Academic journal article Literator: Journal of Literary Criticism, comparative linguistics and literary studies

"Naming of Parts", or, How Things Shape Up in Transcultural Literary History

Academic journal article Literator: Journal of Literary Criticism, comparative linguistics and literary studies

"Naming of Parts", or, How Things Shape Up in Transcultural Literary History

Article excerpt


"Naming of parts" (1), or, how things shape up in transcultural literary history

This article suggests that transcultural literary history, in itself an exercise of great complexity, is rendered even more challenging if one accepts that cognition is a critical prior step in the process, regardless of whether literary history is conceived in empirical or in poststructuralist terms. Further, it is argued that cognition depends on analogical processes--to such an extent that literary "history" can be understood as a self-revising cascade of "windows" which recreate the field cognitively over and over again. In this understanding, "literary history", and transcultural literary history in particular, become metacognitive. Rather than a search for "true" structure, literary history is a search for imagined structure which is true to one's mode of perception in the first instance, and to the data at hand in the second. These propositions are argued in relation to South African literary historiography in English.


"Naming of parts", of, die stand van sake in transkulturele literatuurgeskiedskrywing

In hierdie artikel word aangevoer dat transkulturele literatuurgeskiedskrywing, wat op sigself 'n komplekse taak is, nog meer ingewikkeld begin raak as 'n mens aanvaar dat kognisie, of die funksie en prosesse van verstandelike waarneming, 'n bepalende rol speel in die proses--of hierdie proses nou in empiriese of poststrukturele terme gesien word. Verder word beredeneer dat kognisie op analogiese prosesse gegrond is--tot so 'n mate dat literatuurgeskiedskrywing beskou kan word as 'n proses waarin 'n reeks "vensters" ("windows") hulleself voortdurend hersien en verander. Binne hierdie proses word die waarnemingsveld op 'n kognitiewe wyse herhaaldelik herskep. So 'n beskouing bied 'n raamwerk waarbinne "literatuurgeskiedskrywing", veral interkulturele literatuurgeskiedskrywing, as metakognitief beskou kan word. In plaas van 'n soeke na die "juiste" struktuur, word literere geskiedskrywing 'n soeke na 'n verbeelde struktuur--'n struktuur wat in die eerste instansie in ooreenstemming is met 'n mens se perseptuele modus eers in die tweede instansie in ooreenstemming is met die beskikbare gegewens. Hierdie uitgangspunte word beredeneer met betrekking tot Suid-Afrikaanse literatuurgeskiedskrywing in Engels.

1. Transcultural literary history within global contexts

"Transcultural literary history", which just a few years ago one would have expected to see under the rubric of "postcolonial studies", appears to have been drawn into a bigger category in which the words global, world and multinational feature prominently. That this might be the case was recently suggested by the enthusiastic collaboration of scholars from across the globe in a symposium in Stockholm called "Studying transcultural literary history", part of a larger project backed by the Swedish Research Council called "Literary history in global contexts" (2). In so far as symposia such as these, attended by leading figures in the world academy, point to trends and shifts in scholarly sentiment, it was conspicuous that the word postcolonial no longer carries much weight--indeed it was hardly even uttered at the symposium, and if it was present, there was a distinct sense of squeamishness about its deployment. At the same time, there appears to be a renewed appetite for projects conceived in terms that are consonant with "multinational", "world" and "global" literary studies. (3) This spirit is by no means expressed in terms that are innocent of the dangers of globalisation, but there is nevertheless an urgent sense of wanting to press ahead with larger projects of benevolent integration and cross-mapping, in a spirit of celebrating world cultures.

When I received an invitation to participate in the Stockholm symposium, which promised to deal with transcultural literary history on a dauntingly global scale, I experienced two distinct and quite strong feelings: deja vu and unsettlement. …

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