The theory of literature was featured by two types of interpretations in the 20 century. The first included widely comprehended ways of interpreting the essence of literature and attempts to bring some order into it, whereas the other followed the procedures of over-formalizing that never took real roots. If the former derived from the belief the theory broadened our knowledge about the construction of a literary work, the latter generally shunned from the theory because of the belief literature can be comprehended even without theoretical knowledge. The resistance to the theory was even connected with a belief that the theory created yet another language (discourse) with whose assistance we can interpret other languages – e.g. the language of the work and the language of the interpretation, i.e. literary critics, which significantly increases the content of the language and its layers thus causing the distancing from the most important thing – the literature itself. Although theory of literature has always stirred controversies, and despite its aporias and ambivalence, it thrived throughout the history and it was exactly the 20 century that gave most theoretical paths, schools and movements. Paradoxically the same era (mostly the end of the 20 century) also stirred most interest into the topics, with a plethora of related works being published after the traditional era ended, which created the need to reform the theory. The end of its traditional form was partly embedded in the very concept of post-modernism, the concept of thinning former categories of genre and discourse as present day writings are simply referred to as theory, depicting everything or nothing from the “traditional theory”.
When books The Ethics of Reading by Joseph Hillis Miller, The Company We Keep by Wayne C.Booth and Love’s Knowledge by Martha C.Nussbaum were published in the USA around 1990 – books that were met by a wide reception, and which all touched the relationship between the literature and the ethics, each from its own point of view and method – they incited a plethora of other similar works and treatises, and soon “ethical reversal in the literary science” was announced within American academic circles. The phenomenon was most pronounced in the USA and UK, partly spread into German and French literary sciences, and with a little delay into Chinese and South Korean sciences, whereas it failed to immerse into other regions so prominently. Nevertheless, a central role of North American humanities has provided global importance and influence over the past decades thus reaching into Slovenia. Past few years hosted two scientific symposia featuring literature and ethics, and here is the first Slovene monography dealing with the phenomenon. Virk’s monography features and reviews some of the most important topics of the literature and ethics within the ethical reversal that had a widespread response. Most attention is paid to M.Nussbaum, W. Booth, A. MacIntyre, H. Meretoja, J. Phelan, W. Müller, A. Nünning, E. Levinas, J. Derrida, P. de Man, J. Hillisu Miller, G. C. Spivak and Nie Zhenzhao. Virk outlines each of their fundamental contributions to ethical literary science, and then reviews their theories and cautions about the traps ethical approaches in the literature in general are faced with. As he pointed out in the introduction, Virk is not attempting to establish his own pattern of ethical literary science (he implies this may happen in the future at best), but focuses on the critical analysis of ethical reversal. Yet, in the conclusion he gives several suggestions on how to eliminate principal flaws of ethical literary science. What points to the contemporary methodical literary-scientific issues, dealing with ethical questions, is that Virk’s monography dug the first shovel. It points to the current world issues, but simultaneously it is not purely panoramic but problematic, analytical and critical. It is not merely an introduction into ethical literary science – quite the contrary. Despite author’s restraints about the topic, the work is a significant contribution to the subject matter. Virk’s book, widely opening up to contemporary literary-scientific trends, is nevertheless mostly featured by traditional, classical humanities. Dr. Tone Smolej
The ten papers on the monograph entitled Na pomolu sodobnosti ali o književnosti in romanu (On the Quay of Contemporaneity; Literature and the Novel) investigate the role and meaning of contemporary literature. This investigation is in two parts: the first, On Literature, is theoretical in nature, giving a survey of writings on the history of literature. The second, Concerning the Novel, is dedicated to the analysis of a single Slovene novel in each discussion. The two are not only linked by way of looking at the Slovene novel within the wider context and establishing the links between the two, but also through methodology, or, more precisely, methodological pluralism. The various methods, insights and approaches are balanced through the lens of post-classical narratology, stress being laid on context, the text and the reader / critic, the core rule of post-classical narratology being the shift between the text and the co-text. It passes from cognition through ethics to ideology; this is therefore not only an analysis of narration, but also its reading within a wider social and cultural context.
