The essay offers a critical assessment of historical, especially sociological approaches to literature, focusing on methodological developments in West Germany from the late 1960s to the present. A widespread feeling of dissatisfaction has developed with a number of major (mostly incomplete) literary histories, planned during the seventies, that stressed the importance of the social context. The essay analyzes the external as well as internal reasons for this crisis. In accordance with Weber's and Habermas's theories, the author argues in favor of an institutional approach that does not presuppose that literature reflects reality. Specific theoretical problems of "Textsoziologie" in the work of Adorno, Szondi, Jauß, and Iser are also addressed, culminating in reflections about the relationship of literature and history in the light of a changed understanding of historiography in general.