Sociology of literature  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Sociology of literature is a subfield of Sociology of culture. It studies the social production of literature and its social implications. A notable example is Pierre Bourdieu's 1992 Les Règles de L'Art: Genèse et Structure du Champ Littéraire, translated by Susan Emanuel as Rules of Art: Genesis and Structure of the Literary Field (Stanford University Press, 1996).


The theory of the novel

A first step into sociology of literature was done by Georg Lukács with his The Theory of the Novel, first published in German in 1916, in the Zeitschrift fur Aesthetik und Allgemeine Kunstwissenschaft. In 1920 it was republished as a book and strongly influenced the Frankfurt School. Walter Benjamin and Leo Löwenthal were the main scholars continuing the literary studies then. Leo Lowentahl continued his work on literature later in the 50's at Berkeley University, California. The novel is seen by Critical theorists as a mirror of the ideology of bourgeoisie. A second edition of The Theory of the Novel would be published in 1962 having, a strong influence on French structuralism.

The sociology of the novel

In 1964 Lucien Goldmann, who developed the theory of genetic structuralism, published Pour une Sociologie du Roman translated by Alan Sheridan as Towards a Sociology of the Novel (New York: Tavistock Publications, 1987). Instead of a direct reflex of capitalist society, Goldmann sees the Novel as an homology between literature and society mediated by the writer. In his view, the novel represents the "maximum possible conscience" of a social class or group.

Recent developments

Building on earlier work in the production of culture, reception aesthetics. and cultural capital, sociology of literature during the past few years has concentrated on readers' construction of meaning. New developments include studying the relationship between literature and group identities; concerning institutional and reader-response analysis; reintroducing the role of intentions of the author in literature, reconsidering the role of ethics and morality in literature and developing a clearer understanding of how literature is and is not like other media.

The sociology of literature has also recently taken an interest in the global inequality between First-World and Third-World authors, where the latter tend to be strongly dependent on the editorial decisions of publishers in Paris, London or New York and are often excluded from participation in the global literary market.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Sociology of literature" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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