This chapter discusses how the entire system of literary education, from the first-year undergraduate survey to the forms of judgment governing publication, promotion, and tenure, reifies the period as its central historical concept. It then considers the impact of periodization's dominance of scholarship in the humanities. This failure of self-consciousness, the lack of debate over the value of the period as concept, is what makes periodization ideological. The response to the ideologization of periods ought to be to develop and to seek to institutionalize a variety of competing concepts, including trans-periodizing ones, for the study of literary history. This would ensure that the concepts themselves could become explicit (and contestable) subjects of scholarly work. The contests among them would then generate at a higher “level” trans-conceptual approaches, which would in turn prevent new concepts from easily producing new ideological calcification. The limitations and blind spots of periods are examined in detail.
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