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Title: Beneficent, life-enhancing literature, again? : examining the condition of English literary studies in the post-theoretical contemporary
Authors: Cortis, Lara
Keywords: Fiction -- 21st century -- History and criticism
English literature -- History and criticism -- Theory, etc.
Literature -- Philosophy
Issue Date: 2018
Citation: Cortis, L. (2018). Beneficent, life-enhancing literature, again? : examining the condition of English literary studies in the post-theoretical contemporary (Master's dissertation).
Abstract: This dissertation is pre-eminently concerned with the state of affairs in contemporary literary studies. It is angled to reflect on the perceived contemporary crisis in view of challenges facing the discipline, and is underwritten by vexed questions surrounding the ‘mattering’ of literature. It addresses the legitimation crisis that is said to have gripped literary studies, particularly in the wake of intellectual shifts in the last fifty years, and examines the implications of operating from within a so-called ‘post-theoretical’ intellectual space. Underlying the line of argument throughout is a sensitivity to temporal and spatial concerns that manifests, pre-eminently, in an in-betweenness suggested by the term ‘post-theory’, and in anxieties surrounding the place of literature in the world and in academe today. Furthermore, the dissertation examines defences of the relevance of literature that hinge on a ‘‘special power’’ of literature to be transformative, in matters both personal and public. Added to this are appeals to revive interest in literature’s presumed social mission and ethical responsibility. This dissertation challenges this by calling for a reflection on guiding assumptions of the discipline. The objective is neither to refuse nor refute literature’s social responsibility and its transformative potential, but to think out what a valuation of literature on the grounds of its beneficence may signify at a time when demands are heavy and pressures are exerted on the discipline to prove itself worthy of continued existence. Therefore, this dissertation proposes that literary studies rethink long-held assumptions and old pieties that may no longer suit or satisfy the demands of the age. Chapter I explores the assumed edifying function of criticism and literature, and examines the condition of literary studies in the wake of literary theory and cultural studies together with the general mood of post-theoretical literary studies. Chapter II is tripartite and includes analyses of three volumes from The Literary Agenda series which were selected for their reinforcement of the link between literature/reading and thinking, together with a perceived literary-ethical humanist project which is examined and critiqued throughout this dissertation. Chapter III addresses the question of the ‘mattering’ of literature and literary studies more closely, explores a potential ‘back-to-basics’ approach to the literary, and fleshes out the pre-eminent contention of this dissertation, surrounding defences of literature, by arguing that literary studies have relied too heavily on the assumption of literature’s singularity in matters of private and public formation and that, when this is challenged, it threatens to rattle the foundations of the discipline.
Description: M.A.ENGLISH
Appears in Collections:Dissertations - FacArt - 2018
Dissertations - FacArtEng - 2018

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