• Ágnes MATUSKA
Keywords: literary history, new historicism, presentism, periodisation, renaissance, early modern


The article reflects on theoretical dilemmas raised by a chapter introducing the Renaissance period in a presently written history of English literature in Hungarian, and points at more general questions regarding literary history, periodisation, the social embeddedness of literary pieces as well as the cultural embeddedness of literary historians themselves. Examples in the argument include the previous history of English literature written in Hungarian in the 70s, as well as current debates about new historicism, with special regard to the changes in the assessment of new historicist works, the relationship between presentism and new historicism, as well as various ideas about the relationship between literary works and their historical context. The author suggests three main layers defining the perspective of literary historians: their immediate institutional background, the dominant academic paradigm(s), and the way in which they wish to participate in contemporary public discourse through their interpretations. Although these last two layers are intermingled, the ambivalence in their relationship is similar to the one characterizing the interconnectedness of a literary work with its historical and ideological context.


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