The paper aims to analyze the problem of the work of literature, in light of the findings of contemporary literary and cultural theory. After a brief review of the attempts to define the essence of literary discourse in a formal way, the paper turns to the causes of their failure. Drawing upon the ideas of Walter Benjamin, Mikhail Bakhtin, Raymond Williams and Lois Althusser, the paper suggests that the literary text, as well the space of literature as a whole, is characterized by essential 'heterogeneity' and 'overdetermination.' The main goal of this paper, however, is to describe the modalities of this heterogeneity and determination in a more precise manner, and in light of the empirical findings of literary research. This description makes it possible to delineate the clearer contours of the literary work as a cultural phenomenon of extreme complexity — the complexity that any general theoretical discourse must face. As a starting point, the paper turns to the definition of the literary text as an intentional object and examines various theoretical consequences of this definition, such as the immanence of the hermeneutic act and the non-existential structure of temporality. The following section analyzes the double-faceted problem of the phenomenology of the literary work in its relation to immanent constitutive structures, on the one hand, and human existence, on the other. This analysis, in turn, enables the scholar to underscore essentially different meanings and analytical uses of familiar terms, such as 'the author' and 'the reader.' The next section addresses the problem of the stratification of the literary form — partly contrasting it to the phenomenology of content — as well as the diverse modalities of the relation between the thematic and formal components of literary discourse. This analysis is followed by the description of the hermeneutic contexts of literature, and a relatively complex taxonomy of the analytical approaches existing in empirical literary studies. Finally, the paper turns to the multiple and diverse mechanisms of cultural determination, whose analysis requires the crossing of the boundaries of literary studies in the narrow sense of this term. The resultant conception of the literary work, as it emerges from the analysis carried out in this paper, is that of a cultural phenomenon of extreme and asymmetrical complexity, which can hardly be reducible to any formal essence — neither on the level of general theoretical discourse nor in the analysis of a single work.
|Translated title of the contribution||The Space of Literature|
|Journal||International Journal of Cultural Research|
|State||Published - 2011|