics terms of the problems faced and the reasons
considers these matters accidental causes of for the particular solution employed. Since the
poetic variation and concentrates instead on critic is confined to the evidence of the poetic
the internal shaping causes of the poem as work itself, the method can lead to a kind of
made art. critical merry-go-round in which the poem's
Crane also argued that the literary work generic kind is defined by the poem itself and
thus analysed and defined might be put into therefore the critic is required to assume that
its historical setting and a history of literature the form has been perfectly realized. (See
developed which would trace the interaction *genre criticism.) In other words, there is no
of artistic and extra-artistic causes. He outlined standard by which the critic can judge the
this possibility in 'Critical and Historical Prin- poem. The language that Crane uses to discuss
ciples of Literary History' (reprinted in The this process does little to clarify the problem.
Idea of Humanities 2: 45-156). He refers to 'the hypothesized form of a poetic
work' (Languages 182) against which the work
Imitation itself can presumably be measured, and to the
poet's 'primary intuition of form' (Languages
Central to the critical thought of the Chicago 146); but he does not make clear exactly how
Aristotelians is the concept of poems as con- the critic is to comprehend the ideal form ex-
crete wholes of various kinds. Although they cept by equating it with the completed poem.

118
Neo-Aristotelian School

Influence - The Languages of Criticism and the Structure of Po-


etry. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1953.
Historically, the Chicago Aristotelians were McKeon, Richard. 'Rhetoric and Poetic in the Philos-
among the earliest, most philosophically so- ophy of Aristotle.' In Aristotle's Poetics and English
Literature. Ed. Elder Olson. Chicago: U of Chicago
phisticated, scholarly, and perceptively analytic
P, 1965.
of the opponents of the New Criticism. They Olson, Elder. On Value Judgments in the Arts and
led the way in attacking the notion of the cen- Other Essays. Chicago: U of Chicago P. 1976.
trality of language as literary differentia and - 'An Outline of Poetic Theory.' In Critics and Criti-
refocused attention on plot and genre. Their cism: Ancient and Modern. Ed. R.S. Crane. Chi-
critical methodology, however, has had little cago. U of Chicago P, 1932.
direct effect on subsequent critical thought. - The Poetic Method of Aristotle: Its Powers and
Ironically, the Chicago critics are themselves Limitations.' In English Institute Essays, 1952. New
sometimes seen as practitioners of the New York: Columbia UP, 1 9 3 2 . Repr. in Aristotle's Po-
Criticism they deplored. This is especially true etics and English Literature. Ed. Elder Olson. Chi-
cago: U of Chicago P, 1963.
of Olson's famous piece on Yeats' 'Sailing to
- '"Sailing to Byzantium": Prolegomena to a Poetics
Byzantium.' Crane's essay on Tom Jones, on of the I.yric.' The University Review 8 (1942):
the other hand, expands the Aristotelian idea 209-19.
of plot to make it the controlling factor in a - The Theory of Comedy. Bloomington: Indiana UP,
hierarchy of elements that relegates diction to 1968.
the bottom. Olson's books on tragedy and - Tragedy and the Theory of Drama. Detroit: Wayne
comedy are learned, acute and commonsensi- State UP, 1961.
cal; but they wisely reflect Aristotle in a gen- Ransom, John Crowe. 'Humanism at Chicago.' K.en-
eral not a specific way. Wayne C. Booth is the yon Review 14 (1952): 647-59. Repr. in Poems and
only well-known critic to acknowledge the in- Essays. New York: Random House, 1955.
Vivas, Eliseo. 'The Neo-Aristotelians of Chicago.'
fluence of the Chicago Aristotelians, particu-
Sewanee Review 61 (1953): 136-19. Repr. in The
larly in his Critical Understanding (1979), but Artistic Transaction and Essays on the Theory of Lit-
his work in general suggests that the influence erature. Ed. Eliseo Vivas. Columbus: Ohio State
does not extend far. With the waning of the UP, 1963.
New Criticism, the raison d'etre of the Chi- Weinberg, Bernard. 'From Aristotle to Pseudo-Aris-
cago critics disappeared. Their Aristotelianism totle.' In Aristotle's Poetics and English Literature.
has been subsumed in other methodologies, Ed. Elder Olson. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1965.
although the school's broad influence might be - A History of Literary Criticism in the Italian Renais-
detected in the work of a second generation of sance. 2 vols. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1961.
scholars including Robert Marsh, Homer B. Wimsatt, William K. 'The Chicago Critics: The Fal-
lacy of Neoclassic Species.' In The Verbal Icon:
Goldberg, Walter Davis, Richard Levin, and
Studies in the Meaning of Poetry. Ed. William K.
Austin M Wright, as well as in the journal Wimsatt. Lexington: U of Kentucky P, 1914.
Critical Inquiry.
R O N A L D W. V I N C E
Secondary Sources
Primary Sources Holloway, John. 'The New and Newer Critics.' In
The Charted Mirror: Literary and Critical Essays. Ed.
Booth, Wayne C. Critical Understanding: The Powers John Holloway. London: Routledge and Paul,
and Limits ot Pluralism. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1960.
1979. Krieger, Murray. The New Apologists for Poetrit.
Crane, R.S., ed. Critics and Criticism: Ancient and Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1956.
Modern. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1952. [Essays Lemon, Lee T. The Partial Critics. New York: Oxford
by K.S. Crane, VV.R. Keast, Norman Maclean, UP, 1963.
Richard McKeon. Elder Olson, and Bernard Woin- Wellek, Rene. A History of Modern Criticism 1750-
berg] 7950. Vol. VI: American Criticism. 1900-1950. New
- 'History versus Criticism in the Study of Litera- Haven and London: Yale UP, 1986.
ture.' English Journal 24 ( l y i s ) : 645-67. Repr. in - 'Literary Scholarship.' In American Scholarship in
The Idea of the Humanities and Other Essays. Vol. the 2oth Century. Ed. Merle Curti. Cambridge,
2. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1967. Mass.: Harvard UP, 1 9 3 3 .
- The Idea of the Humanities and Other Essays. 2
vols. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1967.

