On the Poetics and History of a Literary Genre
Edited by Gerry Canavan
4. SF and the Novum
0. It is often thought that the concept of a literary genre (here SF) can be found directly in the works investigated, that the scholar in such a genre has no need to turn to literary theory since he/she will find the concepts in the texts themselves. True, the concept of SF is in a way inherent in the literary objects – the scholar does not invent it out of whole cloth – but its specific nature and the limits of its use can be grasped only by employing theoretical methods. The concept of SF cannot be extracted intuitively or empirically from the work called thus. Positivistic critics often attempt to do so; unfortunately, the concept at which they arrive is then primitive, subjective, and unstable. In order to determine it more pertinently and delimit it more precisely, it is necessary to educe and formulate the differentia specifica of the SF narration. My axiomatic premise in this chapter is that SF is distinguished by the narrative dominance or hegemony of a fictional “novum” (novelty, innovation) validated by cognitive logic.
1. The Novum and Cognition
1.1. What is the common denominator the presence of which is logically necessary and which has to be hegemonic in a narration in order that we may call it an SF narration? In other words, how can the proper domain of SF be determined, what is the theoretical axis of such a determining? The answering is clouded by the present wave of...
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