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The Source of Meaning of Literary Works: From the Perspective of 20th Century Western Literary History

Social Sciences in China

Vol. 38, No. 4, 2017

 

SPECIAL ISSUE: A DISCUSSION ON THE SOURCE OF MEANING OF LITERARY WORKS

 

The Source of Meaning of Literary Works: From the Perspective of 20th Century Western Literary History

(Abstract)

 

Thomas Pavel

 

The rise of historicism at the turn of the 19th century changed the ancient poetics and rhetoric standards held by Aristotle for a long time, trying to integrate literary studies into a larger historical context, but in the first half of the 20th century several literary criticism methods, including formalism, new criticism, structuralism and poststructuralism, came up to emphasize once again the importance of form and rhetoric. After the 1980s and 1990s, a new inclination to seek and promote the relationship between literature and the real world has encouraged the literary research that interprets classical and contemporary literary works on the basis of current political issues. The influence of formalism and its opponents, as well as the emphasis on literary aesthetics in the process, led to the relaxation of the standard for the search of literary significance. Therefore, we must give brand-new attention to what the literary works themselves are intended to tell the reader.

 

Keywords: literary meaning, formalism, historical background, meaning standard