119
New Criticism
edge is a matter of facts, Eliot effected an
New Criticism uneasy rapprochement between positivism and
literary criticism.
Never a formal school, New Criticism is an
Beginning with Richards' important works of
approach to *literature extrapolated from the
the 19208 (The Principles of Literary Criticism,
often discrete literary theories and critical prac-
Science and Poetry and Practical Criticism),
tices of British literary critics such as *I.A.
New Critics developed these arguments into
Richards, *William Empson and *F.R. Leavis,
major axioms about the autonomy of the work
and American literary critics such as *Cleanth
of art, its resistance to paraphrase, its organic
Brooks, *W.K. Wimsatt, Jr., Allen Tate, Richard
unity, its inevitably ironic use of language, and
Palmer Blackmur, Robert Penn Warren, and
its welcoming of close reading.
John Crowe Ransom, whose book, The New
Criticism (1941), provided the name for the
Autonomy of literature
movement. The New Critical sensibility first
received articulation in the 19205 in the essays
Like the Russian formalists - largely unknown
of the Anglo-American poet and critic *T.S.
to New Critics before Rene Wellek's Theory of
Eliot, and subsequently flourished in the pe-
Literature (1949) - New Critics rejected the
dagogy of North American and British teachers
prevailing tendency to substitute another dis-
of English literature. (See also *theory and pe-
cipline for the study of literature itself. (See
dagogy.)
*formalism, Russian.) Richards, one of the first
and most influential of the critics associated
Origin
with New Criticism, warns in Practical Criti-
cism (1929) that readers ought to refrain from
In half a dozen essays published between
applying to a poem the external standards of
1919 and 1923 - from 'Tradition and the Indi-
the chemist, the moralist, the logician, or the
vidual Talent' to 'The Function of Criticism' -
professor. The poem is an autonomous verbal
Eliot gave voice to a provocative combination
artefact. What matters, suggests Cleanth
of modernist principle and prejudice that was
Brooks in The Well Wrought Urn (1947), is
to ground most of the New Critical theory and
'what the poem says as a poem' (ix). (New
practice developed during the next 30 years.
Critics generally regard 'poem' as a synonym
Against the Romantic celebration of the poem
for 'literature.')
as a record of an exceptional person's person-
W.K. Wimsatt, Jr., and Monroe C. Beardsley,
ality, Eliot argued that 'honest criticism and
in 'The Intentional Fallacy' (1946), argue that
sensitive appreciation is directed not upon the
the meaning of a poem is internal, determined
poet but upon the poetry' (Selected Essays 17).
by what is public linguistic fact - grammar, se-
Similarly, against Walter Pater's impression-
mantics, syntax - and not by what poets might
ism, he argued that attention ought to be di-
reveal in conversation, letters or journals con-
rected solely upon the poem, and not upon
cerning their intentions (often the focus of tra-
the critic. In short, he disallowed genetic and
ditional positivistic or historical scholarship).
affective accounts of the work of art (to be-
Even the T speaking in a lyric poem is a crea-
come known as the intentional and affective
tion of the poem, they insist, and ought to be
fallacies, respectively) because they compro-
regarded as a dramatic persona, and not as the
mised the integrity of the work of art as art.
poet. Developing Allen Tate's interest in 'Liter-
(See *genetic criticism.)
ature as Knowledge' (1941) in the ontology of
Responding to scientific positivism's claim
a poem, Wimsatt and Beardsley suggest that
that science alone produces knowledge, Eliot
poetry's obligation is not just to convey
argued that the study of literature ought to
knowledge but also to be knowledge. Even
strive towards scientific objectivity. Reacting
earlier, in The World's Body (1938), John Crowe
against positivism, however, he claimed that
Ransom argues that meaning is always a func-
literature contains a unique knowledge not
tion of the poem's full linguistic being, for it
available to science - a knowledge born of the
exists in a tension between its paraphrasable
multiple perspectives on experience that the
core and its lively local details - the latter
juxtaposition of words in a work of art allows.
being capable of subverting the former - and
By marking such an antiscientific use of lan-
so the poem can never be reduced to a static
guage as a fact, and by agreeing that knowl-
and lifeless concept or intention.

120
New Criticism
Heresy of paraphrase poem, then, is not only an autonomous being,
but also - given that this reconciliation is vital
Like all New Critics since, Richards recognized and dynamic - an organic being, complete
the threat to the autonomy and integrity of the with both internal tensions and structural un-
poem contained in the habit of reducing the ity. Each word is a part of the context of inter-
poem to just such a concept or intention - the related meanings that are fused together as the
habit of paraphrase. In Neio Bearings in English poem, and the poem's complex totality also
Poetry (1932), his student F.R. Leavis deprec- infuses the individual words and phrases. In
iates the limitation of a poem's self-sufficiency short, the part is a determiner of the meaning
represented in the shifting of focus away as a whole and the meaning as a whole deter-
from the poem to something outside it. Yet mines the precise meaning of each part. Ac-
it was Brooks who most notoriously raised the cording to Brooks, then, one appreciates a
warning about paraphrase by labelling it a poem's significance not just by reading the
'heresy.' Brooks acknowledges that paraphrase poem as a poem, but also by reading 'the
is useful as a shorthand in describing a poem poem ... as a whole' (194).
or pointing to certain aspects of it, but he will
not allow that it can ever represent the essen- *Irony
tial meaning of the poem. It is like a scaffold-
ing that can be erected around a building but Poetry depends for its being upon irony. A
which ought never to be mistaken for the word used by New Critics in several ways,
structure within. For Brooks, as for Ransom, irony may be understood as represented by a
the structure of the poem is a 'pattern of re- continuum of definitions ranged between
solved stresses' (203). This resolution is not a 'irony is the tendency of any word, but partic-
matter of finding a mean between extremes (a ularly words combined as poetry, to suggest
process that might well lend itself to para- more than one meaning' and 'irony is the
phrase) but rather a dramatic balancing and tendency of a good poem to include a signifi-
harmonizing of attitudes, feelings, ideas, deno- cant number and subtle variety of factors at
tations, and connotations. The analogy be- odds with what is apparently being said in the
tween drama and poetry is deliberate: conflict poem.' In 'Pure and Impure Poetry' (1942),
is built into the being of each such that they Robert Penn Warren claims that the poet
become action instead of a statement about ac- 'proves his vision by submitting it to the fires
tion. To paraphrase the poem as a statement of irony - to the drama of his structure' (29).
about its action, therefore, is to refer to some- In other words, as a dramatic tension - as a
thing outside it and so to deny its autonomy. balancing and reconciliation - of opposite or
In its extreme form, the argument against par- discordant qualities, a poem is ironic in struc-
aphrase leads to R.P. Blackmur's conclusion in ture. The poem is defined by the ironic com-
The Double Agent (193s) that, beyond para- petition of meanings within it - the inevitably
phrase, 'the rest, whatever it is, can only be ironic aspect of language having been wrought
known, not talked about' (300). up to a very high degree in poetry, in which a
structural harmony amongst competing mean-
Organic unity ings is achieved. 'Irony,' explains Brooks, 'is
the most general term that we have for the
For New Critics, what is known but difficult to kind of qualification which the various ele-
talk about is the experience of the poem as a ments in a context receive from the context'
unified whole. In this experience, the reader (209).
perceives the poem as a 'total meaning' - a New Critics are unanimous in celebrating
blending of many meanings and several lan- irony as the essence of poetry. For Ransom,
guage tasks simultaneously (Practical Criticism the effect of the qualification of the poem's
180). Borrowing both from Eliot's concept of various elements by its context is a construc-
the poet as always forming new wholes and tion that is a simulacrum of democracy -
from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's concept of the poetry and democracy allowing free exercise
imagination as a vital 'esemplastic' power, to individual words and citizens, respectively.
Richards, in The Principles of Literary Criticism For Tate, poetry is a more general simulacrum
(1924), defines the poem as an intricate and of reality: a construction of reality (whatever
exquisite reconciliation of experience. The it be) in language that, as poetry, is a more

