In Structure and Society in Literary History Robert Weimann, one of Germany's leading literary theoreticians, raises important questions about the social function of literature and sketches the outlines of a new historical criticism.
Weinmann's Marxist analysis relates the history of writing and reading to the history of social and economic activities; literature and art are imaginative appropriations of the world, producers as well as products of culture. Aesthetic structures- texts- and social function are necessarily interrelated for Weimann as they are not for the followers of the New Criticism or the practitioners of structuralism.
Firmly grounded in Anglo-American and Western European criticism, Weimann presents a cogent critique of T. S. Eliot's concept of tradition, analyzes the development of American literary history, and reconsiders the interpretation of Shakespeare's imagery. A new concluding chapter, written especially for the Johns Hopkins edition, presents a coherent and systematically developed survey of those poststructuralist positions most relevant to the placement of "Structure and Society in Literary History" within the critical context of the mid 1980s.