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Making Sense in Life and Literature

Making Sense in Life and Literature

Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht
Translated by Glen Burns
Foreword by Wlad Godzich
Volume: 79
Copyright Date: July 1992
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 368
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  • Book Info
    Making Sense in Life and Literature
    Book Description:

    “The translation of these essays by Gumbrecht on literary theory and history marks the appearance in English of one of Europe’s most learned, productive, and inventive scholars. Their range is extraordinary. They show that Gumbrecht is not only a sophisticated theorist and historian of literature, but a master practitioner of cultural studies.” --Hayden White, University of California, Santa Cruz

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8383-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword: Figuring Out What Matters; or, The Microphysics of History
    (pp. vii-xvi)
    Wlad Godzich

    The idea for this collection arose during a brief visit by Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht to the University of Minnesota in the winter of 1983.I had read a number of his essays before his visit and was struck by what seemed to me then an interesting turn being taken within the German school of reception aesthetics, of which Gumbrecht was considered to be one of the younger luminaries. He had after all written his thesis at the University of Constance under the direction of Hans Robert Jauss, the acknowledged founder of the school and whose works, incidentally, we were just beginning...

  4. Part I. Inverted Perspective

    • Introduction: How Much Sense Does Sense Making Make? Californian Retrospective to a German Question
      (pp. 3-13)

      When I first saw Wlad Godzich’s proposal for the selection of articles presented in this volume, it gave me a sense of estrangement. This feeling, of course, was my reaction to a concrete example of the trivial experience that outside observers have the privilege of seeing shapes and profiles that must remain hidden to inside participants. Wlad, from his North American perspective, had been able to discern a specifically German trajectory in my work from the years between 1975 and 1987, which I myself had somehow carefully tried to avoid—and of which I have only become increasingly aware since...

    • Chapter 1 The Consequences of an Aesthetics of Reception: A Deferred Overture
      (pp. 14-30)

      At the beginning of his essay “Der Leser als Instanz einer neuen Geschichte der Literate,” Hans Robert Jauss points out that only in the future will we be able to provide an answer to the question whether literary criticism’s present discussion about the problem of the “reader” is going to be evaluated as a paradigm change.¹ This is a helpful remark, yet it neither suspends the possibility nor does it free us of the obligation to analyze the contemporary debate over theories and methods as well as the epistemological interest of literary criticism. For it is only on a self-reflexive...

  5. Part II. Historical Representation and Life World

    • Chapter 2 Metahistorical Historiography?
      (pp. 33-40)

      When literary criticism took off in the 1960s with the lofty purpose of becoming more rigorously scientific, its flaming epistemological enthusiasm made it seem “progressive” for a while to recommend new and exceedingly formal and complex definitions for critical concepts and sometimes, albeit inadvertently, for literary history as well. “The more innovative, the better” was the secret rule of this definitional euphoria. But before this boosterism really got going, its own logic threw a wet blanket on it; for, by generating countless “private terminologies” in the face of a general enthusiasm for “scientific rigor,” literary criticism proved to be its...

    • Chapter 3 The Role of Narration in Narrative Genres
      (pp. 41-53)

      The topic “Narrative Theory and the History of Genre” implies a reference that is not contained in the concepts “narration” and “genre” themselves. It is possible to formulate a concept of narration that can be generalized and is potentially applicable for metahistorical analysis, whereas we become aware of genres through the perspective of their particular historical occurrence.

      What I am getting at is the relationship between “typical basic forms” and genres,¹ between those communicative components that are not exclusively limited to a single genre and genres as “certain historical figures of compatibility between textual components.”² During the last few years,...

    • Chapter 4 “Narrating the Past Just as if It Were Your Own Time”: An Essay on the Anthropology of Historiography
      (pp. 54-76)

      In everyday as well as in theoretical language, “the writing of history” is predicated on a concept that is clearly meant to be used in metahistorical and intercultural contexts.¹ It follows theoretically that referential phenomena correlated to this concept are regarded as “anthropological constants.” If we lacked such a metahistorical and intercultural concept, we would be unable to respond to works from foreign cultures as “historiographical” and could not assemble texts from completely different eras to study the evolution of “historiography” as a genre; nor could we talk about the affinities, interactions, and conflicts between chronologically simultaneous texts and genres....

