, Volume 34, Issue 1, pp 269–282 | Cite as

After the fall

Literary histories after the fall of literary history
  • József Szili


The “Fall” was inaugurated by René Wellek at the Bordeaux Congress of the AILC/ICLA in 1970. Postmodern theory of literature was concerned first with radical criticism of conventional historical approaches for their lack of “literariness”. Then Hayden White exposed the “literariness” of historiography. According to Writing Literary History: Selected Perspectives from Central Europe (eds. Darko Dolinar and Marko Juvan) national literary histories do not necessarily play their former emancipatory role and eventually they may serve nationalist purposes. This is underlined by Hungarian experience as classics of Hungarian literary history created a continuous past of ten centuries for “Hungarian literature” veiling substantial changes in the concepts of “literature” and “Hungarian”. An answer to the problem might be the decomposition of “grands récits” by “micro-histories” and temporal “nodes”. Meanwhile recent comparative histories — Literary Cultures of Latin America (eds. Mario J. Valdés and Djelal Kadir) and History of the Literary Cultures of East-Central Europe (eds. Marcel Cornis-Pope and John Neubauer) — seem to have an innate disposition to deconstruct “great stories” of nationalism and regionalism. A forthcoming history of Hungarian literature (ed. Mihály Szegedy-Maszák) is based on nodal dates and problems to make tractable confronting literary canons. Világirodalom (World Literature, ed. József Pál) published in 2005 surveys nearly forty literatures from the point of view of an East-Central European variety of the “Western Canon”.


World Literature Literary History Literary Culture National Literature Print Culture 
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Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • József Szili
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Literary StudiesHungarian Academy of SciencesBudapestHungary

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