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Primerjalna književnost

PKn, letnik 27, Ljubljana, 2004, Posebna angleška številka / Special Issue in English

Literature and space

Spaces of transgressiveness

(edited by Jola Škulj and Darja Pavlič)

(editors's preface and abstracts)

(link: whole papers page)



This edition of articles surveys the theme on space and literature, that is, two very substantial ideas of our everyday life. Focusing on such rather basic and factual matters, it is hard to expect to face a vexed question. The theme presented here invites a cross-disciplinary dialogue. The editors would like to thank the contributors to the volume for their contributions and their patience. Preparation of the manuscript was particularly complex due to the – English and French – languages used in the editing process of texts not being a standard practice in publishing Primerjalna književnost. Many of these papers were presented in earlier versions at the Lipica Workshop in “Literature and Space: Spaces of Transgressiveness” in 2003, and have since been revised and reworked, and supplemented by other material. To the Vilenica institution, an international event of Central European authors in which colleagues from all over the world meet, organised by the Slovenian Writer's Association, we owe a special debt of gratitude for inviting and making possible the Slovenian Comparative Literature Association, organizing small-group discussion sessions, and opening up a stronger theoretical debate on the chosen theme concerning mid-European cultural reality. We are particularly fortunate not only to have had Jean Bessiere, Bertrand Westphal and Bart Keunen with us on the first occasion, but to have been able to exchange opinions and ideas on the topic also later in our contacts. Their high standard of scholarship was a precious support and encouragement in carrying out the debate and making the issue public. Thanks are due also to Katia Pizzi and to Dean Komel for subsequently having accepted the editors’ invitation and contributing to the debate with their valuable views on the subject.

We are grateful to various people who have in different ways contri­buted to this volume: to those who have read earlier versions and to re­viewers for constructive comments, to Philip Burt for making substantial improvement to the English translations and to Alenka Maček for the layout of the edition.

Thanks also to the Institut Français Charles Nodier as a source of expenditure in enabling participation of the two French professors.

* * *

Dialogue on space and literature involves a variety of possible stand­points. It implies both space in literature and literature in space. Space can be discussed as literary, cultural, social, semiotic phenomena, approached through its geographical, or more specific urban entities, scrutinized by other arts, etc. Addressing spatial transgressions – and to imply the ethics of an encounter – calls for participation of diverse experts in the humanities. J. Bessiere in cross reading of Conrad, G. Stein and Fuentes, specifies the notion of transgression and refers it, on the one hand, to cultural spaces and national borders, and on the other hand, to the approach to history which it implies. Understanding literature and culture – both as logic and structure of responses – J. Škulj examines their semiotic situation in views of dialogism and sets out the positive effects of a borderland for the formation of the Slovenian identity. D. Komel lays open to view that the historical tradition of philosophical thought has already developed intercultural elements, while a dialogue as a means of mutual understanding is still a task awaiting Europe. According to J. Kernev-Štrajn, the literary salon in Coppet was an exemplary place of modern democratic discourse and cross-cultural dialogue. For M. Dović, the multicultural issues of lite­rature are a starting point to view the Slovenian literary system adopting foreign patterns. B. Westphal argues that space, seemingly homogeneous in a certain moment, is composed of fluid worlds; in contrast to that of the imagology, the geocriticist point of view is multiplied. M. Juvan explains intertextuality as a practice of transposing, juxtaposing and blending heterogeneous semiotic spaces; he also focuses on the intertextuality of geophysical space. D. Pavlič arrives at the conclusion that in romantic and modern lyric poetry geographical space is frequently used as a meta­phor for the inner identity of the lyrical subject. B. Keunen discusses the literary representations of urban spaces in which the bourgeoisie developed a new type of morality. K. Pizzi examining the literature of Trieste, points to the city’s eccentric position which has frequently resulted in being personified or emerging as an overwhelming presence (of writers' own selves) in texts. I. Škamperle in his discussion of Trieste as a border city advocates his belief that borders stimulate creativity. The concluding paper of I. Zabel, recalling the 1960s controversy between the modernist demand that art should be purely visual and its con­ceptualist critics, relates to the transgression of boundaries between visual and verbal entities in the art of Jenny Holzer, Lewis Baltz and Jože Barši.

