Comparative Literature Review Essays

The reader for instance, gets to know what the Indian comparatists are not doing and not what they have been doing except in a few cases.This is not a comment on the very important article by Anand Balwant Patil on comparative literature in India in the volume, important because of his statement on literary caste politics beginning with the personal, and proceeding to local as well as global place-making (307),but a general statement on gaps of communication that continue to exist even in the globalized interconnected era as far as the voice of the global south is concerned.The point perhaps lies elsewhere, in the question of how an area of dialogue could be generated between work that is being carried out in the so-called global south and the so-called global north and then again, how a genuine core of interest could be created in the so-called global north regarding work in the field in the global south.

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Also as Gerald Gillespie notes, “institutionally, apart from Mainland China, the discipline of comparative literature remains most wide spread in the U.

S.- although mostly at Ivy League and thus private – universities and at a few state universities” (364).

he title of the volume Companion to Comparative Literature, World Literatures and Comparative Cultural Studies brings forward a few conjectures – that it will deal with comparative literature, world literatures and comparative cultural studies within the same framework, that it has a particular stand on the debate on world literatures, emphasizing the plural form as it does, and that cultural studies within the framework would necessarily be comparative - and most of the essays do abide by them.

Comparatists, particularly from certain parts of the world still feel that despite the path-breaking formulations of David Damrosch and others working in the area of world literature, the focus on world literature would be detrimental to the larger interests of comparative literature by shifting the focus from many other kinds of relational work in the field and also because there lingers in many cases the concept of two different world-orders and notions of and peripheries and their reiteration may reinstate hierarchies.

Schmidt’s work, he states, also has affinities with the work of Itamar Evan Zohar, Pierre Bourdieu, Niklas Luhmann and Juri Lotman.

While his call for a systemic and contextual approach has much relevance, the case would have been stronger without the denigration of certain important twentieth century schools of thought that struck at the roots of Eurocentrism and opened up various avenues of thought, not the least of them leading to nuanced approaches to all that constitute otherness, an issue that Villanueva advocates has to be taken up with a certain “militant attitude” (59).Steven Tötösy de Zepetnek has been arguing for more than a decade now that it would be in the best interests of comparative literature to shift its focus to cultural studies and demonstrated through examples from various fields how a method based on empirical and systemic study would be beneficial not just to the discipline of comparative literature but to the humanities at large, suffering as it does from institutional neglect and financial deprivation.In this text he, along with Louise O Vasvári, argues more strongly in of comparative cultural studies, situated at the crossroad of many disciplines, more a “metadisciplinary idea”(11) than a unified field of study and hence with greater potential for removing the shackles of Eurocentrism and ‘nation orientation’ of comparative literature while also resolving the question of world literature studies without compromising the larger interests of comparative literature.The second is by Roberta Capelli focusing on the composite and palimpsest nature of medieval literature that calls for multiperspectival as well as systemic approaches and therefore, argues Capelli, is a subject that could best be approached within the framework of the digital humanities.Capelli also calls for teamwork and cooperative alliances as do several other scholars in this volume, an urgency that had been felt at least since the time of Bernheimer's volume in the study of comparative literature, but that seems difficult to implement and therefore again calls for some serious soul-searching on the part of comparatists the world over.The theoretical section begins with an essay by Dario Villanueva who makes a strong case for the systemic studies approach to comparative cultural studies along with a return to philological and interpretative aspects of literature to bring back meaning at the centre of humanities studies again.In order to make his point he takes to task Derrida, Hillis Miller and others on the one hand for having displaced meaning from the study of literature, and quotes Said on the other, to state that postcolonial studies and cultural studies had brought in their wake a plethora of jargons and hence to clear the space, he argues, it would be necessary to bring in a new comparative cultural studies based on contextual and systemic approaches practiced by Siegfried J Schmidt and others.That the discipline had moved into the global south is a statement made again and again in the last decade or so and an attempt has also been made to corroborate the statement by taking up statistical data regarding, for instance, the number of books published in different places of the world, having or not having the term ‘comparative literature’ in the title during a particular span of time by Tötösy de Zepetnek and Louise O Vasvári – but such statistics need to be studied against the large number of publications generated in the field of literary studies in the last few decades in some of the countries of the global south.Comparative studies in literature had been in existence in many of the countries of the global south for a considerable period of time and there is perhaps a token increase in the number of departments that are focusing just on comparative literature.There is an essay linking education and culture by Ronald Soetaert and Kris Rutten who advocate creating a rhetorical awareness through pedagogy in order to show how language constructs reality and also to introduce “perspectives on perspectives”(71) in the curriculum where different discourses, disciplines and ideologies are mediated thereby creating a space for comparative cultural studies in education related courses.There is again an essay by Rik Pinxten arguing for a comparative cultural anthropology as a complement to comparative cultural studies, showing the relevance of comparison as reflective thinking and practice and also upholding a model of multimedia performance as a basis for the study of literature and culture.


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