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2008 | 17 | Spec. ed. | 14-33

Article title

TEXT, CONTEXT, CULTURE (Text, kontext, kultura)


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In the 1980s, reflection on the foundations of the study of literature shifted from methodological and text-related issues of interpretation to issues involving literary theory in the true sense of the term and relating more strongly to context. The underlying interest of literary theory in what literature and the literariness of literary texts actually are was disconnected from methodological issues and explicit enquiry into the disciplinary status of the study of literature. The mutual relationship between text and context became the primary object of attention instead. Thus, there emerged new models that treat the text as defined not so much by strictly text-internal elements as by specific contexts; such models have been particularly prominent in the wide range of developments that have taken place in literary theory from the 1980s onward. However different these models may be from one another, they all show text and context entering into a dynamic, productive, and ultimately essential relationship with each another. This development therefore presents itself, in abstract form, as representative of a general development in literary theory since the 1980s. In the main strand of these developments, the concept of context can be expressed in terms of culture. 'Context' then becomes a word for a particular group of cultural phenomena that defines the literary text in any given case. The following article identifies three categorially different and categorially representative cultural contexts that structure the field. These contexts can be society (as in adaptations of the social history of literature and systems theory in the study of literature); history (as in the New I Historicism and cultural poetics); or the evolutionary basis of culture, in particular its basis in evolutionary biology (as in biopoetics).


  • Oliver Jahraus, Institut fur Deutsche Philologie, Schellingstra├če 3, 80799 Munchen, Bundesrepublik Deutschland


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