This article highlights how the premises of the radical historicism of Galin Tihanov’s book The Birth and Death of Literary Theory (2019) are conditioned by developments within literary theory itself. For Tihanov, changes in literature’s perceived usefulness undermine the dominance of its perceived uniqueness, bringing about the demise of theoretical discourses aimed at determining that uniqueness. Exploring the tensions within Russian formalism and Prague structuralism that made possible the abandonment of the adherence to the doctrine of literary autonomy through specific uses of language, the author connects Tihanov’s notion of “regimes of relevance” with the concept of “regime” developed by Jacques Rancière. The intersection of these two theorizations of “regime” pinpoint the paradox at the heart of literary theory: the attempt to pose the question of artistic autonomy and specificity produces the dissipation of what was holding this autonomy together.

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