The Concept of Literature. Historical and systematic Perspectives

Starting with the Early modern period, the project examines the changing definitions of what the subject of literature is. Special attention is paid to the onset of a productive re-interpretation of Aristotle's Poetics. This re-interpretation has two consequences. It leads to a restriction, because the object of literary mimesis is perceived as a type, always staying the same, an epitome of perfect action, rather than in certain actions of certain characters in certain situations. On the other hand, the re-interpretation extends the subject matter of the Poetics to whatever is imaginable, as can be seen in Francesco Robortello's first printed commentary on Aristotle's Poetics (1548). Via historical research the project aims at making a fruitful contribution to the systematic question of whether - from a present point of view - a subject of literature can be still assumed: for Robortello and Scaliger as well as for Gottsched, Blackenburg and even Friedrich Schlegel the possibility of a normative definition of the subject of literature was a matter of course; after 1800 this self-evidence was called into question.


Researcher: PD Dr. Ulrike Zeuch