This article proposes to acknowledge the decline, roughly since the 1950s, in the role of literature as a major mechanism of life models, whether conservative or innovatory, and consequently to reevaluate the rationale of continuing literary studies as they are practiced today. This alleged decline does not mean that nonpractical texts, whether written or oral, have lost their various and often indispensable functions for socialization, developing skills, or emotional intelligence. It essentially means that the centrality of the sociopolitical role fulfilled by such texts – and not less significantly by its producers and promoters – has now shifted to other industries. At the same time, in the context of intergroup competition for status based on the possession of symbolic goods, literature seems to have preserved its prestige value.
The End of Literature; or, What Purposes Does It Continue to Serve?
Itamar Even-Zohar is professor emeritus of culture research, Universitat Tel Aviv, and honorary member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. His main work has been developing polysystem theory designed to deal with dynamics and heterogeneity in culture. An active researcher, his recent work concentrates on social energy, especially in relation to ideational work.
Elias J. Torres Feijó is associate professor at the Universidade de Santiago de Compostela. He is the leader of the research group Galabra. His main research areas are cultural planning, cultural and literary methodologies, analysis, community relations and cultural practices of storytelling, and tourism. He was vice rector of the university, 2006 – 9, and president of the International Association for Lusophone Studies, 2008 – 14.
Antonio Monegal is professor of literary theory and comparative literature at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, where he directs its Institute of Culture and coordinates the Comparative Literature research group. Among other publications, he is the author of Luis Buñuel de la literatura al cine (1993) and En los límites de la diferencia: Poesía e imagen en las vanguardias hispánicas (1998) and editor of Literatura y pintura (2000), En guerra (2004), and Política y (po)ética de las imágenes de guerra (2007). In 2004 he cocurated the exhibition At War at the Center of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona. In 2009 – 13 he was president of the Executive Committee of the Arts Council of Barcelona.
Itamar Even-Zohar, Elias J. Torres Feijó, Antonio Monegal; The End of Literature; or, What Purposes Does It Continue to Serve?. Poetics Today 1 March 2019; 40 (1): 7–31. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-7259859
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