This essay explores the manner in which the persistence of literary forms in history has been addressed by the Russian tradition of Historical Poetics (Alexander Veselovsky, Viktor Zhirmunsky, Mikhail Bakhtin, Russian Formalism) and within a certain strain of Western Marxism (Georg Lukács, Walter Benjamin, Fredric Jameson). The discussion is in part descriptive and in part programmatic: a reconstruction that does not pretend to do full justice to any one of these thinkers independently but strives to outline a field, the various inflections of which produce complementary perspectives and points of emphasis. The focus is on the central problematic of the paradigm: an attempt to construct a universal history of literary forms in their relation to the social conditions — and modes — of their production on the basis of a certain understanding of the past's vitality and mobility in the present.

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