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Aspects of Reference in Literary Theory

Poetics, Rhetoric and Literary History


Alina Silvana Felea

The book presents the various viewpoints that poetics, literary history and Western rhetoric have adopted throughout Western history. The aim of poetics is to render the specificity of the literary discourse by either highlighting the extra literary generative forces or by focusing on the intrinsic study of literary works. Rhetoric chiefly places emphasis on the verbal effects of discourses whereas literary history predominantly examines the temporal succession of the literary systems or of the literary institution. The author focuses on the three sections: poetics, rhetoric, and literary history and provides an introductory study on the subject of reference.

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0. The Reference and the Study of Literature


0. The Reference and the Study of Literature

In the sum of present-day discourses, of both exact and humanistic sciences, authentication and confirmation by reference to a definite and essentially verifiable fact has not only become a necessity but an obligation. Nowadays, a book without exact bibliographical references is susceptible to being considered unscientific or even superficial. Quoting from memory and evoking ideas are undoubtedly very widely used but once the quotation marks occur in the text, the bibliographical reference (page, publishing house, place of publication) becomes obvious. What is currently a very reasonable practice (and I have chosen only one example among many others) is however symptomatic for revealing a general prerequisite which is characteristic for our age, namely that of stability and cognitive certainty, of accuracy regarding the source that has to be named, not disregarded. On the other hand, an equally powerful trend is the one represented by antirealist theories and the view according to which neither thought nor language contain “representations” of reality since the truth is construed by contemporary anti-rationalism as a mythologizing and oppressive value. The ancestral (also pejoratively termed mythical) need to understand and describe the real and its fundamentals, to establish its distinctions, value systems, norms and regulations, is considered useless, similarly to what the Sceptics and the Stoics once believed when referring to the impossibility of having any certainty regarding the surrounding reality. Richard Rorty – to give but one example – is a renowned representative of analytic philosophy and contemporary...

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