This article tries to answer a pair of questions which are connected with the arrival of gender studies. One concerns the benefits and inspiring insights inherent in the concept of gender and the other problems and controversies that result from its adoption into the field of literary studies. First, the concept of gender is examined in relation to other critical terms from the toolbox of literary theory and cultural studies. A review of the main issues that have been opened up by the gender approach is followed by an balanced assessment of its achievements and shortcomings, its potential to inspire and to lead astray. The theoretical frame for this analysis is provided by the notion of a culture-conditioned object of reading. This concept as well as the distinction between the knowledge of literature and the conditioning of knowledge in literature are explained. Finally, the article offers a few suggestions how to preserve literature from the dangers of instrumentalization.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.