The Editors




Jean Bessiere : A PROPOS DE LA TRANSGRESSION – DE LA REGlE A LA sÉmantique et au questionnement. En un commentaire des avant-gardes, de Joseph ConRad, de Carlos Fuentes et de Gertrude Stein

On Transgression. From the Principle to Semantics and its Probing. Remarks on Avant-gardes, Joseph Conrad, Carlos Fuentes and Gertrude Stein. By a cross-reading of Joseph Conrad, defined as a precursor of the avant-gardes episteme of the first part of the 20th century, Gertrude Stein, one of the avant-garde writers, and Carlos Fuentes, a commentator of these avant-gardes, this article specifies the notion of transgression and refers it, on the one hand, to cultural spaces and national borders, and on the other hand, to the approach to history which it implies. The conclusion of the article links the artistic and cultural transgression of avant-gardes to the notion of anachronism.



Regarding literature and culture – both as logic and a structure of re-sponses – a discussion of their semiotic situation can be grasped through holistic views of dialogism. The idea of transgressiveness is employed (and detailed on grounds of textual ongoing semiosis and cultural semiosphere) to approach spatial realities as reference frames of any literature and culture, hence their inevitable hybridity, asymmetries, irre-ducible particularities and diversities.


Dean Komel: Philosophy and the Constitution of the Intercultural Sense

The author discusses the idea of a constitution of intercultural behaviour from a phenomenological and hermeneutical point of view. In his opinion, the historical tradition of philosophical thought has already developed intercultural elements. The question arises as to whether interculturality is only one aspect of the contemporary cynical annihilation of the word or, on the contrary, if it offers a different comprehension of human exi-stence, a way to escape from nihilism. The author's reply stresses the possibility of a hermeneutical constitution of intercultural sense, connected with a possible future European dialogue as a way of mutual under-standing within one culture and among different cultures.



Coppet, as a public and modern space, represents the peak of the 18th century salon tradition, although at the same time, it surpasses it. The Coppet discourses in some respects rose above the Romantic under-standing of literature, and thereby drew close to modern concepts of art and society.



The article uses concepts of polysystem theory, especially the notion of literary repertoire, to analyse mechanisms which take place when a particular (national) literary system adopts and makes use of elements of other systems' repetoires and in this way maintains its systemic optimum. An obvious model for these processes can be observed in Slovenian literature with reference to the work of a romantic poet, France Prešeren, who introduced models and repertoremes from other literary traditions in a systematic and original fashion. Later, these elements became a constitutive part of – by that time still underdeveloped and weak – the Slovenian literary repertoire.



Methodological Approaches to Spatial Transgression. After a short semantic overview of transgression, which results in an analysis of the notion of threshold, the article closely examines the relations between space and transgression. Scrutinizing the idea of transgression in a socio-poetic framework by using the example of the hospitality code, the author focuses on the dynamics of whole large units, as elaborated by Y. Lotman (semiospheres), I. Even-Zohar (polysystem) and by G. Deleuze and F. Guattari (the dialectic of deterritorialization). In conclusion, the analysis is related to the views of transgression as an imagological and geocritical notion.



Literary discourse interpellates the reading subject to take positions in the imaginary. The subject's positions as structured by the text's spatial syntax can be undone by forces that produce transgressive spaces. Intertextuality transplants or evokes other literary and socio-cultural spaces. Because of the fundamental intertextuality of space, identities are in permanent hybridization.



Working from the assumption that a lyric poem is a means of self-expression and self-constitution of the speaking person, the article observes that in romantic as well as modern poetry, geographical space through metaphoric representations co-establishes the identity of the lyric subject. Furthermore, modern lyric poetry is also characterised by the incoherence of space, which, in addition to having a thematic function, also affects the structure of the text.



