ABSTRACT

This volume draws together an array of distinguished scholars of ancient and modern literatures to consider the ways in which historicism in literary studies can and should be construed and pursued today. In particular, the contributors to the volume seek to challenge and complement the historicism that stresses proximate socio-political contexts as well as the more recent and salutary concern with understanding literary production and reception on a global scale with the perspective of the longue durée of literary forms and institutions. Thus, the approach advanced in these essays would complement the world-geographical with the world-historical perspective on the literary process, and where a more traditional historicism would see unified or, at best, “polyphonic” responses to concrete historical dilemmas, the contributors to this volume uncover deep-historical stratifications and non-synchronicities, in which certain formal solutions may display “elective affinities” with other, chronologically distant solutions to analogous problems. In their quest for a revitalized and more expansive historicism in literary study, the contributors to the volume build on the tradition of Historical Poetics, pioneered by Alexander Veselovsky (1838-1906) and developed in various fruitful directions by the Russian Formalists, Mikhail Bakhtin, and Olga Freidenberg (among others). The volume also seeks to place this critical tradition in dialogue with such thinkers as Walter Benjamin, Ernst Curtius, Hans-Robert Jauss, and Fredric Jameson, who all have approached literature in a globally-comparativist and evolutionary-historical spirit.

Keywords: Mikhail Bakhtin, historical poetics, historicism, literature, longue durée, Russian Formalism, Alexander Veselovsky

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For a review of the book: https://muse.jhu.edu/article/694488