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Regular version of the site

Article

Exilic Inscriptions: Migration and the Resistance to (World) Theory

Differences. 2021. Vol. 32. No. 1. P. 126-149.

Throughout my book The Birth and Death of Literary Theory, I attempt to demonstrate that literature and literary theory have been involved in complex dialectic moves between autonomy and heteronomy. These two poles are perhaps best treated as heuristic tools, which is also how one should read my insistence on literary theory as having its own epistemological identity despite the interplay between aesthetics, philosophy, and cultural theory within which it has functioned. As Bogdana Paskaleva rightly observes, the book is, in a sense, an extended case study of such amalgamations, from within which literary theory emerges as a specific mode of reflection on literature that has its own limited time span (but not necessarily a time-limited impact, as I show in the epilogue to the book). This should cancel concerns about the supposedly unilinear timeframe the book works with: in fact, the narrative traces not only overlapping chronologies but, crucially, overlapping regimes of relevance that operate with different temporalities and zones of validation. This is also true of the presence of politics and issues of power in the book: the entire first part, that on Russian formalism, implicitly and explicitly traces the dual processes of differentiation and accommodation of literary theory vis-.-vis political power, and there is a nod toward this duality also in the brief references to the work of the Prague Circle.