121
New Criticism
complete mode of utterance than scientific reading for irony, paradox, ambiguity, and
language. For Brooks, the good poem is a contradiction that New Critics offered as the
simulacrum of the oneness of reality and so sine qua non of literary study. The ahistorical
the poet's task is 'to unify experience' (212). element implicit in this relatively exclusive fo-
The instrument for the latter is *paradox - for cus upon the poem, its individual words, and
Brooks, a rhetorical strategy that claims to their manifold meanings recommended New
unify opposites. The instrument for represent- Criticism to many university teachers of Eng-
ing the manifold variety in reality is ambigu- lish literature during the 19405, 19505, and
ity, the poet's tribute to the diversity in human 19605, for as universities expanded and gath-
experience. The particularly democratic conse- ered within their walls a student population
quence of the irony within the poem is contra- more variously educated than ever before in
diction, the celebration of dissension among the history of the university, teachers found it
the words of a poem as the instrument of a possible to avoid the potentially extensive re-
complex whole. medial instruction in history and philosophy
that (before the advent of New Criticism) had
Close reading been assumed to be necessary as preparation
for reading literature, for they now had New
Richards' definition in Practical Criticism of the Criticism's assurance that knowledge of the
four different kinds of meaning possible in a poem's language and a good dictionary were
poem (sense, feeling, tone, and intention) in- the only prerequisites for literary study.
vited a new kind of reading: 'All respectable
poetry invites close reading' (203). Every New Relation to other schools
Critic acknowledges the importance of close
reading, for the concomitant of New Critical For the most part, New Criticism enjoyed an
praise of irony, paradox, ambiguity, and com- antipathetic relation to other schools. It arose
plexity in general is the requirement that each as a reaction to Romantic 'great man' theories
word of a poem be scrutinized in detail with of poetry, impressionism and similar affective
regard to all relevant denotations and connota- accounts of literature (such as contemporary
tions. Attention to detail is necessary if the •"reader-response criticism), old historicism
whole both depends upon accurate perception (including the history of ideas), Marxism, psy-
of the many-sided parts and also reveals in the choanalysis, *archetypal criticism - whatever
parts unsuspected sides illuminated only retro- represented the status quo in literary criticism
spectively by the whole. in the early years of the 2oth century or what-
In Britain, notable close readers were F.R. ever offered itself as the rival method of the
Leavis and William Empson. The name of future. (See also *Marxist criticism, *psycho-
Leavis' literary magazine, Scrutiny (founded analytic theory.)
1932), implies the line-by-line examination of New Criticism's closest neighbour - though
literature that he favoured. Empson's Seven no relation - was Russian formalism. Both ap-
Types of Ambiguity (1930) demonstrates that proaches to literature celebrate the autonomy
word-by-word analysis of poems is necessary of the work, the distinction between poetic
in order to appreciate the inevitability and and practical language, and the dynamic struc-
meaningful productivity of ambiguity's omni- ture of the poem. Similarly, although unrelated
presence in poetry. His definition of ambiguity to *structuralism, New Criticism (as well as
as 'any verbal nuance, however slight, which Russian formalism) shares with this approach
gives room for alternative reactions to the to literature a conviction that meaning is deter-
same piece of language' was very influential mined by a structure within the *text. Rich-
upon American New Critics in general, but ards, by distinguishing between the emotive
particularly so upon Cleanth Brooks (i). and the referential function of language, and
by defining the latter as irrelevant to poetry,
Influence comes closest to the structuralist's lack of in-
terest in the referential function of language.
The element of New Critical practice that has New Criticism, structuralism and Russian
established itself most ineradicably is this habit formalism are also similar in their ahistorical
of close reading. Few, if any, contemporary dimensions, denying, ignoring or de-empha-
approaches to literature can forgo the careful sizing a poem's involvement in the ideological

