This work is a critical evaluation of the concepts of convention and innovation as applied in the study of changing literary values, hierarchies and canons. Two approaches are analyzed: (1) the linking of convention and the subject's awareness of convention, and (2) systems theory. The merits of both approaches are discussed and an attempt is made to combine them and to regard systems of literary communication primarily as systems of conventions. Specific cases of changing conventions and innovation are illustrated with examples from the field of versification (Rimbaud), reception studies (Puskin, Goethe, George Eliot), the dichotomy of forgetting/remembering (Nietzsche, Proust), avant-garde, the American dream, and popular genres assimilated in Postmodernism.
1. Introduction: The decline and rise of convention (by D'haen, Theo); 2. The concept of convention in literary theory and empirical research (by Fokkema, Douwe W.); 3. Genre: A modest proposal (by Oversteegen, Jaap); 4. The dynamics of the system: Convention and innovation in literary history (by Lefevere, Andre); 5. Literary convention and translated literature (by Van den Broeck, Raymond); 6. Cristal et Clarie: A novel romance? (by Busby, Keith); 7. The well-tempered lady and the unruly horse: Convention and submerged metaphor in renaissance literature and art (by Westerweel, B.); 8. The shaking walls of convention: Popular sentimentalism and Hemrich von Kleist's first tale (by Thusen, Joachim von der); 9. Innovation or confirmation of the norm? Goethe's Werther in Holland 1775-1800 (by Kloek, Joost J.); 10. Folk-tale and novel: On the development of Russian prose fiction (by Brouwer, S.); 11. Convention and innovation of aesthetic value: The Russian reception of Aleksandr Puskin (by Grubel, Rainer); 12. A note on convention and innovation: The "Odes" of John Keats (by Fry, A.); 13. Romanticism unmasked: Lexical irony in Aleksandr Puskin's Evgenij Onegin (by Wolff, Melchior de); 14. The tribulations of the Alexandrine in the work of Rimbaud: A contest between innovation and convention (by Plessen, Jacques); 15. Rudolf Borchardt: Poetry and tradition (by Enklaar-Langendijk, J.); 16. Innovative use of commedia dell'arte-elements in A. Blok's The Fairground Booth (by Stelleman, J.M.); 17. The rhetoric of forgetting: Brecht and the historical avant-garde (by Geyer-Ryan, Helga); 18. Literature of displacement: Rene Harding rejects George Eliot (by Voogd, P.J. de); 19. Convention and innovation in British fiction 1981-1984: The contemporaneity of magic realism (by Todd, Richard); 20. The convention of the new beginning in Theroux's The Mosquito Coast (by Bertens, Hans); 21. Genre conventions in postmodern fiction (by D'haen, Theo); 22. Notes on the contributors; 23. Index