Writing Literary History: Selected Perspectives from Central Europe

Germany, Slovenia
Peter Lang Frankfurt
Darko Dolinar (dd@zrc-sazu.si), Marko Juvan (marko.juvan@guest.arnes.si)

Published by Peter Lang Frankfurt

Dolinar, Darko / Juvan, Marko (eds.)


Writing Literary History

Selected Perspectives from Central Europe

Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2006. 306 pp.
ISBN 3-631-53433-7 / US-ISBN 0-8204-7662-5 pb.

Order online: www.peterlang.com SFR 73.00 / €* 49.80 / €** 46.50 / £ 32.60 / US-$ 55.95

Postmodernism has cast radical doubts on the objectivity of history, while demanding historicization from all
modes of knowledge. Reflection on historicity has thus become a crux of the humanities in general. Writing
Literary History joins the emerging field of literary metahistory. Scholars from Central Europe critically apply the
perspectives of hermeneutics, reception esthetics, poststructuralism, new historicism, cognitivism, systems
approaches, dialogical comparatistics, Slavic studies, critical narratology, and cultural and gender studies in order
to answer how, on what epistemological bases, with what goals, and for which audiences it is still possible to
write literary history that meets contemporary scholarly standards without sacrificing the specificity of its research
object and methods.


- Darko Dolinar: Introduction

- Marko Juvan: On the Fate of the «Great» Genre

- Janko Kos: Old and New Models of Literary History

- Lado Kralj: Literary History: How Much Science, How Much Fiction?

- Vladimir Biti: In the Name of the Altogether Other

- Peter Zajac: Literary Historiography as a Synoptic Map

- Ivan Verc: The Subject of an Utterance as an Object of Study of Literary History

- Bozena Tokarz: Literary History and Its Object

- Darko Dolinar: Literary History and Its Readers

- Marija Mitrovic: The Energy of Delusion

- Ivo Pospísil: Literary History, Poststructuralism, Dilettantism, and Area Studies

- Milos Zelenka: Manuscriptology and Its Significance for Literary History in the Context of Contemporary Methodology

- Marijan Dovic: The Writing of Literary History and the Empirical Science of Literature

- Jola Skulj: Modernist Literature and the Change of Paradigm in Literary History

- Alenka Koron: Time Regained? On Narrative in Literary Historiography

- Peter V. Zima: Historical Periods as Problematics: Sociolinguistic Situations, Sociolects, and Discourses

- Janez Strutz: Dialogue, Polyphony, and System: On the Issue of a History of the «Small Literatures» in the Alps-Adriatic Region

- Jelka Kernev Strajn: Memory as Fragment Woven into Text

- Silvija Borovnik: A Feminist Glance into the Workshop of a Literary Historian.

The Editors:

Darko Dolinar, born in 1942, works on the theory and methodology of literary studies and writes on
the history of Slovene literary scholarship.
Marko Juvan, born in 1960, teaches literary theory and writes on intertextuality, the theory of literary processes,
and Slovene literature.
The editors are researchers at the Institute of Slovene Literature and Literary Studies at the Scientific Research
Center of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (Ljubljana).


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RL/LR 24.47-48 (summer 2008): 115-6.

Aleš Vaupotič (University of Ljubljana, Slovenia), Book note – on:

Writing Literary History: Selected Perspectives from Central Europe. Eds. Darko Dolinar, Marko Juvan. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2006.

The eighteen papers that have been collected in Writing Literary History: Selected Perspectives from Central Europe foreground two aspects of the book's topic. On the one hand, they explore the still unresolved dilemma of contemporary literary scholarship, namely how to move beyond the crisis in literary methodologies that focus on the text so as to envisage approaches to literary phenomena that can integrate multiple social, political, and cultural-historical circumstances. On the other hand, this English-language edition of theoretical discourses from Central Europe and particularly Slovenia represents an important confirmation before an international audience of how the field of literary scholarship is developing in that part of the world. Through its specific point of view, it provides a perspective on literature that differs from the universalistic approaches aligned with dominant traditions in contemporary literary scholarship. In addition, of course, this book overcomes the barrier that the Slovene language presents for readers from elsewhere.

Darko Dolinar and Marko Juvan, the editors of this collection, are based in the Institute of Slovenian Literature and Literary Studies, which is part of the Scientific Research Center of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts. The book consists of nine papers by Slovene researchers and nine others by researchers from other Central European countries, including five contributors from cultural centers nearby, from Klagenfurt, Trieste, and Zagreb. Territorially, therefore, the approaches represented cluster in and around Slovenia (in Austria, Italy and Croatia). Readers will also notice connections to research performed in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Poland.