122
New Criticism

projects of its place and time. (See also tics.) In the hands of later practitioners it be-
*ideology.) came too matter-of-fact and down-to-business
*Harold Bloom, in The Anxiety of Influence, in its quest for objectivity - unwittingly realiz-
implies a debt to New Criticism in his book's ing the other than humane possibilities impli-
dedication to W.K. Wimsatt, Jr. His use of cit in the title of Ransom's early essay about
Freud's theory of the family romance to focus New Criticism's goals, 'Criticism, Inc.' (The
attention upon the life-cycle of 'the poet-as- World's Body). *Paul de Man identifies New
poet' simultaneously echoes New Criticism's Criticism's difficulties in this respect as deriv-
interest in the poem as poem and subverts ing from its disqualification of intention as
Wimsatt's own attempt to sever the poet from relevant to the analysis of poetry. (See *inten-
the poem in The Intentional Fallacy' (7). (See tion/intentionality.) The poem begins to look
*Sigmund Freud, *anxiety of influence.) Apart like a natural object - the thing studied by
from the intrusion of Freud, Bloom's theories science - as opposed to the structurally inten-
of anxiety are New Critical in the close read- tional phenomenon of human consciousness
ing that enables them and in the assertion of (the focus of humanistic concern) when the
the autonomy of literature (an enlarging of latter is thrown out with the object of legiti-
New Criticism's assertion of the autonomy of mate New Critical suspicion: the contingent in-
the poem) that circumscribes them. tention (the poet's state of mind).
New Criticism shares with *deconstruction Politically, New Criticism is suspect on sev-
in particular and *poststructuralism in general eral counts. Formalisms like New Criticism are
a determination to expose the falseness of the accused of ignoring or denying the political
calm often presented by the surface of a text. implications of literature, but they are not re-
Each is antipositivistic, happy to acknowledge garded as politically innocent themselves. One
the death of the author and alert to the play in can detect in New Criticism's respect for the
literary language. Yet there is a great gulf fixed unity expressed in a poem a thinly disguised
between New Criticism's logocentric claim that apology for liberal pluralism, for its 'formalist
there is nothing outside the text (which func- interpretation subtends the larger ideology,
tions as a repository of meaning) and decon- satisfying within a narrower domain of prac-
struction's non-logocentric claim that there is tice the longing for consensus, for a metaphys-
nothing outside text (which functions as a de- ics of the same' (Guillory 194). For Marxists
ferrer of meaning). (See *logocentrism.) and feminists, among others, New Criticism's
respect for unity in the poem beyond para-
Implications, difficulties, drawbacks phrase is 'a recipe for political inertia' (Eagle-
ton 50). (See *feminist criticism.) For many,
New Criticism has been under sustained attack the academy's embrace of New Criticism's
from the beginning, and especially since the quest for objectivity in literary study is 'one
19605, for a variety of real and/or apparent in- more symptom of the university's capitulation
discretions. to the capitalist-military-industrial-technologi-
The New Critics' insistence on referring to cal complex' (Graff 129).
literature as poetry immediately prompted the To review New Criticism's theories and
complaint that New Criticism's theories and practices from the point of view of the prag-
methods were relevant primarily to poetry, matic strategies motivating them, however,
secondarily to drama, and perhaps not at all rather than from the point of view of the con-
to prose fiction. Brooks, increasingly turning tradictory or inadequate epistemologies and
his attention after the triumph of The Well metaphysics extrapolated from them retrospec-
Wrought Urn to New Critical analysis of mod- tively, is to see that New Criticism was neither
ern fiction, tacitly concedes the force of such the ultimate good nor the ultimate evil that it
an objection by implying that a novel's cul- was sometimes thought to be. The attention of
tural setting (unlike a poem's cultural setting) New Critics to close reading was not just an
is relevant to the study of such a work of art attempt to imitate science's attention to facts,
as a work of art. but also an attempt to counter the academy's
Hermeneutic critics complain that New Cri- acquiescence in scientific positivism's refusal to
ticism failed to maintain its antipositivistic accept the study of literature as a legitimate
impulse, lapsing into an 'increasingly technolo- way of acquiring knowledge. The objectivity
gical' perspective (Palmer 6). (See *hermeneu- that New Critics sought was not an empirical

123
New Historicism
objectivity in league with the technological Graff, Gerald. Literature Against Itself. Chicago: U of
will to dominate being, but rather a more phe- Chicago P, 1979.
nomenological objectivity that would let the Guillory, John. 'The Ideology of Canon-Formation:
poem be what it is. In fact, it is possible to ar- T.S. Eliot and Cleanth Brooks.' Critical Inquiry 10
(Sept. 1983): 173-98.
gue that, despite its positivistic and empirical Krieger, Murray. The New Apologists for Poetry. Min-
elements, New Criticism participates in the re- neapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1956.
volt against positivism and empiricism that has Lentricchia, Frank. After the New Criticism. Chicago:
characterized igth- and 20th-century intellec- U of Chicago P, 1980.
tual development and that continues to be a Palmer, Richard E. Hermeneutics. Evanston, 111.:
factor in the contemporary theories that op- Northwestern UP, 1969.
pose New Criticism (Graff 137). (See also Robey, David. 'Anglo-American New Criticism.' In
*phenomenological criticism.) Modern Literary Theory. Ed. Ann Jefferson and
DONALD J. CHILDS David Robey. 2nd ed. London: Batsford, 1986.
Thompson, Ewa M. Russian Formalism and Anglo-
American New Criticism. The Hague: Mouton,
Primary Sources
1971.
Blackmur, R.P. The Double Agent. 1935. Repr.
Gloucester, Mass.: Peter Smith, 1962.
Brooks, Cleanth. The Well Wrought Urn. New York: New Historicism
Harcourt, Brace, 1947.
Eliot, T.S. Selected Essays. 1932. 3rd. enl. ed. Lon- Emerging in the 19805 in the field of Renais-
don: Faber, 1951.
sance studies, 'New Historicism' designates a
Empson, William. Seven Types of Ambiguity. 1930.
3rd ed. London: Hogarth, 1984. variety of heterogeneous writing practices
Leavis, F.R. New Bearings in English Poetry. London: shared among its proponents: opposition to
Chatto & Windus, 1932. the compartmentalization of disciplines; atten-
Ransom, John Crowe. The New Criticism. 1941. Repr. tion to the economic and historical contexts of
Westport, Conn.: Greenwood P, 1979. culture; self-reflexiveness about the critic's im-
- The World's Body. 1938. Repr. Baton Rouge: Louisi- plication in the act of writing about culture;
ana State UP, 1968. and concern with the *intertextuality of texts
Richards, LA. Practical Criticism. 1929. Repr. Lon- and discourses. Opposed to orthodox scholar-
don: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1964. ship, New Historicism reconstructs literary
- The Principles of Literary Criticism. 1924. Repr.
texts as historical objects by considering docu-
New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1959.
- Science and Poetry. New York: Norton, 1926. ments and methods previously excluded from
Tate, Allen. 'Literature as Knowledge.' In Reason in traditional literary and aesthetic study. (See
Madness. New York: Putnam, 1941. also *text, *discourse, *literature.)
Warren, Robert Penn. 'Pure and Impure Poetry.' In As a term for literary and aesthetic analysis,
Selected Essays. New York: Random House, 1958. 'New Historicism' was used in 1972 by Wesley
Wimsatt, W.K., Jr., and Monroe C. Beardsley. 'The Morris to designate a mode of literary criticism
Intentional Fallacy.' In The Verbal Icon. Lexington: derived from German historicists such as Leo-
UP of Kentucky, 1954. pold von Ranke and *Wilhelm Dilthey, and
American historians such as Vernon L. Par-
Secondary Sources rington and Van Wyck Brooks. Michael Mc-
Canles employed the term in 1980 in reference
Adams, Hazard. Critical Theory Since Plato. New to Renaissance culture, arguing that *semiotics
York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1971.
'may well be on its way to becoming a new
Bloom, Harold. The Anxiety of Influence. Oxford:
Oxford UP, 1973.
historicism' (85). Now in widespread use,
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. The Collected Works of 'New Historicism' was most closely associated
Samuel Taylor Coleridge 7: Biographia Literaria i. with Stephen Greenblatt and his associates at
Princeton: Princeton UP, 1983. the University of California at Berkeley. In the
de Man, Paul. 'Form and Intent in the American introduction to a special issue of Genre in 1982
New Criticism.' In Blindness and Insight. 1971. 2nd he remarks: 'The new historicism erodes the
rev. ed. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1983. firm ground of both criticism and literature. It
Eagleton, Terry. Literary Theory. London: Blackwell, tends to ask questions about its own methodo-
1983. logical assumptions and those of others' (3).

