Hans Robert Jauss: ‘Literary History as A Challenge to Literary Theory’

  • K. M. Newton


My attempt to bridge the gap between literature and history, between historical and aesthetic approaches begins at the point at which both [the Marxist and the Formalist] schools stop. Their methods conceive the literary fact within the closed circle of an aesthetics of production and of representation. In doing so, they deprive literature of a dimension that inalienably belongs to its aesthetic character as well as to its social function: the dimension of its reception and influence. Reader, listener, and spectator — in short, the factor of the audience — play an extremely limited role in both literary theories. Orthodox Marxist aesthetics treats the reader — if at all — no differently from the author: it inquires about his social position or seeks to recognize him in the structure of a represented society. The Formalist school needs the reader only as a perceiving subject who follows the directions in the text in order to distinguish the [literary] form or discover the [literary] procedure. … Both methods lack the reader in his genuine role, a role as unalterable for aesthetic as for historical knowledge: as the addressee for whom the literary work is primarily destined. …


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  1. 1.
    On this Husserlian concept, see G. Buck, Lernen und Erfahrung (Stuttgart, 1967), pp. 64ff.Google Scholar

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© Macmillan Publishers Limited 1997

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  • K. M. Newton

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