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    STUDIA PHILOLOGIA - Issue no. 3 / 2022  

  Abstract:  DOI: 10.24193/subbphilo.2022.3.14

Available online: 20 September 2022; Available print: 30 September 2022
pp. 83-92



Q: Literary history, be it national, local, or regional, is perhaps the most conservative form of literary study, with many claiming that the method is outmoded. What can literary histories do to overcome both the risk of obsolescence and their inherent conservatism?

A: In itself, your question seems to call for an unequivocal answer. It is as if literary history, perceived at a local, in other words national or regional level, were systematically marked by conservatism and, thereby, doomed to inexorable obsolescence. This is both absolutely true and eminently debatable. It all depends on the issues and the methods underlying its development. It seems to me that everything that pertains to literary history would benefit from being explicitly and systematically situated in a context, whether geographical or historical—because this context is never self-evident: it is itself the subject of a narrative.This was valid for romantic historians of literature and continues to be valid for authors of literary histories today. How will they be perceived in fifty years? Or even in twenty years? Even tomorrow, as everything is going so fast? Being contemporary never counts for legitimation. There is no literary history in the singular. There are only literary histories that fit into each other, according to a logic combining stratigraphy (diachronic depth), assembly (methodology), adjustment (reduction of the plural). Literary history is a complex and heterogeneous device, whereas for many it would constitute a homogeneous, irrefutable block. But to speak of it as if the notion had been established forever would be tantamount to a serious mistake. Like any story with a historical scope, literary history is a long-term one, even though the passage of time may be obscured. Moreover, this obliteration is not necessarily deliberate. It’s just that, as we are often prisoners of our routine and subject to a kind of cultural inertia, sometimes relayed by institutions, we take things for what they are supposed to be, once and for all.
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