124
New Historicism

Although Greenblatt has distanced himself cism repudiates the history-of-ideas approaches
from the term (in 1980 he used 'cultural poet- to Renaissance studies of such earlier humanist
ics/ a term to which he returned in 1988 and scholars as Douglas Bush, *C.S. Lewis and
1989), 'New Historicism' continues to desig- E.M.W.Tillyard, who are criticized for their
nate identifiable scholarly methods. Its institu- monological and homogeneous constructions
tional centre is the journal Representations of a historical period. (See ""totalization, *es-
(1983-), first edited by Greenblatt with Joel sentialism.)
Fineman, Catherine Gallagher, Walter Benn Many New Historicists have focused on
Michaels, and others. Other scholars associated Tillyard's The Elizabethan World Picture as a
with New Historicism include Jonathan Gold- sustained object of attack and as a locus for
berg, Lisa Jardine, Alan Liu, Arthur Marotti, establishing the dimensions of their emerging
Louis A. Montrose, and Stephen Orgel. methodologies (Dollimore, 'Introduction';
New Historicists do not form a single school Howard, 'New Historicism'; Liu, 'Power';
nor do they share an agreed-upon theoretical McCanles; Montrose, 'Renaissance'; and
program: 'crisis not consensus surrounds the Wayne). They criticize at least five aspects of
New Historicist project'; it is not 'a doctrine' the relations between literature and history in
but a consolidation of 'themes, preoccupations, Tillyard's position: ( i ) the presentation of his-
and attitudes' (Veeser xv, xiii). New Histori- tory as a 'picture/ a 'background order' (Till-
cism simultaneously criticizes and incorporates yard 8) that is ontologically separated from
aspects of traditional and contemporary the- literature; (2) the view of social reality as a
ory, and in doing so 'offends against a number 'collective mind' (Tillyard 17) that is expressed
of orthodoxies in both literary and historical in canonical literary works; (3) the derivation
studies' (White 'Comment' 294). While it re- of the 'collective mind' from a notion of un-
coils from the formalism of *New Criticism - changing, universal human nature, a human
with its privileged literary text as a self-con- nature that finds its most privileged articula-
tained vessel of immanent meaning - it retains tion in the literary *canon, particularly in
some of the techniques of New Critical close Shakespeare; (4) the reflection or expression of
reading. Similarly, while it opposes the ahis- essentialized aspects of a historical period by
torical tendencies of *structuralism and *de- these literary masterworks; (5) the assumption
construction, New Historicism nevertheless that the universal human nature expressed in
uses both to read systems of representation as these masterworks enables them to transcend
texts. Structuralism facilitates the analysis of the 'world picture/ the historical moment of
the signifying practices of literary and histori- literary production with its complex political
cal texts as systems, while deconstruction lo- implications. (See ""universal.)
cates the gaps, absences and silences which Opposing such relations between literature
constitute the traces of the metaphysical as- and history, New Historicists have elaborated
sumptions of such textual systems. New Histo- alternative reading practices. They argue that
ricists deploy structuralist and deconstructive forms of discourse, artistic or documentary,
strategies, particularly those of *Michel Fou- popular or elitist, interact with and are deter-
cault and *Paul de Man, to read human mined by other discourses and institutional
agency as subjectivity established as a text practices in a specific historical moment. (See
within historically specific sets of social rela- ""discourse analysis theory.) They also empha-
tions. (See *signifying practice.) size rhetoric by relating literary theories of text
New Historicism also positions itself against to the constitution of historical objects as well
at least two forms of writing history. First, it as to the reading of them. That is, they pre-
rejects the base-superstructure model of vulgar suppose both 'the historicity of texts' and 'the
Marxism because of its economism and its uni- textuality of history' (Montrose, 'Renaissance'
linear explanation of historical determinations 8). (See ""rhetorical criticism.)
(Williams, 'Base'); nevertheless, it retains the Different emphasis is given to 'historicity'
Marxist notion that human beings and their ar- and ""textuality' by each New Historicist. For
tefacts are 'constructed by social and historical instance, Montrose stresses 'historicity' in his
forces' (Howard, 'New Historicism' 15). (See writing when he examines the convention of
*Marxist criticism.) Second, while not relin- Elizabethan pastoral in relation to the land-
quishing notions of periodicity, New Histori- holding practices and the hierarchical relations

