Literature and History
Criticism at present calls for new relationships between literature and history, says Professor Garvin, and it is a healthful sign that innovative harmonies are being pursued and discovered. Often the impetus for this pursuit comes, it seems to him, from a suspicion that criticism today is still basically ahistorical in temper, that there is a need for a defense of literary history as a fundamental dimension in theories of literature, of interpretation, of the creative process of poets and novelists, and of the reader and audience. In the recent developments in such theories, many of the dominant critics seem to pay only lip service to literary history, whose role is made conventional and promptly neglected. The critics who persist in thinking that the historical dimension is a fundamental one can readily find strong antagonists among the French structuralists and their colleagues in Europe and the United States; among myth critics; among psychoanalytic critics; especially the reductionist kind; among the various advocates and heroic misreading by strong poets and strong critics. The powerful relations between literature and history have been and are being revealed by critics seriously concerned with styles and literary periods, with comparative literature and the interrelations among the arts, with phases of development within a genre or an author. Some literary critics are now studying theories of history; and professional historians, especially those interested in intellectual history, seem to be searching freshly for the unique insights a literary document may elicit. It is in this climat that Bucknell Review offers an issue on Literature and History. Many of the essays in the issue, not surprisingly, deal with the Romantic Age, when there arose the special kind of historical thinking called historicism. The collection mainly contributes studies of specific literary works. Each essayist is aware of the theory and method of history in relation to literature; and Professors Reed and Hays meet pointedly some of the problems newly raised by the resurging liaison. It is Professor Garvin's conviction that in the immediate future enterprising critics will make the interrelations between history and literature more intense and crucial.
Contributors: Thomas W. Hayes, Walter L. Reed, E. J. Rose, Thomas Pison, John Ower, David Kuebrich, Michael Hays, Edward Alexander, and James Rother.
About the editor:
Harry R. Garvin was John P. Crozer Professor of English at Bucknell University.
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