Matthew Sangster on Modes of Curation in the Practices of the Royal Literary Fund

By msangster

(Some initial thoughts in advance of the ‘Institutions as Curators’ workshop.)

One of the main contentions that informs the ‘Institutions of Literature, 1700-1900′ network is that current criticism doesn’t give enough credit to institutions when it tries to chart the disciplinary development of literature. Most accounts of literary value have traditionally focused on the ideas, lives and works of particular authors, deemphasising the roles that systems of education, dissemination and acculturation have played in promoting, normalising and creating the frameworks within which individual geniuses are now recognised. When institutions are discussed, they are often analysed in ways that give credit to particular leading figures, most commonly the founder, a key administrative official or a particularly charismatic associate who achieved considerable feats in their own right. Institutional histories also tend to pay particular attention to organisations’ formative years, valorising processes of establishment and initial ambitions, often at the expense of examining later developments and retrenchments. One of the network’s major goals is to provide a forum for developing more rounded accounts of institutional operations that can better map the natures of the influences that institutions can assert.

The development of such accounts will be a necessarily collaborative process, but …read more