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Aspects of Reference in Literary Theory

Poetics, Rhetoric and Literary History

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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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3. Literary History

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3. Literary History

An autonomous domain endowed with qualities and specific functions, a favorite space (like the other arts) of creativity, literature is backed up by literary research. This one, in its quality of meta-literary space, has won prestige and fame in its long history, accepting at the same time – with some exceptions, as we will see – its inevitable limitation: the impossibility of absolute autonomy. Bound to literature which, some say, is parasitic on it, while others say, completes it, literary research proved, in spite of contestations and suspicions, not only its utility but also its necessity. The studies in this domain seem modest and aimed at specialists or connoisseurs, but despite this appearance no-one but for the literary critic is a better intermediary between the book and the audience.

And when the utility of the critical act is denied, the gross error of denying reading, even “for pleasure” its indispensable acuity, occurs, because every reader, effortlessly, unintentionally, even at a rudimentary level, performs a critical act by appreciating, assessing, weighing, comparing, making different connections through reading. For this reason, literary criticism represents the professionalization, cultivation and exacerbation of an innate attitude, characteristic of human thinking. It is still true that the prestige of literary research is often diminished by the literature that it actually feeds on and develops from. There have been attempts in modern criticism to compete with literature and, in extremis, to gain its own autonomy, and even the unprecedented situation when criticism...

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