Literature in the High Middle Ages referred to anything written. Those who institutionalized the study of literature in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries ignored this medieval meaning, and literary history, especially in the hands of teachers, became what Wlad Godzich and Nicholas Spadaccini call a peregrination from one masterpiece to another. In Spanish literature, a cluster of such masterpieces came to be identified quite early, constituting a siglo de oro, a Golden Age. These outstanding works of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries became a paradigm of achievement for the German romantics who formulated the project of literary history; for this reason, the authors of Literature among Discourses have chosen to begin their own exploratory voyage with the Spanish Golden Age. Their intent is not simply to complete the historical record by studying “popular” texts alongside the canonical works, nor is it to establish these texts as a treasure trove of raw materials awaiting entry into and transformation by the masterpiece. They ask, rather, why the masterpiece came to occupy its place—how specific texts (or classes of texts) came to be differentiated from other discursive entities and labeled “literature.” Taken together, their essays reveal an era in which literature is never a given, but is instead constantly being forged in a manner as complex as the social dynamic itself. Contributors include: the editors, José Antonio Maravall, Michael Nerlich, Ronald Sousa, Constance Sullivan, Jenaro Talens, José Luís Canet, and Javier Herrero. Wlad Godzich is director of the Center for Humanistic Studies, and Nicholas Spadaccini, professor of Spanish and Portuguese, at the University of Minnesota.
Subjects: Language & Literature
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