Convention and innovation in literature by Theo D'haen, Rainer Grübel, Helmut Lethen

By Theo D'haen, Rainer Grübel, Helmut Lethen

This paintings is a severe assessment of the thoughts of conference and innovation as utilized within the learn of fixing literary values, hierarchies and canons. ways are analyzed: (1) the linking of conference and the subject's knowledge of conference, and (2) platforms idea. The benefits of either methods are mentioned and an test is made to mix them and to treat platforms of literary conversation basically as structures of conventions. particular instances of adjusting conventions and innovation are illustrated with examples from the sector of versification (Rimbaud), reception stories (Puskin, Goethe, George Eliot), the dichotomy of forgetting/remembering (Nietzsche, Proust), avant-garde, the yank dream, and well known genres assimilated in Postmodernism

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Lescure, Mistler/Ginguené and perhaps Chamfort himself, appear to use other demarcation lines than ours; and so do Auden and Kronenberger, and Schopenhauer. In our brief inspection of some specimen cases, practi­ cally all the borderlines have been crossed, though I would not really know about "surprise," which is not surprising. My conclusion has to be that there is a gap between our intuitive notions about the aphorism and the "practice" of the genre, past and pre­ sent. For every proposed "property" we have to make exceptions.

But whoever wants to discuss a specific subject cannot let the demarcation of that subject stay in the twilight of ambiguous or contradic­ tory meaning. Of course it will not always be possible to propose clear-cut definitions. But even if we have to resort to more elaborate descriptions, we can discern the same general strategies: - the stipulative type, which will be useful in the case of the study of a closed group of texts (but not if we want to talk about "the" aphorism); this is not more than a preliminary agreement to avoid linguistic misun­ derstanding; - the real or realist description; these have an essentialist nature and are just as arbitrary as the stipulative ones, but they pretend a correspon­ dence with an essential aspect of reality, "truth," which makes them rather unfit for "scientific"2 debates, useful as they may be in philosophy; - the descriptive or lexical type, which tries to fix the meaning of a term in actual use; if that meaning changes according to time and place, this type of description tends to be nothing more (and nothing less complicated) than a history of the term; - the operational type, which implies a test to decide about the applicability of the term; if one were to stretch the meaning of "test" far enough, read­ ers' attitudes might be considered to be operational tests, but that would require the feasibility of unambiguous decisions about these attitudes...

Apparently the "competent" reader, a reader who adapts his reading attitudes to the specific demands of a certain genre, has some idea in mind of what constitutes that specific text-type, and of what an adequate reading attitude in such a case will be. For this reader, a text-type like the aphorism does indeed exist (at the moment of reading), and if scholars try to elucidate such ideas they become readers, historically conditioned like all other readers. If they do not just put up with a stipulative definition, but aim at a description of the text-type which encompasses the decisions by other readers as well, they will have to accept the thought that there is a mode of existence of "the" aphorism.

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