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value in literature

FRANK KERMODE


Subject Literature

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405168908.2010.x


Extract

In the present state of the argument it would be rash to attempt a definition of literary value. To do so would entail the bold claim that one had already settled the more general problem of value. These remarks fall roughly under two headings: first, some observations, far from exhaustive, on the ways the problem is now being discussed; and secondly some speculations of a more literary variety, perhaps less arid though probably no less contentious. The writhing subtleties of axiological debate, once the concern of philosophers, are now proper to literary-critical D iscourse . The old assumptions were that some things, some attitudes, some books, were more valuable than others, and that if there were disputes about which were the valuable things, attitudes, books, there was little disposition to argue that such evaluations should be preceded by questions of what philosophical foundations they might depend upon. However, the wall between the S ubjects has been at least partly demolished. Some philosophers roam freely across the literary terrain, and some literary critics sound or wish to sound more like philosophers. Many of them even seem to be suffering a certain loss of interest in literature, even of confidence in its existence. They want to know not only what and where it is, but also whether, if it does exist, it has value and of what kind. This worry provides an occasion ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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