Original Research

T.T. Cloete as literary critic, theorist and literary historian (Part 2): T.T. Cloete as theorist of literary history

Hendrik van Coller
Literator | Vol 37, No 1 | a1316 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v37i1.1316 | © 2016 Hendrik van Coller | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 03 June 2016 | Published: 29 September 2016

About the author(s)

Hendrik van Coller, Unit for Languages and Literature in the South African Context, North-West University, Potchefstroom Campus, South Africa


It had already been stated that Siegfried Schmidt (in Hjort 1992) discerned four ‘roles’ within the Literary System, that of literary production, dissemination, reception and literary processing. According to this definition, T.T. Cloete, the well-known author and critic, had played all of these roles. In this second part of a two-part article the focus is on Cloete as a literary historian and in particular on his theoretical (methodological) perceptions pertaining to literary history. It is abundantly clear that in all of his different roles a historical awareness was always present. For Cloete the literary work of art was inbedded in a historical timeframe which imposed hermeneutical imperatives on the critic; on the other hand the literary work of art is present in the here and now and accessible to any skilled reader. One of the objectives of this study is to argue that there was thus an implied dichotomy in Cloete’s thinking on literary history. On the one hand there had been a relativistic view that positioned literary texts in the past, and on the other hand a normative view that implied that certain texts (due to inherent qualities like integration and complexity) could gain a certain permanence. In the last part of this article-true to the narrative approach, an implied confrontation with Cloete’s (methodological) views of literary history lead to a personal standpoint as a confrontation with the self (cf. Sools 2009:27). This explication of a personal view on the writing of a literary history (as an implied homage to Cloete) concluded the article.


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