The Dimension of ‘Play’ in the Autonomous Meaning of Literature

Wilbert Smulders
Utrecht University, Netherlands

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Ingår i: Current Issues in European Cultural Studies; June 15-17; Norrköping; Sweden 2011

Linköping Electronic Conference Proceedings 62:47, s. 459-466

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Publicerad: 2011-11-22

ISBN: 978-91-7519-993-1

ISSN: 1650-3686 (tryckt), 1650-3740 (online)


The concept ‘literary autonomy’ is as important as it is tricky. No matter the way one is scholarly engaged in modern literature; sooner or later one is confronted with the phenomenon that the liberation and emancipation of literature culminates around 1800. According to some scholars autonomy is the distinguishing feature of the work: from then on literary texts became more and more hermetic. Others stipulate that autonomy is a characteristic of the social position of the author; who from then on situates himself on the border of the social and moral frameworks of the bourgeois culture. Others think that autonomy is caused by the raise of the phenomenon ‘subject’; who from then on doesn’t anymore recognize any authority outside itself and sets its own frameworks. In discussions about autonomy usually one of those characteristics is made absolute; mostly the social and the poetical one. I try to do justice to the complexity of the phenomenon ‘autonomy’ by accepting the three characteristics as its three dimensions; constantly playing in a dynamic interaction. I try to show this interaction and try to concretise this rather abstract phenomenon in view of the modern Dutch literature; especially the authorship of Hermans.


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