Literary Studies and Disciplinarity
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
Prof. Rory Ryan
Executive Dean, Faculty of Humanities, University of Johannesburg