The main issue at hand consists of Slovene and Central European perspectives on the question of writing literary histories. One key factor in highlighting this issue at this particular moment has been its context, the ongoing ICLA-sponsored publication of the History of the Literary Cultures of East-Central Europe in four volumes, and Writing Literary History includes two essays by authors involved in this project, Vladimir Biti and Lado Kralj. The first paper in the collection, "On the Fate of the 'Great' Genre" by Marko Juvan, considers the core duality in the concept of “literary history.” In one aspect this concept can evoke the “great” genre, which implies a more or less strictly scientific discourse that collects various findings of historical literary research and brings them together to form a new whole and that has one or another ideological design on its readers. As a genre insisting on the meaningfulness and organic totality of literary phenomena, however, it obviously raises suspicions. Nevertheless, all the authors in the collection agree that literary history—also in the genolgical meaning of the term—remains an important part of literary scholarship, even as they scrutinize its practice in search of more viable ways to proceed. Furthermore, the authors stress that literary history cannot be asked to institute national self-awareness through a narrative of evolving national identity as expressed in literature, but that it must either dissolve into an encyclopaedic collection of fragments or limit itself to pedagogical aims by presenting overviews of literature through time and refraining from more ambitious research goals.

The essays in Writing Literary History touch upon a wide array of questions. Darko Dolinar focuses on historicity within the framework of reader reception theory. Jola Škulj examines how the notion of historicity changed under the influence of modernist literature. Ivan Verč questions the object of study and suggests instead of the usual focus of a word that has already been given a meaning in the world studying the subject of an utterance in the unique event of communicative entering into reality. Alenka Koron points to narrative aspects of historiography. In the course of scrutinizing particular issues like these, the collection also provides an overview of the complex field of literary historiography. A paper by Janko Kos on the spiritual horizon of the recent literary historiography is also included, a scholar who was and still is very influential in Slovene comparative studies; however, it would have been interesting for this collection to have included an essay that deals with his reworking of the methodology of intellectual history (Geistesgeschichte). Peter V. Zima attempts to define periods in terms of “problematics” and “sociolinguistic situations” by focusing on “the same problems and questions” that a historic entity faces. Marijan Dović’s paper discusses the perspective of empirical literary science on literary history, while Miloš Zelenka introduces the point of view of manuscriptology. Readers who might have expected more emphasis on new historicism and on Michel Foucault’s discourse theories should take into account the region's characteristic theoretical orientations: Foucault has been overshadowed by Lacanian studies and by the influence of Slavoj Žižek, while in discourse theory Mikhail Bakhtin has been the dominant figure. Feminist approaches come at the very end of the volume, in a treatise by Silvija Borovnik. Postcolonial studies appear to be less influential in the region, which was and still is marked by conflicts between national entities involved in complex historical interrelationships; however, Vladimir Biti addresses the “colonial-asymmetrical zone” of the narrative encounter with the Other.

Writing Literary History brings Slovene and Central European comparative literary studies into international view. In addition, the papers offer insights into a regionally specific network of perspectives as that network emerges on the level of literary scholarship. Janez Strutz’s paper on the polyphonic and polylingual literature of Istria (a region inhabited by Croats, Slovenes and Italians) uses particular examples to illustrate the theoretical concept of a “latent comparatistic situation.” The method and the object of study merge, pointing to the conclusion that the essays in Writing Literary History do not conceive of the region in essentializing terms as a self-confined entity, but are interested in the potential for scholarship that focuses on regional specificities to open up new possibilities for literary study everywhere.

Recenzija Ampak (v slovenščini/in Slovene)

Aleš Vaupotič, 29/10/2006, Recenzija

Writing Literary History: Selected Perspectives from Central Europe. Eds. Darko Dolinar, Marko Juvan. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2006.

Zbirka razprav v angleškem jeziku z naslovom Writing Literary History, v prevodu Pisati literarno zgodovino, s podnaslovom Izbrani pogledi iz Srednje Evrope, je zanimiva z dveh vidikov. Po eni strani se besedila dotikajo ene osrednjih dilem sodobne literarne vede, namreč prebolevanja krize predvsem na sam tekst osredotočenih metod raziskovanja v literarni vedi in iskanja poti naprej, ko smo se primorani soočati z literarnimi pojavi v kontekstu družbenih, političnih, kulturnih in zgodovinskih situacij; vendar pa je zbirka razprav pomembna tudi kot potrditev in mednarodna predstavitev srednjeevropskih in predvsem slovenskih prizadevanj na področju literarne vede, ki skozi svojo posebno situacijo lahko vidijo literaturo drugače kot univerzalistični pogledi ali pa perspektive dominantnih literarnovednih krogov kot je npr. ameriški. Obenem slovenski jezik zelo omejuje krog bralcev, to oviro pa angleški prevodi seveda odpravljajo. Razprave, ki so izšle pri frankfurtski založbi Peter Lang, sta uredila Darko Dolinar in Marko Juvan z Inštituta za slovensko literaturo in literarne vede ZRC SAZU, prinašajo pa devet razprav literarnih raziskovalcev iz Slovenije, ter devet avtorjev iz ostalih srednjeevropskih dežel, od tega jih pet prihaja iz kulturnih centrov blizu meja Slovenije, kot so Trst, Celovec in Zagreb. Lahko torej rečemo, da je v središču pozornosti slovenski prostor in bližnja okolica (Hrvaška, Avstrijska, Italija), seveda v povezavi s perspektivami s Češke, Slovaške in Poljske.

