2007-08 BM1: Session 3

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Back to 2007-08 BM1 Introduction to the Critical and Scholarly Discussion of Literature, Part 1

Argument 2: Other contexts existed where we find "literature" written before 1750

  • Though we can assume that all periods and languages produced works we may read as literature - the bodies of works we put together as the different national literatures are basically a 19th century invention.
  • The discussion of "literature" emerged as a discussion of scientific works.
  • Those who discussed the sciences popularised their debate between 1750 and 1850 by turning it into a debate of poetical and fictional works.
  • Alternative fields of materials - most important those of "poetry" and the "belles lettres" and their traditional modes of appreciation were delegitimised and declared inappropriate by our present discussion of literary works during the last 250 years.
  • If you do written work on the university level do assume that entirely different contexts existed wherever you feel something is "literature" in our modern sense of the word - contexts such as that of
  • the "belles lettres" - the market of fashionable books read all over Europe (a context existing between 1600-1800),
  • "poetry" - the field of works in verse including prose comedy and (between 1600 and 1800) the opera,
  • "histories" - both true and fictional, serious and scandalous including "romances" and "novels" before the 1750s.