Critical Inquiry 14 (3):563-573 (1988)

In recent years the sociology of literature has developed on the basis of another formula: literature is part of the larger social order. It is not the “expression of society” but an integral part of it. The idea is simple, the implications are great. Literature as part of the social order goes beyond a study of the external social manifestations of literature, beyond the sociology of the book, author, and reader practiced, for example, by Robert Escarpit—a sociology which leads inevitably to a positivist outlook.5 Nor can we be satisfied with a wholesale borrowing of sociological concepts that does no more than provide the tools for arguments in favor of one or another theory of literature.6 Whatever the interest of these theories , a sociology of literature becomes possible only when it includes the sociology of the theories elaborated on the subject itself. 5. See Robert Escarpit, Sociologie de la literature . See also Escarpit et al., Le Littéraire et le social: Éléments pour une sociologie de la literature .6. Pierre V. Zima’s presentations of the sociology of literature seem to be taking him toward this failing. See Zima, Pour une sociologie du texte littéraire . Alain Viala is a professor of the Université de Paris II—Sorbonne Nouvelle. Author of Naissance de l’écrivain: Sociologie de la literature à l’âge classique and Les Institutions de la vie littéraire en France au XVIIe siècle , he is currently working on studies of the sociology of literature, Racine, and literary strategies. Paula Wissing is a free-lance translator and editor
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DOI 10.1086/448456
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