Urban crime fiction can be seen as an inheritor of the adventure novel tradition and the ‘ordeal plot’. The semantic foundations of the ordeal plot are traditionally detailed as an opposition between labyrinthine and anomic settings on the one hand and a quest for moral authenticity on the other. In urban crime fiction one can clearly see how modern literature transforms this model in an attempt to cope with the ‘modernity syn-drome’ (the paradoxical co-existence of decoding and recoding mecha-nisms). Contemporary urban representations, and this will be the main focus of this contribution, radicalize the transformed model.



Trieste has traditionally suffered the status of a border city. This border has been experienced as a source of permanent anxiety and displacement, acquiring the status of a chronotope in the Bachktinian sense. The city’s eccentric position has frequently resulted in Trieste being personified or emerging as an overwhelming presence in its literature. Local authors have experienced the city ‘from within’, as superimposed, ‘merged’ with their ‘Selves’. My discussion includes the canonic author Italo Svevo and focuses in particular on the contemporary Stelio Mattioni and his novel Il richiamo di Alma (1980).



The paper of the author, who is Triestine by birth, grasps in essayistic style the social, linguistic and world-view intricacies of Trieste, an exemp-lary metropolitan, but incomprehensibly disheartened city, and the steep rim of the Trieste Karst behind it. As a complex and contradictory meeting point, Trieste is strongly faced by two identities, Slovenian and Italian. Its literature inscribes in itself unique topographies, a vast panorama of images imbued with distinct philosophies, incongruent ideas and thematic interests.



The article deals with the function of the non-visual, especially verbal elements, in the visual arts since the 1960s. It mentions the controversy between the modernist demand that art should be purely visual, and its conceptualist critics. It illustrates the possible use of texts in visual arts with the work of three artists, Jenny Holzer, Lewis Baltz and Jože Barši.




Jean Bessiere is a Professor of Comparative Literature at the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle (Paris III). He has taught at the Université Paris X, Indiana University, Stanford University, McGill University, Université d'Amiens, and lectured at many universities in Europe, North and South America, Africa, and Asia. He was president of the International Compa­rative Literature Association and is now an honorary president; since 2004, he is president of its Nominating Committee. His main interests are literary criticism and theory, and intercultural literary transfers. Among his many books his most recent are: Dire le littéraire (1990), Enigma­ticité de la littérature (1993), La littérature et sa rhétorique (Paris 1999), Quel statut pour la littérature? (Paris 2001). He is completing an essay on the principles of literary criticism.

Marijan Dović is a Young Researcher at the Institute of Slovenian Lite­rature and Literary Sciences of the Scientific Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts. As a student he published papers in various magazines and science reviews and took part in conferences, concentrating mainly on the literary canon, the theory of evaluation and the contemporary systems theory of literature, as well as the historical avant-garde. Recently he published a book entitled Sistemske in empi­rične obravnave literature (Ljubljana 2004). He also does editorial work and plays jazz.

Juvan Marko, Researcher at the Institute of Slovenian Literature and Literary Sciences, Scientific Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (Ljubljana, Slovenia), Professor of Literary Theory at the University of Ljubljana, president of the Slovenian Comparative Literature Association. Recent publications: Intertekstualnost (Ljubljana 2000); Vezi besedila (Ljubljana 2000); “On Literariness: From Post-Structuralism to Systems Theory”, Comparative Literature and Compa­rative Cultural Studies, ed. S. Tötösy de Zepetnek (West Lafayette 2003); “Literary Self-Referentiality and the Formation of the National Literary Canon”, Neohelicon XXXI/1 (2004). Main fields of interest: literary and cultural theory (intertextuality, literary discourse, cultural identity, literary field, canon, literary historiography, genre criticism), European romanti­cism, 20th century Slovenian literature.

