A comprehensive examination of the meaning, history, and evolution of the basic notion of "literature" from antiquity to the seventeenth century.
The "idea of literature" is the very kernel of every literary study; however, this is the first survey of the historical development of this idea. Its purpose is to refute the belief, particularly prevalent in French criticism, that the "idea of literature" only appeared in the eighteenth century, and that it was perceived strictly as an art.
Adrian Marino is a scholar in Romania who has written books on literary hermeneutics, comparative literature, the history of literary criticism, and critical terminology. His work has been translated into French, Italian, German, Japanese, and English. Marino's most recent book, published in Italy, is a study of literary theory, Teoria della letteratura.
"This book documents the slowness of institutionalization, particularly of literature. It describes the chaotic and gradual growth of the concept of literature. Without having any axe to grind, it neatly deconstructs (or, at least pokes holes into) any kind of purely rationalist/voluntarist view of invention so prevalent nowdays." -- Virgil Nemoianu, Catholic University of America
"Contrary to the widespread belief that the idea of literature in our modern sense emerged in the eighteenth century, Marino convincingly demonstrates that it goes back to ancient times. He makes the interesting point that much of what we identify as literature belonged, in antiquity and in the medieval period, to the domain of orality. Marino does an outstanding job covering the least known stages in the history of the concept of literature, from Greco-Roman antiquity through the Renaissance and Neo-Classical to the age of the Baroque." -- Matei Calinescu, Indiana University