Frank Kermode (1919–) from “Canon and Period,” History and Value (1988)

  • Lee Morrissey


How does literary history fare in these circumstances? For the past quarter-century or so a rumour has circulated to the effect that it can’t any longer be written. Causal connections between works chosen for attention must be spurious, and special interests, not strictly literary at all, guide the historian’s hand. Yet, as Hans Robert Jauss remarks, it used to be thought that the crowning achievement of the philologist was to write the history of his national literature, to reveal its origins with pride, and to trace its stately and inevitable development. These interests in origins and development received a great fillip at the Renaissance, and they flourished well into the present century. But it then began to seem obvious that something was wrong, and that historians of literature were actually writing histories not of literature but of other things—treating literature as a set of illustrative documents, smuggling in notions of cause and connection from social and political history.1 [ ... ]


Literary History Political History National Literature Interpretive Community Literary Canon 
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  1. 2.
    D. Patte, Early Jewish Hermeneutic in Palestine (Missoula, MT: Scholars Press, 1975), p. 44.Google Scholar

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© Lee Morrissey 2005

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  • Lee Morrissey

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