What is Literary Anthropology? The Difference between Explanatory and Exploratory Fictions
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The essay was published in a collection entitled 'Revenge of the Aesthetic. The Place of Literature in Theory Today' (ed. by M. P. Clark, University of California Press, Berkeley 2000). The author attempts at answering the title questions, assuming the issues of interpretation of culture, as a broad concept, as a starting point; following Geertz, he perceives culture as a constitutive element of the humankind, as opposed to a quality that emerged at a later stage, as an added value of a sort. This changed perspective renders the anthropological dimension of art - and, consequently, of literature - open and, consequently, makes the latter a model and an instrument for describing the mechanisms taking place between a human and his or her surrounding environment. Thus, literature becomes a sui generis founding myth of the mankind, and a method of alleviating tensions between the cultural centre and peripheral areas. The fictions mentioned in the title prove mutually complementary: the first one (explanatory) serves to set the chaos of our surrounding world in an order, whereas the second, or literary (discovery-related, searching) one, enables transgression beyond the sphere of mind and immediate perception, allowing for a rather painless confrontation with the incomprehensible and the inexpressible.
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