This article scrutinizes stories produced, distributed, and circulated outside the literary field to reexamine the nature of literature as sets of cultural activities in specific periods and locations. It argues that these texts which poetically and aesthetically resemble literary artifacts yet do not perform in the cultural matrix as such actually prove that literary materials and tools are “leaking” through the permeable cultural borders of the literary field to other cultural and social fields, serving various purposes and objectives. Exploring two examples – a fiction describing the unthinkable nuclear future and a microhistory reconstructing an elusive past – the article suggests that fictions which have been constructed outside the literary realm (by historians, political scientists, physicists, and others) are useful methodologies when standard disciplinary research procedures and methods are inadequate or irrelevant. In these circumstances imaginative stories enable researchers and other cultural figures to construct and transfer new knowledge efficiently. This crossover of devices and poetic structures from the literary field into other cultural arenas implies the significant cultural role played by literature even when its social function seems to be declining.
“If They Cannot Take It Straight, They Will Get It in Fiction”: The Power of Literature
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).
Tamar Hager; “If They Cannot Take It Straight, They Will Get It in Fiction”: The Power of Literature. Poetics Today 1 March 2019; 40 (1): 33–57. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-7259873
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