In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

??? COHPAnATIST HARALD HENDRIX, JOOST KLOEK, SOPHIE LEVIE, AND WILL VAN PEER, eds. The Searchfor a New Alphabet: Literary Studies in a Changing World. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 1996. 326 pp. + D.W. FOKKEMA. Cultúrele identiteit en literaire innovane. Utrecht: Faculteit der Letteren, 1996. 25 pp. On 14 June 1996, Douwe W. Fokkema gave his valedictory lecture as Professor of Literary Studies at Utrecht University. Framed by references to the then-upcoming 1997 International Comparative Literature Association (ICLA) congress, his lecture addresses the transformations that literary studies underwent in the Netherlands over the past thirty-some years, and closes with a discussion ofliterature's role in a European-Union context. Fokkema's sixty-fifth birthday and his concomitant retirement from Utrecht University are the occasion for the publication of TAe Searchfor a New Alphabet, a collection ofsixty-one short articles by both Dutch and international literary scholars, edited by four ofhis colleagues; Fokkema's own lecture, moving between a consideration ofthe state ofliterary studies at home and abroad, provides not only a survey ofthe issues at the heart ofthe Dutch debates, but also a map for the contributions to The Searchfora NewAlphabet. For when the editors sent out their invitations to contribute to the volume, they specifically requested that the authors address topics with which Fokkema had engaged: canon formation, conventions, cultural relativism, hermeneutics versus empirical studies, and the problem of values. When they put their volume together, however, they opted for an organization according to the alphabetical order ofthe contributors' names—a choice which does leave each contribution standing in its own right, but which misses the chance to set up some dialogues between the various pieces. Fokkema's discussion ofthe transformation ofGerman reader-oriented theories into a specifically Dutch brand ofreception studies and the subsequent development ofan empirical "science ofliterary studies" (literatuurwetenschap) centered on the study ofthe production and reception of literature provides the context in which to understand a number ofcontributions to The Searchfor a New Alphabet. Exemplifying how appreciation of the literary text's cultural context led, in the Netherlands, to the study ofactual economic and institutional conditions ofproduction is Frank de Glas's analysis of the effect of such things as international mergers in the publishing business and rises in rent, salaries, and distribution costs on literary canon formation (89-93). Though surely not empirical enough in Rolf Zwaan's eyes (321), de Glas's contribution, like that ofJozien Moerbeek, certainly gives a Dutch twist to the issue of canon formation as it is addressed by many pieces in The Search in their orientation toward the empirical. This becomes most visible once onejuxtaposes them to Siegfried Schmidt's contribution—a piece of radical Constructivist theorizing that puts in perspective Zwaan's plea for truly empirical research and demonstrates that the difference between Dutch empirische literatuurwetenschap and German empirische Literaturwissenschaft might indeed lie in the former's actual application ofempirical methods to the study ofliterature. In fact, what one misses most in 7Ae Search is a sense ofthe specificity ofDutch literatuurwetenschap andwhether ornot there is such a thing as a specifically Dutch perspective on comparative literature and literary studies. A few contributions address issues that pertain directly to the situation in the Netherlands—Frank Brandsma discusses the distribution ofthe faculty ofa department over various research institutes and calls for more collaboration among the different research schools; and Frans Ruiter recalls the furor caused by De Canon onder vuur (The Canon under VcH. 23 (1999): 177 REWEWS Fire), a collection ofessays about Dutch literature edited by Ernst van Alphen and Maaike Meijer, and probably adds fuel to the fire by comparing its "moralizing tenor" to the practices of the "Roman Catholic Information Service Concerning Reading, which, from 1937 till 1970, functioned in the Netherlands as a semiofficial Catholic censorship board" (188). But on the whole, there is little sense of Dutch-ness in these pages, unless it be the very choice oftopics. For ifthis array of issues which Fokkema helped make central to discussions among comparatists pays homage to the retiring scholar, it also serves as a reminder ofhis important role in comparative literature within, as well as beyond the borders ofthe Netherlands. Not surprisingly, therefore...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1559-0887
Print ISSN
0195-7678
Pages
pp. 177-179
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.