Interferenz statt Verspätung – Die Polysystemtheorie als Beschreibungsmodell für ‚kleine‘ Literaturen


  • Fabienne Gilbertz



small literatures, Luxembourg literature, literary belatedness, literary epigonism, literary regionalism, literary contacts, polysystem theory


Interference instead of Belatedness – Polysystem Theory as a Descriptive Model for ‘Small’ Literatures. Luxembourg literature can be considered a ‘small’ literature from various angles. Its small size, young age and the existence of a sparsely diffused language within a multilingual setting are features that also apply to other small European literary systems and that affect their self-perception fundamentally. In that context, Jeanne E. Glesener has identified a “discourse on smallness” which is developed by the literary centres and unconsciously internalized by the actors of small literary systems themselves: this discourse is essentially shaped by the ideas of creative sterility, poor visibility and, particularly, literary belatedness. However, as Glesener points out with respect to Pascale Casanova’s concept of literary time, the notion of belatedness wrongly implies that all literary systems sooner or later generate the same literary phenomena; it is therefore highly problematic. This paper introduces Itamar Even-Zohar’s polysystem theory – which has been designed in view of the Israeli literary system – as an alternative descriptive model for ‘small’ and multilingual literatures. Proceeding from the example of Luxembourg ‘Heimatliteratur’ in the second half of the 20th century, I would like to argue that by openly acknowledging every system’s historical and sociological characteristics and by excluding the notion of comparison from the analysis, the concept of ‘polysystemic interference’ allows for a more neutral study of literary contacts and literary change.


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