Literature as a Textualist Notion

  • Bo Pettersson


My focus in this paper is not merely on the central notions of text (and the related notion of work) and textuality, but more pointedly on textualism, by which I understand a narrowing of the spectrum of literary communication to the study of literary artefacts denoted as texts. In other words, an approach is textualist if it largely disregards a text’s communicative poles, the author (intentional considerations) and the reader/s (interpretive considerations). Needless to say, perhaps, absolutely purist notions of textualism seldom occur, but as I shall attempt to show there are periods and movements in literary studies – as well as recently in historiographical, cultural, and social studies – which explicitly or implicitly are textualist in their approaches. In the last few decades the denotative range of text has been expanded to cover such a wide array of cultural artefacts and phenomena that I should think any contemporary discussion of the term should be aware of this expansion. Thus, I am more open to the actual usage of the term than, say, Manina Jones in her encyclopaedia entry on textuality as ‘the written condition of the literary object’ (even though she is aware that this is the term’s ‘most limited sense’).1 We may deplore the fact that text and its cognates are used beyond such a clear-cut and traditional sense, but should be aware of the considerable spread of its semantic field in recent years.


Literary Study Literary Theory Literary Communication Textual Criticism Linguistic Turn 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2005

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  • Bo Pettersson

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