125
New Historicism
of the Elizabethan court. The pastoral 'is order, is opened to question: it is taken from
ubiquitous not only in established literary and the privileged realm of aesthetics and is repoli-
pictorial genres, but also in religious, political, ticized in a new kind of 'play.' The text is
and didactic texts ... [It is] a symbolic forma- made a 'drama' of conflicting forces 'whose
tion which has been selected and abstracted "paradigms" dramatize the world as all a Rep-
from a whole way of life that is materially resentation of struggle between subversives
pastoral ... in which animal husbandry is a and dominants' (Liu, 'Local' 96). (See *centre/
primary means of production' ('Gentlemen' decentre, *hegemony, *margin, theories of
420-1). Greenblatt emphasizes 'textuality' *play/freeplay.)
when in Renaissance Self-Fashioning the '*self Different paradigms, drawn by New Histori-
is a literary construct of the text: historical per- cists from the social sciences but mediated in
sonages are inscribed in documents as textual their adaptation and usage by cultural critics,
systems. Whatever the emphasis, however, a function to represent these 'struggles/ to es-
New Historicist position does not privilege tablish the mediations and interactions that
'historicity' or 'textuality' to the exclusion of link the literary to the historical, the textual
either. Instead, the mediations and interactions system to social effect. New Historicists rely
between the two are the focus of New Histori- on Foucault's 'power/ or 'episteme/ *Ray-
cist practice. New Historicism, as Greenblatt mond Williams' 'culture/ *Louis Althusser's
says, shifts the emphasis from 'the level of re- 'ideology/ and *Clifford Geertz's 'thick de-
flection' to 'engage questions of dynamic ex- scription' to establish these relations. By
change/ exchanges between the context and choosing one of these paradigms, or by using
the text, between the content and the form them in combination, New Historicists specify
(Negotiations 11). That is, New Historicists re- the historical context in which the literary text
late dialectical tensions between systems of is to be read. (See *power, *episteme, *ideol-
historical referentiality and of literary represen- °gy-)
tation, between a contextual emphasis on liter- New Historicists typically relate the 'historic-
ary 'historicity' and a mimetic emphasis on ity' and 'textuality' of their own subject posi-
historical 'textuality.' (See *mimesis.) tion by making various self-reflexive, first-
Refusing to confer literature any transhistori- person gestures. (Montrose, 'Elizabethan' 323;
cal status, New Historicists read a literary text Greenblatt Negotiations 39). In doing so, the
first as constituted within historically specific writer is placed in a problematic relation to the
literary institutions. (See *literary institution.) historical object being written about, since our
Literary texts are related to other texts pro- 'analyses and our understandings necessarily
duced within other historically specific institu- proceed from our own historically, socially and
tions. So Greenblatt writes of the Elizabethan institutionally shaped vantage points; ... the
theatre: 'each play is bound up with the thea- histories we reconstruct are the textual con-
tre's long-term institutional strategy ... An in- structs of critics who are, ourselves, historical
dividual play mediates between the mode of subjects' (Montrose, 'Poetics' 23). The instabil-
theatre, understood in its historical specificity, ity of these relations between past and present
and elements of society out of which that the- is played out in the act of writing: to Mon-
atre has been differentiated' (Negotiations 14). trose, this act of writing the past is an inter-
'Society,' constructed as a text of interrelated vention in 'an increasingly technocratic and
institutions, becomes a system of circulation in commodified academy and society' (ibid. 25);
which its 'elements' are differentiated between it is also the occasion for acute epistemological
a dominant order and subversive forces. New anxiety, psychologized as a 'desire' to speak
Historicists construct order as both a literary with the dead (Greenblatt, Negotiations 1-20).
and political principle, so that correspondences Traditional scholarly apparatuses that have fa-
can be drawn between the aesthetic conven- cilitated the popular and academic writing of
tions inscribed in the literary text and the history, together with the metaphysical as-
hegemonic political forces of society. The sumptions that, New Historicists claim, hide
drawing of such correspondences emphasizes both critic and historian behind a mask of ob-
silenced or marginalized positions that are jectivity, are thrown open to question by these
always contained by the literary and social self-reflexive gestures. But since reading and
order; hence the dominant position, conven- writing practices are necessarily limited to such
tionally read as a transcendental natural apparatuses, they must be used by the New