  6. Part III. Failures of Modernity

    • Chapter 5 A History of the Concept “Modern”
      (pp. 79-110)

      There are probably few concepts whose history has been so frequently thematized in the last decades as those marked by the predicates “modern,” “modernity,” and “die Moderne.” Hans Robert Jauss, Fritz Martini, and Jost Schneider have submitted detailed studies that are mainly connected to the field of aesthetic experience and that trace the word’s shifts in meaning from the early Middle Ages to the present. Marie Dominique Chenu, Ernst Robert Curtius, Walter Freund, Johannes Spörl, and finally Elizabeth Gössman have described the numerous possibilities for using the topos antiqul/moderni in the Middle Ages. Recently, Jochen Schlobach has written a Habilitation...

    • Chapter 6 Laughter and Arbitrariness, Subjectivity and Seriousness: The Libro de buen amor, the Celestina, and the Style of Sense Production in Early Modern Times
      (pp. 111-132)

      Comparing and contrasting the Libro de buen amor, a work that, on the basis of the manuscript transmission, can be safely assumed to fall in the first half of the fourteenth century, with the Celestina, which was first printed shortly before the end of the fifteenth century, has been a classical approach in Hispanic literary history for many years. Without wishing to deprecate the often admirable results such studies have contributed to the understanding of a special case in cultural history —namely, the unbroken transition from the late Middle Ages to the golden age in Spanish literature—there can be...

    • Chapter 7 Who Were the Philosophes?
      (pp. 133-177)

      In theoretical discourse, as well as in generally educated conversation, the word Enlightenment can be used both as a designation for a typological concept and as a name. The concept Enlightenment is an abstraction of those historical processes in which old stocks of collective knowledge are replaced or revised by new ones, with the new knowledge presenting itself as a more adequate representation of reality. On the other hand, as a name, Enlightenment refers to a single strand of the various historical strands that went into the concept’s formation and that can be specified in four ways: (1) it occurred...

    • Chapter 8 Outline of a Literary History of the French Revolution
      (pp. 178-225)

      In the periodization favored by the standard presentations of French literature, there is scarcely any space for those texts that were written and received between 1789 and 1799. A chapter devoted to the Enlightenment, which usually skips the last decade of the eighteenth century, is followed by French romanticism, whose chronological limits commonly correspond–aside from a few “precursors” (for instance, Chateaubriand) always mentioned without fail–to the Restoration beginning in 1815. The resulting space in between, twenty-five years after all, appears only indirectly–that is, as a precondition for romanticism, which can be interpreted as a contrary movement to...

    • Chapter 9 “Phoenix from the Ashes”; or, From Canon to Classic
      (pp. 226-244)

      Attempts to define the fundamental opposing conceptscanon/classic¹ have revealed an important reason for the difficulties–aporias?–of drafting a metahistorical concept of canon as a basic category for a historical typology of culture. If it is indeed true that communication via the media of “art” and “literature” has, in the last two centuries, been subjected to a universal premise of temporalization (Verzeitlichung) and to a general postulate of innovation, it follows then that “canon” in the traditional sense of the term has long since disappeared, and this deductive conclusion corresponds entirely to a tendency to disqualify as “untimely” all attempts...

  7. Part IV. After Literature?

    • Chapter 10 Pathologies in the System of Literature
      (pp. 247-271)

      Niklas Luhmann, in some of his essays, attempts to apply his concept of “system” to art and literature,¹ but these articles have barely been taken into account by literary critics. Ostensibly this is because he would seem to contribute very little that is new toward the solution of the specific (fundamental) problems of literary criticism. He determines the function of art as “the confrontation of a reality (familiar to everyone) with another version of the same reality,” as “the production of contingency,”² and hence comes quite close to suggesting the kind of functional determination of literature with which Wolfgang Iser—...

    • Chapter 11 It’s Just A Game: On the History of Media, Sport, and the Public
      (pp. 272-288)

      The Olympic Games in 1988 would have been a breakthrough even if no records had been broken.¹ For on the one hand, it turned out that the best professional athletes in the world no longer had to act like they had simply taken a vacation without pay from their civilian employer in order to participate. And on the other, the scheduling of the events–however detailed the organization might have ultimately made them–was generally adjusted to the playtime/sleeptime rhythm of the financially powerful TV stations representing the North American and European audiences. The good old motto “It’s just a...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 289-330)
  9. Index
    (pp. 331-347)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 348-350)