Complex changes have buffeted the discipline of literature during the past decades, calling on us to rethink its academic and cultural definitions, boundaries, and territories. Texts which until recently have not been examined within literary studies (such as films, online texts, and visual artifacts) have “invaded” the disciplinary borders, while literary texts have “leaked” into other disciplines, such as history, sociology, political science, and medicine. Moreover, in the academic field of literature, two opposing camps are currently competing. On one side, researchers delve into aesthetic-structural analyses of literary texts, and on the other, scholars examine literature as reflection of cultural and ideological power relations. With these academic processes at hand one wonders what becomes of literature as a set of texts and as an academic domain. Is it principally a research methodology — a way of observing, reading collecting, organizing, and interpreting information on reality? Or is it an object in itself? The article addresses this unresolved tension, outlining several new ways to manage this cultural and academic unclarity.
Introduction: Why, How, and Where Literature
Omri Herzog is associate professor and head of the Cultural Studies Department at Sapir College, Israel. His main research interests are corporal politics, the interface between the canonical and the popular, the horror genre, and Israeli culture. He is also an award-winning literary critic for Haaretz newspaper.
Tamar Hager is associate professor in the Education Department and the Program of Gender Studies at Tel-Hai College, Israel. Motherhood, critical feminist methodology, art sociology, fictional and academic writing, multiculturalism, and critical pedagogy are core issues of her academic research, writing, teaching, and social activism. She is founder and former codirector of the college’s Center for Peace and Democracy, whose mandate is to academically and administratively develop and implement the multicultural vision of the college. In 2000 she published a book of short stories, A Perfectly Ordinary Life (in Hebrew), and in 2012 she published Malice Aforethought (in Hebrew), microhistories of two English working-class mothers who killed their babies at the end of the nineteenth century. She is coeditor of Bad Mothers: Regulations, Representations, and Resistance (2017).
Omri Herzog, Tamar Hager; Introduction: Why, How, and Where Literature. Poetics Today 1 March 2019; 40 (1): 1–6. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-7259845
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