Govorimo o slovenskih in srednjeevropskih pogledih na problem pisanja literarne zgodovine. O aktualnosti teh vprašanj v regiji danes priča npr. še izhajajoča Zgodovina literarnih kultur Vzhodne Srednje Evrope v štirih zvezkih, ki vključuje več kot sto avtorjev – med drugim dva z besedili v obravnavani zbirki – in dvesto člankov, pomembna pa je tudi kot na novo premišljen metodološki zgled. Prva razprava v zbirki O usodi »velikega« žanra Marka Juvana se dotakne osrednjega problema, namreč dvopomenskosti izraza literarna zgodovina, ki se lahko nanaša na zgodovinske pristope k razumevanju literature ali pa označuje t.i. »veliki« žanr, posebno zvrst bolj ali manj strogo znanstvenega besedila, ki predvsem povzema raznorazne izsledke zgodovinskih raziskovanj literature ter jih poveže v enovito celoto, ki naj tako ali drugače ideološko učinkuje na bralca. Kot žanr, ki prepričuje bralca o obstoju smiselne celovitosti in organskosti literarnih pojavov, seveda vzbuja nelagodje v literarni vedi ter dvome o znanstvenosti in verodostojnosti. Vendar pa se avtorji besedil strinjajo, da ni dvoma o tem, da literarna zgodovina – tudi v ožjem pomenu besede – ostaja pomemben del literarne vede, vprašanje pa seveda je, kakšna naj bo. Opaziti je tudi precejšnje strinjanje o tem, da literarna zgodovina ne more biti več narodotvorni projekt, ki govori o samorazvoju narodove identitete, ampak da danes bodisi razpade na fragmente, ki so zbrani v enciklopedični predstavitvi, ali pa se literarna zgodovina omeji glede ciljev na pedagoško funkcijo pregledne predstavitve literature in omeji svoje znanstvenoraziskovalne cilje.

Besedila v Pisati literarno zgodovino se ukvarjajo s široko pahljačo vprašanj: Darko Dolinar npr. pokaže na zgodovinskost v okvirih estetike recepcije, Jola Škulj izpostavi spremenjeno problematiko zgodovinskosti, kot se kaže v luči modernistične literature, Ivan Verč problematizira predmet raziskovanja in predlaga, naj na to mesto stopi subjekt izjave, Alenka Koron govori o narativnih vidikih historiografije. Zbirka je namenjena večji del strokovnajkom na področju literarne vede, je pa uporabna tudi kot pregled kompleksnega polja problematike literarne historiografije. V njej najdemo npr. tudi besedilo Janka Kosa, slovenski komparativisti in ljubitelji literature pa bi morda želeli poleg tega tudi razpravo o Kosovih zelo vplivnih metodah. Marijan Dovič predstavi empirično literarno znanost, Miloš Zelenka manuskriptologijo, v zbirki pa pogrešamo morda več pozornosti namenjene novemu historizmu in teorijam diskurza Michela Foucaulta. Feministični pristopi so porinjeni na konec knjige, ob tem pa je samo sklepna razprava Silvije Borovnik zares zavzeta za feministični projekt. Postolonialne študije za naše področje ostajajo očitno manj zanimive.

Pisati literarno zgodovino je pomemben vstop slovenske in srednjeevropske komparativistike v širši mednarodni kontekst, posebna kvaliteta knjige pa je seveda to, da primerjanje posameznih stališč daje bralcu vpogled v regijsko specifiko, kot se odraža na ravni literarne vede. Besedilo Janeza Strutza o istrski polifonični in polijezični literaturi kaže ob primerih npr. tudi na teoretični koncept »latentne komparativistične situacije«, kjer se metoda in objekt raziskovanja pravzaprav zlivata, s tem pa želimo poudariti, da razprave zbrane v knjigi Writing Literary History bralcu ne kažejo bistva regije kot zaprte entitete, ampak literarnovedne potenciale specifičnega okolja, ki odpirajo nove možnosti za celotno literarno vedo.