The paper Literarnost, ponovno (Literariness) discusses the questions “What is literariness?” and “When is literariness?”Although sometimes there is a thin differentiating line that distinguishes a literary text from a non-literary one, it is precisely the knowledge of literariness that eliminates the challenge of differentiation, when the dominant or predominating features are taken into account in comparing various texts. In the study entitled Trivijalnost nakon postmodernizma (The formulaicity in literature after postmodernism) it was useful to add literary historical dimensions to socio-cultural analyses of mass literature, wherein belongs formula fiction, by connecting them with the properties of the post-modern, post-modernism and mass culture. Discussion Vrijeme uspješnica (The time of bestsellers) deals with the notion that the difference between literariness (the characteristic of a quality book) and formulaicity (the characteristic of a bestseller) is huge. A best-seller is a book which achieves an unusual market success by way of various factors: the actuality of the theme, fashion, market needs, propaganda, favourable offers made to the booksellers, multiplication by way of various media, praising of the book before it even proves itself on the market, prizes, celebrity endorsement, the size of the book market and lists of the factors of success as means of manipulation. Slovene literature in the post-modern age is not yet a complete phenomenon and so research Slovenska književnost nakon 1990 godine (Slovene literature since 1990) is faced with two challenges: to combine the literary perspective with the sociological, historical and culturological, and to achieve sufficient (academic) distance from current literary production.
The term transrealism is once again discussed in the study Transrealizam – novi pravac suvremenog slovenskog romana? (Transrealism – a new trend in the contemporary Slovene novel?). The very prefix in the term transrealism shows that it is closely connected with the previous realist trends and that in it repeatability and eclecticism take on a significance permeated by the new role of the literary subject.
In the paper Alamut I suggest several possibilities for introducing the novel in historical, philosophical and religious, and psychological perspectives, by presenting the novel as a sketch for effective literary reading. Alamut can be read on various levels: while reading the double-layered text, the attention is directed first at the story and then at the broader narrative. In the study Pimlico, Pimlico by Milan Dekleva is compared to The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. Both are modern European novels which can be successfully understood only through modern interpretation. In the paper Čitateljska skica za Jančarev roman Polarna svjetlost (A reading sketch for Jančar´s novel Severni sij) the picture of prewar Maribor conveys the contemporary message about the absurdity of violence, the limits of human reason and the limitless hatred. The article Antiutopijski otok u romanu Filio nije kod kuće Berte Bojetu (The distopian island in novel Filio is not at home Berte Bojetu) researches the novel as a modified traditional novel: takes it to be a modified type of traditional novel, looking as it does to the tradition while undergoing various transformations, the most present of which is its genre syncretism (a love story with a psychological bias, dystopian novel and parable,) the role of the narrator and an increased amount of dialogue. This makes the narrative lively and dramatic, qualities that come most to the fore in the dialogue which conveys contemporaneity and the writer’s empathy. In the last paper, Pijetlov doručak, knjižna i filmska uspješnica (The Cockerel’s Breakfast, a best-seller and film blockbuster), a book by Feri Lainšček is compared to a film by Marko Naberšnik. The Cockerel´s Breakfast has been a hit both in book form and on the screen.
The book before you, Arrogance and Bias, by the author prof. Matevž Kos is divided into three major topical ranges. The first brings five comprehensive interpretations of the most famous books, or rather poetic opuses, by Slovenian poets who put a significant stamp onto the 1990s. The first one, Sonnet as a Form of Recuperation from the Contemporary, is devoted to the breakthrough collection of more recent Slovenian poetry – Sonnets by Milan Jesih. Today this book has a reputation of being the pinnacle of post-modernism in contemporary Slovenian poetry. The second essay, Cracked Words, is a comprehensive contemplation on the poetry by Veno Taufer, one of the central authors of so-called Slovenian “dark modernism”. The next text – Genealogy of Loneliness – is dedicated to the book of poetry by Jure Porokar, Objects in the Void, while the essay A Woman, a Light and a Scorpion is dedicated to the poetry by Uroš Zupan, the leading author among young Slovenian poets. Essays Imperfective Verb To Be is contemplation on another breakthrough collection of contemporary Slovenian poetry – Limping Sonnets by Milan Dekleva. The second part of the book is mainly of theoretical and literary-historical nature. This is a comprehensive treatise titled Contemporary Slovenian Poetry and the Issue of Postmodernism which analyses and sets the question of the direction of the issue of postmodernism phenomenon in poetry (especially Slovenian poetry), if it exists at all, as by worldly standards the discussion on postmodernism usually revolves around prose and drama.
The third part of the book is (slightly provocatively) called Troubles with the Programme. By its primary intonation the text is critical and polemical, while the central question it sets is the relationship between the literature and ideology, between the culture and politics, as risen during the critical age of Slovenian process of becoming independent and democratized. Among others, the author pleads for a rigid differentiation of various levels – above all the state interference and immanent poetic practice, author and text. Hence the critical attitude to various theoretical and ideological “discourses” which have been seen as something conservative or ethical and morally non-binding over the past decade in young Slovenian poetry.
