The Construction of Social Reality and the Structure of Literary Work

  • Ilja Srubar
Part of the Contributions to Phenomenology book series (CTPH, volume 31)


Schutz’s inquiry into the forms of art is relevant for the development of his theory of the life world. This is where Schutz gains the insight that social reality is an intersubjective construction developing from communication. He uses forms of literary works of art as empirical material to study the communicative functions of the construction of reality. The everyday and extramundane (symbolic) use of language and the temporal and spatial structure of situation, as well as the pragmatic orientation of the everyday attitude, become apparent to him in this context.


Social Construction Social Reality Literary Work Multiple Reality Linguistic Context 
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  1. 1.
    Lester Embree, ed., “A Construction of Alfred Schutz’s ‘Sociological Aspect of Literature,” in Alfred Schutz’s “Sociological Aspect of Literature ”: Construction and Complementary Essays, ed. Lester Embree (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1997), 3–79.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    In English they were edited by Helmut R.Wagner in Life Forms and Meaning Structure (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1982), under the titles of “Meaning Structures of Language,” “Meaning Structures of Literary Art Forms,” and “Meaning Structures of Drama and Opera.” In the following they will be cited as “LFSM,” with the first page numbers refering to the book and the second to the original pages of Schutz’s manuscripts.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    The texts are as follows: 1. Meaning Structures of Language, 2. Meaning Structures of Literary Art Forms, 3. Meaning Structures of Drama and Opera (1924–1927), 4. Fragments on the Phenomenology of Music (1944), 5. Zu Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahren (1948), 6. Zu Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahren (1948), 7. Making Music Together (1950), 8. Don Quixote and the Problem of Reality (1953), and 9. Mozart and the Philosophers (1955).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Karl Mannheim, Beiträge zur Theorie der Weltanschauungsinter-pretation (1922); Essays on the Sociology of Knowledge, ed. Paul Kecskemeti (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1952). This is where Garfinkel’s concept of the “documentary method of interpretation” comes from. See Harold Garfinkel, Studies of Ethnomethodology (Englewood Cliffs:Prentice Hall, 1967), 77.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Schutz is trying to specify Henri Bergson’s idea of the constitution of social reality by employing “aesthetic” means. According to Bergson the requirement for the existence of social relationships is the transformation of the inner experience into the space-time medium of language, and these construct a reality that is independent and qualatively different from subjective experience (Bergson, Essai sur les données immédiates de la conscience [Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1961], 79, 100–116, 139; Time and Free Will, trans. F.L. Pogson [New York: Harper & Row, 1960], 105, 134–155, 185). Using his analysis of works of art, Schutz wants to investigate these transformations and their linguistic means. It is remarkable that in doing this, presumably very much influenced by Berson’s pragmatic element, he anticipates John Dewey’s position, which also employs the analysis of aesthetic experience and the interaction of the author, the work, and the beholder to describe mechanisms of the construction of reality (Dewey, Art as Experience [New York: Capricorn Books, 1958]).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    See Hans Robert Jaus, Ästhetische Erfahrung und literarische Hermeneutik (Frankfurt a. M.:Suhrkamp, 1982), 169; Aristotle, Poetics, Chapters V & VII.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Alfred Schutz, Collected Papers, vol. 2, ed. Arvid Brodersen (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1964), 150. Hereafter, this work will be cited textually as “II.”Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    I am using the term introduced by the founder of Russian formalism, Viktor klovskij, who played a large part in the structuralist discourse of the Prague linguistic circle in the 1920’s and whose term matches exactly what Schutz meant. Šklovskij defines “alienation” as a technique that exceeds the automatism of everyday language use. Roman Jakobson has a similar outlook of the poetic effect of language in the “dissociation” of everyday semantics. See Šklovskij, “Kunst als Kunstgriff,” (first published in 1917), in Verfremdung in der Literatur, ed. H. Helmers (Darmstad:Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellchaft, 1984); Roman Jakobson, Novejšaja Russkaja Poezija (Recent Russian Poetry), (Prague: Tipografija “Politika,” 1921).Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    I.e., Hermann Cohen, Whose aesthetics Schutz had studied, had also understood lyrical poetry to be a “solitary art.” See H. Cohen, Ästhetik des reinen Gefühls, vol. 2 (Berlin: Cassirer, 1912), 22 ff.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Jaus, Ästhetische Erfahrung, 204.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    See Karlheinz Stierle, Text als Handlung. Perspektiven einer systematischen Literaturwissenschaft (München: Fink, 1975).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ilja Srubar
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Erlangen-NürnbergGermany

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