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Parameters, positions, perspectives: on the future of literary studies

By A. Rigney


That the study of literature has a promising future or, indeed that is has a future\ud at all, is not something that everyone seems to assume. Hence the recent appearance\ud of at least two publications with the interrogative title “Does Literary Studies\ud have a Future?.” In practice, to be sure, such question marks often prove to\ud be simply a prelude to some reaffirmation of the fact that literary studies is very\ud important indeed for various reasons and that therefore it deserves to be pursued\ud in the future. Thus Bruce Fleming, the author of “What is the Value of Literary\ud Studies?,” to quote another recent title, answers his own question with a pious\ud and inevitably self-serving account of how studying literature contributes to the\ud quality of public discussions. In many cases, then, the interrogative mode turns\ud out to be more like a rhetorical ploy. Nevertheless, the current popularity of the\ud question mark as the starting point of discussions on the future of literary studies\ud does seem indicative of a certain lack of confidence as compared to some thirty\ud years ago: at that time literary scholars were full of plans for the future, busy\ud founding journals like New Literary History and Poetics Today and, in the Netherlands,\ud founding chairs of Comparative Literature. At that time literary studies\ud looked less like a discipline with an uncertain future needing to justify itself than\ud like a model and source of inspiration for other disciplines who were in the process\ud of going through the famous ‘linguistic turn.

Topics: Letteren
Year: 2004
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