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Literature and Society

The Function of Literary Sociology in Comparative Literature


Bart Keunen and Bart Eeckhout

This volume offers a broad description of the development and perspectives of literary sociology within the discipline of comparative literature. It brings together researchers who work (implicitly or explicitly) within the field of comparative literature and who opt, methodologically, for a broad approach that sees literary-theoretical problems as part of more general cultural issues. Several research options that marked the history of literary sociology or that can be considered as belonging to its legacy are presented in this book.
The point of departure is the observation that, in the 60s and 70s, a number of academics were convinced that the discipline of comparative literature should be organized around a sociological model. The tendency to consider literary sociology as the «pilot discipline» in comparative literature persisted until the early 80s. However, the earlier sociological models gradually lost much of their historical-materialist aura and began to take the shape of less stringent context-analyses. The newer forms of literary sociology often entered into an alliance with semiotics and (post)structuralism or elaborated upon Mikhail Bakhtin. Alongside this development, there was a tendency within literary sociology to adopt empirical methods. Moreover, contemporary literary theory has also witnessed the rise of new avenues of research that reflect the older literary-sociological principles.
At the origin of texts in this volume is the eponymous conference organized by the Belgian Association of General and Comparative Literature in Ghent (April 6-7, 2000).
Contents: Bart Keunen: Introduction: The Rise and Fall of Literary Sociology... and Its Survival – Raymond Vervliet: Literary Sociology and Comparative Literature – Peter V. Zima: The Sociology of Texts: Position and Object – Joseph Jurt : La théorie du champ littéraire et l’internationalisation de la littérature – Hugo Verdaasdonk: Expertise and Choice Behavior of Cultural Gatekeepers: Event History Analyses of Lists of Bestselling Fiction – Vivian Liska: From Feminist Literary Criticism to Gendered Cultural Studies: A Critical Touchstone – Christophe Den Tandt: Cultural Studies and the Realist Paradigm: From Georg Lukács to Neo-Pragmatism – Jürgen Pieters: New Historicism or Poetics of Culture. But Which Culture? – Gunther Martens: Literature and Ethics in a Polycontextural Society: Niklas Luhmann’s Systems-Theoretical Perspective – Anton Simons: The Religious Assumptions of Mikhail Bakhtin’s Literary Sociology – Liam Kennedy: The Spatial Turn: American Studies and Cultural Geography.