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Marginalia: notes toward a science of the literary text Verdicchio, Massimo

Abstract

The need for a science of the literary text is created when a startling number of critical theories succeed in mystifying rather than in clarifying the work of literature. The literary text disappears and it is replaced by one of its possible interpretations: certain aspects of the text are selected to serve as explanation for the whole. Even in more current critical trends the tendency is to subordinate the literary text to the methodology and to view it as one form of expression in an all-embracing typology of texts. In all of these cases the applied methodological canons are all foreign to the literary work in that they were elaborated to explain objects other than literature. When these canons are utilized to explain literature they are bound to give us only a partial and unsatisfactory rendering of its real complexity. To found a science of the literary text and to depart from the traditional critical approaches it is necessary first of all to define what is a literary text and what is this literariness which distinguishes it from other texts. On these bases a methodology is elaborated which is proper only to the literary text and to no other object. The manner in which we have attempted to approach the problem can be generally divided into two stages: deconstruction and reconstruction. The first stage indicates a process of demystification of the literary text by means of a critique of the basic methodological assumptions of the more dominant and current critical trends. As a result, the second stage points to the attempt to determine the laws which govern the production of the literary work: literary laws which underlie any literary work, an understanding of which is necessary to the explication of literature. This double theoretical undertaking can be more specifically subdivided into four parts: l) Marginalia: a general critical account of the basic critical fallacies of modern literary criticism; 2) Theory: a definition of the literary text and of the laws which condition literary production; 3) Theoretical Practice: the elaboration of a critical methodology developed in terms of literary laws; h) Critical Practice: the practical application of this method to a contemporary novel. In consideration of the complexity and difficulty of the task we are aware of the limitations and of the inadequacies of our own theoretical effort, and we cannot but present our findings as suggestions towards a future and more rigorous scientific elaboration. The paper itself indicates where the major obstacles are to be found and what are the major fallacies to be avoided. The main purpose of this thesis, for writer and reader alike, is then to contribute to a greater degree of critical self-clarification.

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