Literary Studies and Disciplinarity

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Literary studies continues to occupy an important position in the university curriculum. That being so, how cogent and strong are the claims of literary studies to disciplinarity? Disciplines usually register their claims to disciplinarity by specifying objects, axioms and procedures. Can one specify the necessary and sufficient qualities of the literary object, and thus can one give substance to a definition of literariness? Does a consensually-designated canon exist? In terms of axioms, can one isolate foundational propositions held generally to be true by academics within literary studies? And in terms of procedures, do rule-governed sets of consensually-accepted actions exist, for academics within literary studies to follow? The exploration of these questions requires a position of inquiry outside of literary studies. If the phenomenon of literature and its secondary productions (literary criticism and literary theory) are within the field of cultural production, then perspectives within anthropology may be best suited to undertake the investigation. Such perspectives may also shed light on the roles and functions performed by literary and literary-critical production within social space. Thus, what may be most valuable is to pursue what literature does, rather than what it is.

Keywords: Literary Studies, Disciplinarity, Literature, literariness
Stream: Literature, Literary Studies
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Prof. Rory Ryan

Executive Dean, Faculty of Humanities, University of Johannesburg
Auckland Park, Gauteng, South Africa

Currently, I am dean of a large and diverse faculty of Humanities. My academic background is in literary studies, particularly literary theory. I return frequently to issue of literariness: how do we constitute the literary object? The history and theory of literary critical method also interests me. I tend to use perspectives and methods from anthropology to try to shed light on the phenomenon of literature and its secondary productions (theory and criticism). I also undertake research into the mystical system and Automatic Writing of WB Yeats.

Ref: H08P0417