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Narrowing Circles: Questions on Autopoiesis and Literary Interpretation after Dietrich Schwanitz

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The essay deals with possibilities of relating Niklas Luhmann's systems theory, especially his notion of autopoiesis, to the interpretation of literary texts. Beyond the common description of literature as a social (sub)system, it discusses ideas regarding a specific representativity of literature pertaining to autopoiesis as an epistemic figure, as developed by Dietrich Schwanitz and others since the late 1980s. Examples include literary demonstrations of systemic features such as self- referentiality or the self-maintenance of meaning. Furthermore, literature can also be seen as an exceptional case of multiple systemic coupling-- regarding the levels of concrete communication (language), distribution (text), and of generalized communication media (art). However, the fact that systems theory cannot provide a coherent media-specific approach to the modes of connection indicates the further necessity of cross-disciplinary coupling with literary theory.
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Keywords: Disciplinary Coupling; Literature; Mediality; Self-maintenance; Self-production; Self-referentiality; Systems Theory

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2009

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