The book consists of a set of articles in which the centre of attention is the notion of Polysystem. The article The Function of the Literary Polysystem in the History of Literature is mostly connected with the notion of Polysystem. Language is heterogeneous, so it is labeled as a polysystem, where highly codified stratification prevails, any minor move from one stratum to another may be taken as a major offense.
Polysystem is subdivided into “canonized” (usually considered “major” literature: those kinds of literary works accepted by the “literary milieu” and usually preserved by the community as part of its cultural heritage) and “non-canonized” literature (those kinds of literary works more often than not rejected by the literary milieu as lacking “aesthetic value” and relatively quickly forgotten, e. g. detective-fiction, sentimental novels, westerns, pornographic literature, etc. ).
Translation plays a great role in Polysystem and in the synchrony and diachrony of a certain literature. Epigonic” literature is kind of a literature where diachronic shifts create a situation in which norms previously known as dominant become peripheral within “the new phase of literature,” but they are still in use. Canonized literature tries to create new models of reality and attempts to illuminate the information it bears, non-canonized literature has to keep within the conventionalized models which are highly automatized. In synchrony, canonized and non-canonized systems manifest two various diachronic phases, the non-canonized overlapping with a previous canonized phase.
The oppositions between the various literary systems create an ideal literary and cultural balance within the literary polysystem. This is the only way for non-canonized literature to settle in literature when canonized literature succeeds in gaining ground. The article The Relations between Primary and Secondary Systems in the Literary Polysystem distinguishres between primary and secondary systems – to what extent a certain system or type plays a major role within the literary polysystem.
The Polysystem hypothesis gives us possibility to a more adequate analysis of intra- and interrelations. It is also a functional concept. It is concerned with dynamic complexes. The functions it may detect are conditioned by complex inter- and intrarelations within a hypothesized multileveled system. “Primary” type: the pre-condition for its functioning is the discontinuity of established models. Change occurs only when a primary model takes over the center of a system.
Sometimes we can have the process of “secondariztion’ of the primary, what means that new elements are retranslated, into the old terms, inconsequence imposing previous functions on new carriers but not changing the functions. The Polysystem Hypothesis Revisited. Many scholars, including Evan-Zohar considered that literature within the historical context can be conceived of as a polysystem, that is a stratified whole, where the various strata function as systems.
But it became clear that no literature really overfunctions as a non-stratified whole and if the correlation between the strata within it disintegrates for some reason, a sort of stagnation takes over. The result of such process is that the system collapses. The methodological hypothesis which presumed literature to be a polysystem could now be reversed and reformulated in terms of a universal: all literary systems strive to become polysystemic.
The article Universals of Literary Contacts distinguishes source literature (SLt) and target literature (TLt) and draws the difference between two major types of literary contact: first – contacts between relatively established systems which are con-sequently relatively independent (for instance the situation of English and French languages over the past two years); and second – contacts between non-established or fluid systems which are partly or wholly dependent upon some other system(s) – these are the cases with Ukrainian and Russian, for instance.
Some examples of possible universals of literary contact are provided: – Literatures are never in non-contact, because of some social reasons. These contacts are the rule rather than the exception. – A prestigious literature may function as a literary superstratum for a TLt. – Literature may be selected as a SLt when it is dominant due to extra-literary conditions, for example the political domination of English and French during colonial periods. – Contacts are also favored/non-favored by a general attitude of a potential TLt.
Due to some nationalistic view, works of some writers could not be possible considered as appropriate for the national literature. – We may observe interference when a TLt cannot resist it or has a need for it – is when a certain type evolved in a certain literature is lacking in another, for example, thrillers and detective stories undoubted-ly migrated from English literature to practically all the others. – Items are not transplanted from a SLt to a TLt, but “needs” determine and guide the selection and the function also changes. – A TLt tends to behave like a secondary system with respect to a SLt.
This means that a TLt, under the conditions mentioned above, makes contact with a diachronic phase of a SLt which is wholly or partly outdated, and disregards a contemporary SLt phase. Interference in Dependent Literary Polyssytems. A literature may become dependent only if it is weak. But this “weakness” means the inability of a system to function by confining itself to its home inventory only and the extreme of such a state would then denote a situation where a literature can function only because it has the opportunity of using some other literature.
Russian literature was for Hebrew as a part of it on all levels, but due to the equivalency policy adopted by Bialik and his contemporaries, there was a very strong illusion of domestic “originality. ” When the condition of weakness is not marked, even physical contacts and pressures may not result in interference; when it is marked, a state of dependency is very likely, especially if simultaneously accompanied by accessible contacts even in the absence of physical contact and pressures.
The next article Russian and Hebrew: The Case of a Dependent Polysystem first of all tries to show ways in which Yiddish and Hebrew developed through the centuries. The fact that many Jews lived among Slavs is of high importance because this is the reason why the language was influenced by European languages. Only in the 19th century the great development of both languages began. This period is called “The Revival Period. ” The most noticeable is the influence of Russian languge. Russified items penetrated most easily into domains where the Hebrew repertoire was weakest.
Hebrew separated from Yiddish only in Palestine. The last article Israeli-Hebrew Literature: A Historical Model is about historical interrelation of Hebrew and Yiddish literature. The first period of the development can be characterized by its multiterritorial base (if the writer lives outside his country his works can be aknowledged of the country he lives in – this was common for Hebrew) , and its existence as a defective polysystem within symbiotic structures, which is the function of the first one (for instance Hebrew which influenced some other languages, mainly, where Jews lived).
Due to some political reasons Israeli-Hebrew Literature didn’t have a stable centre. Only in 19th century it moved to Palestine, however a lot of publishing houses were situated in all over the world. Yiddish literature functioned for a long time as Hebrew’s non-canonized system, but after the separation the audience increased. Translations are very important in Israel Literature, because they are also a part of Israel Literature, mostly these are the translations from English, German and Russian Literatures. Despite all the pressure that Israeli underwent, the literature develops as well as researches on Translation Studies.