The book Experimenting with Nietzsche, subtitled “Nietzsche and Nietzscheanism in Slovenian Literature”, is divided into three parts. The first part, “Nietzsche”, is an introductory survey complemented with occasional philosophical interpretation. It attempts to follow the inner logic of Nietzsche´s philosophy by examining its focal points constantly underlining the open and ambiguous structure of his work. The second part of the book, “Nietzsche after Nietzsche”, begins by addressing the historical reception of Nietzsche´s philosophy and the different, often opposing, interpretations and “readings”. Using the methods of literary history, it goes on to discuss the impact of Nietzsche´s philosophy on the formation of literary movements at the turn of the century and later, concentrating on the German Expressionism. The third and central part is entitled “Nietzsche and Slovenian Literature”. It presents and analyses the first responses to Nietzsche´s Philosophy in the late 19th century Slovenian press and in the subsequent period until World War I. The central chapters are dedicated to the “dialogue” of Slovenian literature with Nietzsche´s philosophy in two historical settings: in the years between 1890 and 1914, and the period between the two wars. The author concludes that Nietzsche was viewed in Slovenia primarily from an ideological perspective and, more often than not, rejected by booth leading Slovenian political powers of the time, the Catholics and the Liberals. One of the reasons for such reception was that Slovenia had no developed philosophy in the true sense of the word at the time, and thus Nietzsche could not be met on an dequate, i.e. philosophical, ground. The reception of his philosophy through the decades until the Second World War was primarily reflected in literature and base on ideological considerations. The most important Slovenian writers discussed are Ivan Cankar (1876-1918) and Oton Župančič (1878-1949), both belonging to the Slovenian “Modernism [moderna], as well as Ivo Šorli (1877-1958), Fran Albreht (1889-1963), an Anton Novačan (1887-1951), who inherited the Modernist traditions from the years preceding, and partly following, World War I. The next period is represented by poet Srečko Kosovel (1904-1926), avant-garde artis Anton Podbevešek (1898-1981), critic Josip Vidmar (1895-1992), and writer Vladimir Bartol (1903-1967). Each formed an individual response to Nietzsche´s philosophy, the most radical ones being Vidmar and Bartol, who were with out doubt geavily influenced by the philosopher in the twenties and thirties. Bartol´s novel Alamut, which bears a quotation from Nietzsche as its motto, is considered to be the most radical embodiment of “metaphysical nihilism” in pre-war Slovenian literature. The period after World War II was not in favour on Nietzsche´s philosophy, primarily for ideological reasons, and it was not until the sixties that a renewed interest in his philosophy emerged. This phenomenon took place not only in literature, but also in literary theory and philosophy, being influenced to some degree by the philosophy of Martin Heidegger and his analyses of Nietzsche and the “European nihilism”.
A book by Dr Metevž Kos titled Fragments on the Wholeness: Attempts with Slovenian Poetry comprises seven essays dedicated to (post)modern Slovenian poetry of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st centuries. The first two are contemplations on the initiators of modernism in poetry, i.e. members of the historical Slovenian avantgarde – Srečko Kosovel (1904-1926) and Anton Podbevšek (1898-1981). In the third essay the author contemplates about the opus of Veno Taufer (1933), one of the most prominent Slovenian modernist poets in the post-war era. The next essay is devoted to the collection of poems called Sonets (1989) by Milan Jesih (1950) who is renowned as a paradigmatic example of post-modernism in Slovenian poetry. The book was called after an essay about poetry by Milan Dekleva (1946). Dekleva, along with Milan Jesih, is one of the most important contemporary Slovenian poets, while both are considered representatives of the second “modernist generation” that witnessed “the crisis of modernism”. In the essay Dekleva’s opus is settled in the context of rebellious student generation of ’68, Heidegger’s post-metaphysical philosophy and eastern-oriented system of thinking – all of that left trace on Dekleva’s poetry. The essay How do we Speak When We Dare to Speak? is dedicated to the poetry by Uroš Zupan (1963), the most respectable Slovenian poet of middle generation. The last text in the book The Last Crossroad to Parnas is a synthetic rendering of the “young Slovenian poetry” from the period 1990-2005.