126
New Historidsm
Historicist, despite their limitations and en- objective information, in terms of closure and
forced alignments. legitimation. Such collapsing of points of dif-
While using these systems of reading and ference into authoritative definition constitutes
writing, a New Historicist actively works to a containment of subversive critical strategies
undermine them. Thus, Princeton's Collected and a silencing of diverse theoretical positions
Coleridge, for instance, described as 'a magis- within the North American academy. But the
terial product of the modern critical institu- necessary use of institutional conventions im-
tion,' 'does not memorially enclose a Romantic plicates the writer of an entry on 'New Histo-
Coleridge so much as open up the phenome- ricism' in a double bind in the institutional
non of English Romanticism to the strategies practices of mastery, where the use of schol-
of cultural contention that first composed its arly conventions is simultaneously legitimated
complex "history"' (Klancher 86). Similarly, and undermined.
the traditional scholarly conventions of the ref- Opponents of New Historicism have di-
erence book or the introductory textbook can rected their attacks upon its apparent lack of
he opened up 'to the strategies of cultural con- interest in the history of its constituting label,
tention.' This entry on 'New Historicism/ for as well as on its evasion of or implication in
example, could be read, up until now, as such an overt political agenda. As for the first issue,
'a magisterial product.' Its 'scholarly' appara- a focus upon the configuration 'New' and
tus, with its 'neutral' tone, 'objective' presenta- 'Historicism' brings charges of 'unacknowl-
tion of factual history contained in a linear edged debt' (Thomas 'New Historicism' 192)
narrative moving from origin to definition and against the New Historicists, charges that are
application, and its assumption of mastery related to the failure to ground their concepts
over a field of knowledge assumed to be lim- historically. In marking out their differences
ited, is a convention of knowledge production with their intellectual predecessors, New
in 'the modern critical institution.' In rewriting Historicists have tended to concentrate on
such an entry to question these conventions, a post-structuralist methodologies, ignoring
New Historicist would relate the reference connections with previous traditions of histor-
book or introductory textbook as historically iography. (See *poststructuralism.) Predecessors
constituted genres: such epistemological proj- of New Historicism include members of the
ects are derived from the Enlightenment; they Warburg-Courtauld Institutes in London (such
give an articulated order to knowledge, as out- as *E.H. Gombrich, Erwin Panofsky and
lined with respect to taxonomies and classifica- Frances Yates) who influenced scholars such
tion by Foucault in The Order of Things, The as Roy Strong and Stephen Orgel in examin-
rewritten entry would historicize its own tex- ing the relations between culture and power.
tuality by relating the Enlightenment paradigm 'Historicism' is a i9th- and early-ioth-century
to specific institutional moments of the objecti- German concept 'based on the assumption that
fication of knowledge, such as the compilation past events and situations are unique and non-
of dictionaries and encyclopedias (for example, repeatable and therefore cannot be understood
in Diderot's Encyclopedic [17^1-80], Johnson's in universal terms but only in terms of their
Dictionary [ i / s s j , and the Britannica [1771]). own particular contexts' (Ritter 183). A failure
A New Historicist rewriting of this entry to acknowledge these relations and explore
would also self-consciously situate the position their implications has led Brook Thomas to
of the writer using the conventions of objec- dispute 'the new historicism's claim to new-
tive knowledge w i t h i n a highly diverse field of ness' ('New Historicism' 188).
knowledge production at a particular historic In its 'newness/ the New Historicism may
conjuncture. Denying the possibility of any also be related to the 'New History/ a histo-
such objectivity, a New Historicist constructs riography associated in America with James
such mastery as a rhetorical vantage point Harvey Robinson and Charles Beard. Since the
which functions to displace any attention to- 19605 the New History has been associated
wards how that field of knowledge is con- with certain progressive historians in the
stituted, in the process closing off areas of con- U.S.A., as well as with the Annales school in
testation. A New Historicist would read the France and certain Marxist historians in Brit-
pedagogical need and commercial marketabil ain. The New History is opposed to orthodox
ity for this introduction to 'Contemporary The- historiography because of its concentration on
ory/ representing diverse critical practices as political and diplomatic events, and its reliance

127
New Historidsm
on narrative as the essential means of articu- to specific historical referents and their politi-
lating the past. To construct their New His- cal effects as a way of grounding their own
tory, these historians have derived hoth their political position (Belsey; Dollimore, 1984;
subjects and their methodologies from the so- Dollimore and Sinfield; Sinfield 1982; Wayne).
cial sciences (Gross, Himmelfarb). Indicating Furthermore, the New Historicists have also
problems of documentation and, more impor- been criticized for not acknowledging their
tant, 'the profound problems posed by the no- debt - theoretical and methodological - to
tion of the historical "event,"' Leeds Barroll feminists (Newton 153). (See *feminist criti-
has argued that 'some of the confusions plagu- cism.)
ing the new historicism' are related to their 'New Historicism' is often used by the polit-
failure to consider 'the concerns raised - to cite ical right within the American academy, and
only a few examples - by Fernand Braudel as frequently by the mass media and government
long ago as his 1950 survey of the state of agencies, as a stalking-horse for attacks on
post-Rankean historiography, or more recently poststructuralist and politically explicit metho-
by Lawrence Stone' (464, 441, 462). Further- dologies in the humanities (Brooks; D'Souza;
more, he questions the assertion of some New Lehman; Pechter). In these attacks, some of
Historicists that literature may be politically New Historicism's methodological borrowings
subversive in specific historical moments. Ex- from the left, particularly from Marxism, allow
amining the nature of the evidence they ad- polemicists of the right to revive 'Red-scare'
duce, he cites three instances where 'the tactics (Veeser xi) and 'cold war rhetoric'
epistemic problems posed by the question of (Thomas New Historicism vi) to attack posi-
"historical evidence" are so great ... that there tions and practices which to them threaten to
is no way that we can know the "true" story' undermine traditionalist conceptions of history
(453). Finally, he criticizes their 'pre-Marxian and literature. 'New Historicism' has func-
dependence on the historical roles of dominant tioned in the popular press as a means of
personalities' such as Elizabeth I and James I crudely bashing the political left for 'the study
(463). Another critic, David Harris Sacks criti- of books not because of their moral or esthetic
cizes the 'language of "subversion" and value but because they permit the professor to
"containment"' of some New Historicists as advance a political, often Marxist agenda'
being an 'overtly mechanistic interpretation of (Lehman 62). Such attacks in both the acad-
cultural politics,' one 'now commonplace in lit- emy and the press have prompted many
erary studies' (477-8). responses (Gallagher 45; Holstun 203-7;
In the second place, critics of New Histori- Montrose 'Poetics' 15-17; Porter 743-51).
cism launch their attacks upon its politics from Despite these attacks, the popularity of the
both the political left and right. Attacks from New Historicism has grown throughout the
the left level several charges. The self-con- academy. Although it originated in Renais-
scious positioning of the writer often collapses sance studies, its methods and practices are in-
onto a psychological category of 'desire,' con- creasingly employed in almost every period of
verting the political contestation of intertextual literary studies from the i6th century to the
systems into a personal drama of anxiety and present in North American departments of
fulfilment (Gallagher). (See *desire.) The New English, History, Anthropology, and Art His-
Historicist pragmatism, a refusal to systematize tory, and in other disciplinary and interdisci-
theoretical presuppositions, is an evasion of an plinary fields. This rapid spread has signalled
explicit political position, 'nothing but a breast- the increasing acceptance of its methods and
beating' (Spivak 285). New Historicists are presuppositions. Such success also signals a
particularly open to such attacks when their certain irony: the increasing acceptance of
evasion is compared to *cultural materialism. New Historicism is at once a mark of its ac-
British cultural materialism, while sharing commodation to the conventions of the acad-
many of the presuppositions of New Histori- emy and an undermining of its foundational
cism, has consistently directed its theoretical gesture of opposing academic orthodoxies.
agenda in accord with a leftist political agenda. (See also "materialist criticism.)
While New Historicism tends to remain within VICTOR SHEA
the problematic of representation, cultural ma-
terialists move from systems of representation

