The authors present a new perspective on a wide range of issues in the study of literature and culture. Some of the topics discussed, such as interpretation, canon formation, and literary historiography, belong to the traditional domain of literary studies. Others - cultural identity, convention, systems theory, and empirical methods - originate in the social sciences and are now being integrated into the humanities. By referring to the work of authors as widely apart as Hayden White, Edward Said, Fredric Jameson, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Reinhart Koselleck, Pierre Bourdieu, Niklas Luhmann, Siegfried Schmidt, Norbert Groeben, and many others, the full complexity of the field of literary studies becomes apparent.The authors argue for a distinction between analysis of literary systems on the one hand and critical intervention on the other. By distinguishing between research and criticism, between knowledge and commitment, they offer new ways for literary studies as well as for cultural critique.