Jelka Kernev Štrajn is a literary critic and translator of theoretical hu­manistic texts. She has written introductions to Paul de Man's Blindness and Insight (Ljubljana 1997) and to Mme de Staël's On Germany (Ljubljana 2004). She is also the author of several other literary treatises: On Greenblatt's interpretations of the relation between Prospero and Caliban (PKn 2001), On the relation between the symbol and allegory in the narrative dimensions in Baptism on the Savica (in: Romantična pesnitev. Ljubljana 2000), The preliminaries to the interpretation of the relation between allegorical structures and elements of the irrational in fairytales (Otrok in knjiga 2002), Feminist literary theory and postco­lonial reading (Delta 2000), Memory as a fragment interwoven with text (in: Kako pisati literarno zgodovino danes? Ljubljana 2003).

Bart Keunen is a Professor of Comparative Literature at Ghent Univer­sity, Belgium. He studied philosophy in Louvain and literary criticism in Ghent, Berlin and Klagenfurt. He obtained his Ph.D. with the dissertation Representing the Metropolis: a Culture-Sociological Approach to City Images, Chronotopes and Artistic Projects in Literary Prose between 1850 and 1930 (Ghent, 1997). He is President of the Belgian Society for General and Comparative Literature (since September 2000) and co-director of the interdisciplinary Ghent Urban Studies Team (GUST; since January 2002). His books include: Post-ex-sub-dis: Fragmentations of the City (Rotterdam 2002); Literature and Society. The Function of Literary Sociology in Comparative Literature. Edited by B. K. and Bart Eeckhout (Brussels/Bern 2001); De verbeelding van de grootstad. Stads- en we­reldbeelden in het proza van de moderniteit (Brussels 2000); The Urban Condition: Space, Community, and Self in the Contemporary Metropolis. Written & Edited by the GUST (Rotterdam 1999); L. Apostel, J. Walry, B. K., Hopeloos Gelukkig. Leven in de postmoderne tijd (Amsterdam 1997).

Dean Komel is a Professor of philosophical and cultural hermeneutics at the Faculty of Arts in Ljubljana. He is currently Head of the Department of Philosophy and President of the Phenomenological Society of Ljub­ljana, and a member of several philosophical societies, project groups and editorial boards of journals for philosophy and culture. He received the Zois-Prize of the Republic of Slovenia for Outstanding Scientific Achieve­ments for 2003. His research interests are: hermeneutics, phenomenology, philosophy of culture, philosophy of art, philosophical translation and terminology, European cultural identity and differences, and intercultu­rality. Books: Fenomenologija in vprašanje biti (Maribor 1993); Ra­zprtost prebivanja. O razmejitvi hermenevtične fenomenologije in filozofske antropologije (Ljubljana 1996); Diagrami bivanja (Ljubljana 1998); Annäherungen. Zur hermeneutischen Phänomenologie von »Sein und Zeit«. Edited by D.K. (Ljubljana 1999); Osnutja. K filozofski in kulturni hermenevtiki (Ljubljana 2001); Uvod v filozofsko in kulturno hermenev­tiko (Ljubljana 2002); Identita e mediazione (Trieste 2003); Medpotja filozofije in kulture (Maribor 2004); Kunst und Sein. Beiträge zur Phäno­menologischen Ästhetik und Aletheiologie. Edited by D.K. (Würzburg 2004).

Darja Pavlič is an Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature at the Department of Slavonic Languages and Literature of the Faculty of Edu­cation of the University of Maribor, where she teaches world literature and literary theory. From 2003, she has been editor-in-chief and managing editor of the Primerjalna književnost review, published by the Slovenian Comparative Literature Association. She published the book Funkcije podobja v poeziji K. Koviča, D. Zajca in G. Strniše (Maribor 2003). Her main areas of research are: literary rhetoric, romanticism, modern poetry, and Slovenian poetry.

Katia Pizzi is a graduate of Bologna and Cambridge. She currently lectures at the Institute of Germanic and Romance Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London. She has published extensively on literary, historical, and cultural-historical aspects relating to Trieste and the north-eastern borders of Italy (see in particular her volume: A City in Search of an Author: the Literary Identity of Trieste (London-Sheffield-New York 2001). Her interests include cultural memory, nationalism, the Futurist avant-garde (especially the visual and performing arts), and popular culture (especially comics and children’s literature).

