How Can We Talk about Literature of the Past? Cover Image
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Comment parler de la littérature du passé?
How Can We Talk about Literature of the Past?

Author(s): Michel Delon
Subject(s): Theoretical Linguistics, Applied Linguistics, Philology
Published by: Wydawnictwa Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego
Keywords: literature; history; relativism; updating; anachronism
Summary/Abstract: Literature professors, theatre directors and museum curators are faced with two problems: how to arouse the public’s interest in the arts and literature of the past centuries and how to make them intelligible for the present-day audience. For a long time, it was enough to present an interpretation fixed by the academic tradition. Today, the speed at which institutional circumstances evolve allows some to justify resorting to anachronism: starting from the present in order to understand the past. There are not much place left to escape obsolete readings, on the one hand, and to respect historical differences, on the other. That being said, a keen sensitivity to historical and cultural points of contact does not necessarily lead to a purely subjective relativism that runs the risk of sapping any dialogue and destroying the continuity between cultures and ages.