Introduction to English and American Literature

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Introduction to English and American Literature

1. What is literature

Hermeneutics: The art of interpretation Hermeneutic Circle: 1. phase: presupposition 2. phase: reading the text, correcting/ adjusting own experience and thoughts 3. phase: new knowledge widens own horizon Ontological Terms: 1. Literature is high regarded writing BUT: the canon is not stable and changes through time 2. Literature is non-pragmatic BUT: Goethe: “Die Leiden des jungen Werther” – many young men commited suicide, after falling unhappiliy in love 3. Literature is self-referential BUT: advertising slogans 4. Literature is defined by a specific use of language BUT: is not limited to literature 5. Literature is “imaginative writing” BUT: what about biographies, essays or the Bible  Literature is rather a functional term, for the reader has to decide by himself if the text is literature Author- centred approach  psychoanalytical, biographical approach Text- centred approach  Structuralism - no natural link between word and object - conventional connection between sign and object - language based on differences - language based upon binary oppositions - language as a sign system  Poststructuralism - language does not refer to reality but to itself - language is no stable system of reference - no stable meaning in a literary text (instability of language) Reader- centred approach  reader- respond theory - no text can present reality as such, it has to select elements which are then newly combined in a text - gaps of indeterminacy are an integral part of the text - result: dialects of revealing and concealing  activating the reader´s response Context-centred approaches

 feminism/ gender studies: gender relations, constructions of masculinity and femininity  postcolonial theory: race, cultural identity, colonialism  political criticism: historical reality – literary representation  cultural studies: literature as one sign system among others cultural systems