Igor Škamperle is an Assistant Professor of the Sociology of Culture at the Department of Sociology at the Faculty of Arts in Ljubljana. He lectures on the history of science, the theory of symbolic forms, and the culture of the renaissance. He is the editor of the Poligrafi review publishing thematic collections on religion, mythology and philosophy. He has edited monographic collections on hermeticism, Jung, Bruno, renaissance mythologies and alchemy. He writes treatises, essays (Magična renesansa, Ljubljana 1999), and also fiction (novel Kraljeva hči, Koper 2002). Recently he has been concentrating on researching of mythology, religion and cultural formations.

Jola Škulj is a Senior Research Fellow at the Scientific Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts. Her research interests are in methodology and theory (textuality, novel, narrativity, historicity, cross-national and cross-cultural issues as dialogism) as well as historical studies of 20th-century literature. She was president of the Slovenian Comparative Literature Association (1997-2002); a member of the Executive Council of ICLA since 2004; since 2003 elected into the ICLA Research Committee on Eastern and South-Eastern Europe. Recent publications: “Comparative literature and cultural identity: a Bakhtinian proposal”, Comparative literature now: theories and practice, ed. S. Tötösy de Zepetnek, M. Dimić, I. Sywenky (Paris 1999), “Literature as Repository of Historical Consciousness”, Methods for the Study of Literature as Cultural Memory (Amsterdam-Atlanta 2000), “Multilingua­lism as strategy of modernist dialogism”, Multilinguale Literatur im 20. Jahrhundert, eds. M. Schmeling and M. Schmitz-Emans (Würzburg 2002), “Modernism and the Crisis of Consciousness”, Litteraria humanitas: Moderna, avantgarda, postmoderna, ed. D. Kšicová and I. Pospíšil (Brno 2003), “The novel and its terrain(s) of reinterpreted identities in the age of globalization”, Genre of the novel in contemporary world literature, ed. J. Talvet (Tartu 2004).

Bertrand Westphal is a Professor of General and Comparative Litera­ture at the University of Limoges (France), where he is head of an interdisciplinary research team (EA 1087 “Espaces Humains et Inter­actions Culturelles”). His main research fields are first geocriticism, i.e. the study of the representation of human spaces in literature and in other forms of arts, especially applied to the Mediterranean area, and then the study of the transposition of the gospels in contemporary literature. He also deals with postmodernism in literature. He is editor or co-editor of volumes such as La géocritique mode d'emploi (2000), Le rivage des mythes. Une géocritique méditerranéenne (2001), Littérature et espace (2003), all published by Presses Universitaires de Limoges, which also published his essay, Roman et Évangile (2002). A new essay, L'oeil de la Méditerranée, is planned for publication in 2005.  

Igor Zabel is a Senior Curator at the Moderna galerija (Museum of Modern Art), Ljubljana. He has published two books of essays on contemporary art and a number of essays and articles in catalogues and magazines (e.g. Art Journal, Art Press, Flash Art, Index, Moscow Art Magazine and others). Co-editor (with Viktor Misiano) of the Manifesta Journal. He recently curated Individual Systems at the Venice Biennale, 2003, and The Future Is Not What It Used to Be (With Barbara Steiner) at the Galerie für Zeitgenossische Kunst, Leipzig, 2004. He was one of the curators of Cream 3, Phaidon Press, 2003. He has contributed to, among others, L’autre moitié de l’Europe, Jeu de Paume, Paris, 2000; Words of Wisdom, Independent Curators International, New York, 2001; Ausgeträumt..., Secession, Vienna, 2002; Vitamin P, Phaidon Press, 2002, Primary Documents: Critical Writing on Critical Art in East-Central Europe: A Primer, MoMA, New York, 2002.


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