Fall 1985 • Vol. VII No. 4 NonfictionOctober 1, 1985 |

The Social Construction of Literature

Romantic art, including literature, has presented itself in terms of transcendencies, locating its origins, finding its language, and explaining its functions in the deeps of the unconscious self, the cosmic struggles of Apollonian and Dionysiac energies, the ancient myths of Edenic past and apocalyptic future, darkling Oedipal wrestlings with precursor poets and, most recently, the emptiness of the abyss. Centered in these worlds of spirit, romantic literature has offered itself to the world, with great success, as a manifestation of an unchanging and distinctively human psychic essence, an epistemological and linguistic absolute, a Universalpoesie, the true voice of mankind appearing in all cultures at all times. As these concepts came to seem so real and true as to be unquestionable, the word literature gradually lost its older and broader eighteenth-century meaning of all secular writing of excellence on serious subjects and increasingly meant a special group of texts that, as t

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