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Status of literature in the present situation

Speaker: Peter Hajdu
When: 14:00, April 27, 2017
Where: Room 512, Old Administrative Building

The diminished prestige of literature may be interpreted in connection with the general transition from the cultural system of nation states to cosmopolitanism. Nationalism attaches strongly positive values to the national culture, since the concept of nation is based on the concept of a shared culture. Many countries promote and finance literary production because they regard the continuous existence of national culture as of crucial importance. A cosmopolitan perspective can apparently provide neither a scholarly interpretative practice, which would be useful for nation states, nor deep emotional commitment on behalf of readers.The sponsoring activity of nation states is part of the project of nation building, which used to be connected with the economic elite‘s demands to enforce their interests. The second modernity experienced basic changes in the attitudes of the elites. The new global elite is not interested in nation building any longer, since even the residues of defensive national markets seem to restrict their economic activity. The new centres of power are not interested in promoting culture, since the traditional erudition has lost its importance for them even in creating group identity. The immense popularity of fiction during the nineteenth century is partly attributed to the fact that after the break down of a single and generally accepted worldview and value system, people turned toward literature to find some interpretations of their life. An aspect of the change is that spiritual or discursive and not narrative interpretations are needed now. The global risks of the present era have developed cosmopolitan and worldwide communities of awareness. The question arises whether this situates literature or high culture in general as a peripheral and childish game of the irresponsible past generations, or can create some kind of literature, which counts on the awareness of global threats. It is highly questionable that such a literature can exist but it seems that satirical and comical genres are appropriate to display such contents.