Towards a Phenomenological Theory of Literature: A Study of Wilhelm Dilthey's Poetik

Towards a Phenomenological Theory of Literature: A Study of Wilhelm Dilthey's Poetik

Towards a Phenomenological Theory of Literature: A Study of Wilhelm Dilthey's Poetik

Towards a Phenomenological Theory of Literature: A Study of Wilhelm Dilthey's Poetik

Excerpt

Literary scholarship and criticism of the Anglo-Saxon and German variety today seem to be motivated by ideas diametrically opposed to those once derived from Dilthey by his followers. Students of prevailing methods of textual and structural criticism tend to look with hostility toward a procedure which emphasizes the intellectual and emotional content of literature at the expense of its aesthetic and literary qualities, interpreting a given work in terms of the metaphysical world view held by its author and of that mysterious and ubiquitous force called "spirit of the times". Dilthey is supposed to have been the originator and principal exponent of such a view which defined literary studies as a species of intellectual history (Geistesgeschichte). It came as a surprise, therefore, when I discovered that this opinion concerning Dilthey's position in the development of modern criticism is largely mistaken, and that his ideas were by no means identical with those of the geistesgeschichtliche approach practiced by such writers as Gundolf, Unger, or Strich. In dismay at the widespread confusion concerning basic questions of methodology, I attempted to criticize and trace back to their alleged source certain particularly unsound assumptions contained in much of the historical writing on literature. Soon I began to realize how many of Dilthey's important ideas and concepts had either been overlooked or distorted by his followers and critics. As I became acquainted with Dilthey's own writings, I seriously doubted whether the essential core of his approach to the phenomena of art and literature had been sufficiently understood and its importance fully perceived. Hence the task arose of exploring Dilthey's own view and the original intentions that led him . . .

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