Why care about literature, and why does literature exist at all? Literature exists because language exist, and because language is the only phenomenon in this world that is independent and autonomous. We, who have to live with our spirit trapped within our body, society and life, have only an incomplete access to it.
What is the value, function, and future of literary studies? These questions have been the subject of intense debate in recent years, reflecting a widespread feeling among academics that the discipline of literary studies is in a state of crisis. This review article takes a critical look at four recent essays on the subject from Scandinavian and French scholars, and looks at how the present situation of literary studies is described and explained, and which changes are suggested to improve it.
In this article I shall attempt to show that Virginia Woolf’s essayistic voice is an ambiguous one. To establish aesthetic authority as a woman in a male-dominated field, and at the same time stage herself as a democratic and antiauthoritarian common reader, represented a challenge and an interesting conflict for Woolf. As a woman essayist, Woolf made a place for herself by deconstructing the «great» male personality in literature, linking her voice to the female letter writer or the obscure woman author. She adopted the collective narrative voice of «we», shedding what she saw as an authoritative, egocentric and personal «I». I shall argue that this «voice of her own» is not so democratic and antiauthoritarian as feminist criticism claims.
In 2006, Sorbonne professor Mireille Huchon provoked a great discussion by claiming that the poet Louise Labé from Lyon (1523?–1566) was merely a courtesan, and that her poems were in fact written by a group of male poets. In this article, the recent debate surrounding Labé serves as a background for a general discussion of the relationship between an author and her texts. Moreover, I argue that Labé’s only book, Œuvres, attempts to justify female artistry by defining its author as the heiress of the Greek poet Sappho and by conceiving a female literary tradition. Thus, it is in keeping with Renaissance ideals of imitation that Labé seems to have found the creative and social support necessary to work and publish as a female writer.
Contemporary literature as a field of praxis has been far more concerned with the question of the individual than has previously been the case in literary theory and scholarship. To what extent is it possible to see the current focus on the individual as a reaction to the poetics of romanticism? A comparative approach to Henrik Wergeland’s poetological manifesto Jan van Huysum’s Flower Piece and Karl Ove Knausgård’s My Struggle will highlight this question, claiming that it does make a certain difference if a poetics of transcendence resides before or after the death of God. How can the artist justify his quest for transcendence at the expense of others in an era where nobody outside the artist can justify his claims?