Modern Languages and Literatures, Department of


Date of this Version

January 2002


From The Shape of Change: Essays in Early Modern Literature and La Fontaine in Honor of David Lee Rubin, edited by Anne L. Birberick and Russell Ganim. Rodopi: Amsterdam & New York, 2002. Pp. v–x. Copyright © 2002 Editions Rodopi B.V. Used by permission.


Since Michel Foucault’s The Archeology of Knowledge gained widespread critical recognition in the late 1960s, the concept of change has held a privileged position in the discourse of literary and cultural studies. Concerned with disruptions, transformations, and upheavals, scholars have focused on those moments of rupture when the present breaks with the past, when originality displaces convention, when inventio repudiates imitatio. This emphasis on aesthetic and epistemic shifts has all too often resulted in the neglect of more traditional issues having to do with problems of cultural development, evolution, and influence. It has also overlooked the idea of reading and writing as self-aware cognitive and affective exercises. In this more orthodox framework, literature becomes part of a social and personal rhetoric and forms the basis for understanding authorial creation and the public’s response. Not all scholars have, however, turned away from this approach and the intellectual problems to which it gives rise. In his books, articles, and lectures on the seventeenth century, on the lyric poetry of that same period, and on the Fables of La Fontaine, David Lee Rubin has investigated with critical rigor the constants underlying change.

As former students, as colleagues, and as friends, we wish to honor David with these essays, for while we have come to differ among ourselves in our theoretical presuppositions, each one of us would agree the encounter with his keen and passionate mind has been a transforming experience. We would like to express our gratitude for the way our critical thinking has been shaped by his esprit critique.