A White Lady in the Labyrinth: a Conceptual World of J.L.Borges is a monography about the eminent Argentinean author having a reputation of the father of post-modernism and who largely marked the worldwide literature over the last several decades of the past century. No wonder he greatly influenced both Slovenian and Croatian literary production as well. The extent to which Borges was a break-through author is nicely conveyed by his “disciple” Danilo Kiš who distinguishes between literature before Borges and literature after Borges. In his works Borges, as a father of modern intertextuality, gets playful with various philosophical, psychological and sociological theories and that is the foundation for his creation of a completely independent aesthetic entity, with a background hint of a comprehensive system of thinking. This is exactly what Virk’s book deals with – through a precise analysis of Borges’ prose, poetry and essays he is attempting to penetrate into this system of minds and ideas. There he particularly focuses on thematical systems of time, dreams, labyrinths and mirrors and he reaches the conclusion that these systems are closely intertwined with the idea of repetition. This idea is a general paradigm of Borges’ work which not only permeates fundamental thematical systems as their common core but also incorporates into a separate and therefore particularly influential Borges’ writing technique which is intertextuality – no more than a certain from of repetition. In the final synthesis Virk gives concrete examples with a comparison of Borges’s world of ideas with the analysis of ontology of pre-modern societies.
„The fear of Naiveté: the Poetry of the Postmodernist Prose“ is a monograph about Postmodernism, the last globally spread literary movement. The concepts of postmodernism and postmodern in the 1970s and especially in the 1980s penetrated into certain social sciences at the light speed – into philosophy, sociology, history of art, literary science and others – but because of their overly broad and contemporary use they soon faced their own inflation. Due to the inflation they are still used in enumerate meanings and in accordance with a famous postmodern motto anything goes. Virk’s book wants to define postmodernism in a different and more mandatory way, although the author is aware of the necessary plurality of how postmodernism is seen. Plurality however does not imply randomness; therefore Virk is attempting to outline his understanding of postmodernism as one of the possibilities of understanding postmodernism with as many arguments as possible and in accordance with the leading world theories. For that purpose Virk firstly outlines an overview of those theories, and then, based on accurate readings of separate postmodern texts and in a dialogue with other theories, he gives his view of postmodernism. The basic thesis of the book lies in the concept that postmodernism, from a spiritual-historic point of view, is the ultimate stage of metaphysical nihilism. At a formal level this standpoint is reflected in postmodern metafiction and inter-textuality that shake readers’ trust into the credibility of the world as rendered by the literature.
Excursions abroad gives a selection of interpretations, essays and comparative studies on several significant authors from the world literature. This book comprises a selection of prose writers its author, Prof.Virk, for various reasons finds particularly attached to and whom he intensively studied. The chosen authors come from three distinctive worlds in terms of literature and culture – thus the book is aptly, and a bit Hegelianly, divided into three parts, each bringing three authors. The first chapter features treatises from the Spanish language-based literature and the authors who are either historically (Cervantes) or culturally and geographically (Borges, Márquez) remote from contemporary Slovenian and Croatian readers. The second chapter is devoted to the authors comprising modernist Middle European environment, thus making them more familiar in terms of both culture and geography (Muschg, Kafka, Eco). The third chapter deals with the Russian literature (Dostoevsky, Bulgakov, Akunin) we may consider rather close, but at the same time very distant as well. Each of the three parts – thematically as well as in terms of the author selections – depicts an archway from canonised classics to postmodernism.
The book titled Jewish Sextets by Prof. Vid Snoj, PhD, comprises essays on six modern Jewish authors: Gershom Scholem, Erich Auerbach, Franz Werfl, Lev Shestov and Franz Kafka. The modernist literature, broadly speaking, from the Enlightenment onwards, has been featured by the „Jewish emersion“ in the areas of science and spiritual teachings, art, music and literature. The common interpretation of the exceptional achievements of Jewish people in all these areas is attributed to the opening of ghettos, simultaneously leading to the cessesion of the fixation on the holy scriptures and the banishment of depicting the image of the God, and so on. For example, it is obvious that, from the point of Christianity, the choseness of the Jews ended in the area of religion. The choseness then extended into the art which, on the other hand, resurfaces as a realm of epiphany of what is – or as a space of a-phany, un-utterencing, obliteration, nothingness, replacing thus the religion. The creative work by the Jews in the real world almost throughout their history, not only in the modernist literature, has been emerging from the deep and spiritual experiencing of the chosen ones and the exile, the chosenness on earth and the exile from the worldly places. This experience brings Jewish people into a particular position – being countryless in a country; being chosen for the world but homeless.