128
New Historicism
Primary Sources Energy in Renaissance England. Berkeley: U of Cali-
fornia P, 1988.
Althusser, Louis. Ideology and Ideological State - 'Towards a Poetics of Culture.' In The New Histo-
Apparatuses.' In Lenin and Philosophy and Other ricism. Ed. H. Aram Veeser. New York: Routledge,
Essays. Trans. Ben Brewster. London: Monthly Re- 1989, 1 — 14.
view P, 1971, 127-86. Gross, David. '"The New History": A Note of Reap-
Barroll, Leeds. 'A New History for Shakespeare and praisal.' History and Theory 12 (1974): 53—8.
His Time.' Shakespeare Quarterly 39 (1988): Hawkes, Terence. 'Shakespeare and New Critical
441-64. Approaches.' In The Cambridge Companion to
Belsey, Catherine. The Subject of Tragedy: Identity Shakespeare Studies. Cambridge: Cambridge UP,
and Difference in Renaissance Drama. London: 1986.
Methuen, 1983. Himmelfarb, Gertrude. The New History and the Old.
Brooks, David. 'From Western Lit to Westerns as Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 1987.
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Hrusovsky, Milan Pisut, Michal Povazan, and would be unnecessary; the receiver would
Jaroslav Dubnicky. Some Russian emigres such know as much as the author and consequently
as Alexander Isachenko and Peter Bogatyrev the information would be redundant. But the
were also part of the group. Its centre was Bra- advantage of the producer (author) over the
tislava, the capital of Slovakia. Although rep- receiver cannot be too great because the liter-
resentatives of Slovak *structuralism worked in ary work of art would become incomprehensi-
the shadow of their more prominent Czech col- ble and lose its communicative power. How-
leagues, their achievements were significant to ever, such a situation may arise. It usually
the discipline. Before the Second World War, happens when a new literary current defies
the Prague and Bratislava groups remained and tries to break old aesthetic conventions of
in close cooperation until they were both re- a preceding and 'automatized' period or when
pressed by the Marxist orthodoxy imposed on a single writer is far ahead of his contemporar-
Czechoslovakian intellectuals after the com- ies in what he or she writes. For example,
munist takeover in 1948. (See also *Prague some early texts of the 2oth century literary
School, *Marxist criticism.) avant-garde were rejected by the reading pub-
The revival of the structuralist tradition in lic as 'incomprehensible' but later accepted as
Slovakia in the early 19605 thanks primarily to significant. Theoreticians from Nitra defined
the research conducted by Frantisek Miko and, the 'incomprehensible' texts as texts which
somewhat later, by Anton Popovic, and was were 'prematurely' realized. (See also *text.)
institutionalized in 1967 by the establishment The system of literary communication is
of the Cabinet of Literary Communication and based on two intersecting axes: communicative
Experimental Methodology at the Pedagogical and contextual. The immediate purpose of the
Faculty ia Nitra, a small town in south-west- first is to transmit information: it has a practi-
ern Slovakia. Apart from Miko and Popovic, cal, 'operative' task to perform and therefore
other scholars (Jan Kopal, Peter Zajac, Peter Miko calls it 'communicative operativity' or
Liba, Imrich Denes, Viliam Obert, and Tibor simply 'operativity.' Operativity functions on
Zsilka) made important contributions to the the horizontal level of author-text-receiver and
development of this theoretical literary centre. can be defined as the global communicative
The Soviet invasion of 1968 and the subse- relation between the performer (in this case
quent ideological squeeze compelled the group the author) and the receiver of the text. The
to introduce some tactical concessions in order contextual axis reveals a vertical correlation
to satisfy the new regime: it declared that its between tradition (both national and interna-
theory was based on Marxism and constituted tional), text and external reality and contains
a concrete implementation of Marxist ideas in everything that can be defined as expression,
modern literary scholarship. image or 'iconicity.' Miko defines iconicity as
Nitra critics begin with the assumption that the most general global relation between the
""literature is a specific process of communica- text and the referential reality. It is in iconicity
tion which contains two basic aspects: the lit- that the structure of the literary work resides.
erary work of art (Miko) and its reception
(Popovic). A literary work is always rooted in The literary work of art
a given social and historical situation; it grows
out of a certain literary climate and inherits in Miko defines the nature of the literary work
its structure a diversity of past literary experi- by referring to two concepts: style and expres-
ence and the richness of cultural tradition in sive system (or expressive categories). Style is
general. Thus, a literary work of art is the re- the expression of the author's perception of
sult of a number of factors which remain in depicted reality, a realization of his or her ar-
constant interaction. At the same time, the tistic attitudes and his or her image of the
work functions as an author's message to read- world. It lends a functional and semiotic unity
ers and, as such, generates metacommunica- to the text. (See *semiotics, *semiosis.) Style
tion (messages about the message). always exists as the style of the text's content.
The strategic principle of literary communi- While content is the founding category, as its
cation is based on the balancing advantage of formal expression style constitutes the text's
production over reception. (See *communica- existential aspect: content exists as a result of
tion theory.) If the level of both partners of style. Consequently, style has a system of ex-
communication were equal, communication pressive categories whose occurrence in the

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literary work is constant but their marked to one concrete prototext; (2) a metatext is
aesthetic function varies from one text to an- linked to a group of prototexts in a rigorous
other because they remain in a dynamic cor- (in relation, for example, to the preceding ep-
relation, depending on the role they are och) or liberal (towards texts of older periods)
'assigned' to play in a given text. A text is not way; and (3) intertextual relations can be neu-
generated but 'programmed'; Miko calls his tralizing when the prototext produces very simi-
model of expressive categories not a generator lar metatextual variants, as is particularly true
but a 'programme' of the text. All expressive of folklore's oral poetry. (See *intertextuality.)