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Updated Up To 18/01/2017
Volume 5, Number 2 (June 2007) : 153--64
Culture or Literature?

Herbert Grabes
Rubric A: History of Humanities



With the “cultural turn” English philology has changed in many places into a kind of super-discipline by taking over, at least in part, the work of sociology, history, psychology, and philosophy. The article argues that in order to avoid dilettantism, the excellent qualification for a semiotic or signifying approach to all aspects of culture should be made use of, especially since this approach goes well together with the more recent view of culture as an immaterial construct in terms of an ensemble, or rather a specific hierarchy, of values. In order to discuss the role of literature in and for the wider domain of culture it seems necessary to first delimit this textual corpus, and for that reason a number of recent attempts to define “literature” or “the literary” are considered -- including one of my own that sees its specificity in a validational modesty resulting from a focusing on the particular and the suspension of reference. Due to this modest confinement to the presentation of merely possible worlds, literature is granted a “free space” in culture where it can even intimate the limits of the culture of its origin. For this reason it deserves special attention even at a time when the study of culture and media studies are in vogue.

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