Comparative Literature The Historical Perspective • In the course of the 19th century, comparative literature became both an academic discipline and a critical system, recognized as such, probably for the first time, by one of the founders of modern criticism: Sainte-Beuve (圣佩韦/圣伯 夫 1804-1869). In his first article on JeanJacques Ampère (1800-1864), written in 1840 and published in Portraits comtemporains, Sainte-Beuve uses the expression “histoire littéraire comparée”; in his second article of 1868, printed in Nouveaux lundis (《月曜论文新编》) , he refers to “littérature comparée.” • As to the expression “littéraire comparée,” which gave birth to “comparative literature,” it existed a half century before Sainte-Beuve employed it. The date of the birth of “comparative literature” can hardly be accurately established. It may not have been used long before 1886 when Hutcheson M. Posnett chose it as the title of a book (Comparative Literature, published in London by K. Paul - Trench as part of their “International Scientific Series”). background • After 1800, converging tendencies may be noted not only in the various humanistic fields, such as philosophy and history, but in most areas of human knowledge, including law and religion. In France the word comparé was most fashionable at that time and much used in the world of letters and of science as well. • The founder of comparative anatomy, Georges Cuvier (17651832 乔治·居维叶 ) published his famous Leçons d’anatomie comparée (《比较解剖学教程》）. • Madame de Stael’s (德·斯塔尔夫人) De la littérature—a simultaneous view of most European literatures—appeared in the same year, though she did not use the word comparé explicitly. • Charles de Villers (1765-1815) put the word in the title of a work that obtained some celebrity: Erotique comparée, ou essai sur las maniere essentiellement differente dont les poetes francais et allemands traitent l’amour (1807). • Villers’ Comparative Erotics is one of the most comprehensive studies on troubadours and minnesingers, which compares the different ways French and Germans have of treating the subject of love. • As early as 1816, Jean-Francois-Michel Noel uses the phrase “littéraire comparée” in the title of a series of textbooks: Cours de littéraire comparée. • Abel-Francois Villemain (1790-1870) and Ampere compiled not only anthologies but extensive studies on various European literatures, which appeared between 1828 and 1841. Both critics occasionally use the expression “littéraire comparée.” • From 1841 to 1845, Amédée Duquesnel published in Paris the eight volumes of his Histoire des lettres des littéraire comparée. • Similar examples can be found in England and Germany, and in Italy too, where the discipline, however, did not appear until several decades later than in France. • The founding of scholarly journals and associations, and especially the creation of university chairs, reflect changes in cultural approaches, interests, or needs. • The first comparative periodical: Acta Comparationis Litterarum Universarum (1877-1888) (《世界比较文学》edited in Klausenburg, now Cluj, Romania) • The quarterly Zeitschrift fur vergleichende Literaturgeschichte ( 《比较文学史》by German scholar Marx Koch) ran from 1887 to 1910. • Within this span of time, Marx Koch also published a scholarly series called Studien zur vergleichenden Literaturgeschichte (《比较文学研 究》，1901-1909) • In America, Columbia University’s short-lived Journal of Comparative Literature appeared in 1903. • This evolution of cultural and intellectual attitudes and proclivities in western countries was greatly furthered by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, an outstanding writer and thinker, which coined the word Weltliterature (1827). • He feels that one should not confine oneself to the narrow circle of a single linguistic domain or any isolated part of the globe. “For this reason,” he says, “I like to look at other nations and I advise everyone to do the same. National literature has little meaning today; the time has come for the epoch of world literature to begin, and everyone must now do his share to hasten its realization.” He goes on to describe literature as a universal rather than a national phenomenon. Weltliterature is first of all the total of valuable works, the library of masterpieces: it is the universal Weltliterature. • According to Goethe, a great benefit that results from a world literature is that it helps people to correct each other. “It is splendid that we now, because of the lively interchange among the French, English, and Germans, have come to a point where we can correct each other. This is the great benefit which results and will continue to result from a world literature.” As a further consequence of literary intercourse, criticism had become international, too, and Goethe went so far as to maintain that foreign critics were the best. • Goethe’s ideal had already been partly realized by Shaftesbury(沙夫茨伯里), Voltaire, and Lessing (莱辛,1729-1781德国 剧作家和批评家), who constantly included works of different languages in their critical discussions, thereby laying the foundation for the message of world literature. • Parallel developments can be seen in the domain of higher education. The first chair of comparative literature was formally established in 1861 at the University of Naples, where Francesco De Sanctis started teaching “litteratura comparata” in 1871. He suggested that literature constitutes a whole, and literary works should be studied together, whatever their national origins, as soon as they are ideationally or factually related, as soon as they belong to the same current or period of time, the same aesthetic category or genre, or as soon as they illustrate the same themes or motifs. • Little by little, chairs or lectureships in comparative literature were created in various parts of the Western world: in 1891 at Harvard, in 1896 at Zurich, in 1897 at Lyon, in 1899 at Columbia, in 1910 at the Sorbonne. • Today, in numerous centers of higher learning within European and the United States, as well as within other areas, comparative literature is taught as a regular field of academic inquiry. • The increasing development and steady expansion of the discipline suggest optimistic conclusions in regard to its future as a most valid approach to literary history and criticism. Crisis of comparative Literature and new developments • In 1949, Wellek and Warren published Theory of Literature, in which they echoed with Goethe by stating that “Literature is one; as art and humanity are one.” The role of comparatists are highly valued as someone with a vocation, as a kind of international ambassador working in the comparative literatures of united nations. • But the high ideals of such a vision of comparative literature have not been met. A decade after Theory of Literature appeared, Wellek was already talking about the crisis in comparative literature and even as the subject appeared to be gaining ground in the 1960s and early 1970s, flaws in the idea of universal values and of literature as one could already be seen. • The great waves of critical thought that swept through one after the other from structuralism through to post-structuralism, from feminism to deconstruction, from semiology to psychoanalysis—shifted attention away from the activity of comparing texts and tracking patterns of influence between writers towards the role of the reader. And as each new wave broke over the preceding one, notions of single, harmonious readings were shattered forever. • In the 1950s and early 1960s, high-flying graduate students in the West turned to comparative literature as a radical subject, because at that time it appeared to be transgressive, moving across the boundaries of single literature study. • That there was no coherent methodology did not matter, nor did it matter that the debates on whether the subject existed or not still continued unabated from the previous century. • By the late 1970s a new generation of high-flying graduate students in the West turned to Literary Theory, Women's Studies, Semiotics, Film and Media Studies and Cultural Studies as the radical subject choices, abandoning Comparative Literature to what were increasingly seen as dinosaurs from a liberal-humanist prehistory. • Yet even as that process was underway in the West, comparative literature began to gain ground in the rest of the world. New programmes in comparative literature began to emerge in China, in Taiwan, in Japan and other Asian countries, based, however, not on any ideal of universalism but on the very aspect of literary study that many western comparatists had sought to deny: the specificity of national literatures. • As Swapan Majumdar puts it: it is because of this predilection for National Literature— much deplored by the Anglo-American critics as a methodology—that Comparative Literature has struck roots in the Third World nations and in India in particular. (Swapan Majumdar, Comparative Literature: Indian Dimensions, Calutta, Papyrus, 1987, p. 53. ) • Ganesh Devy goes further, and suggests that comparative literature in India is directly linked to the rise of modern Indian nationalism, noting that comparative literature has been “used to assert the national cultural identity”.There is no sense here of national literature and comparative literature being incompatible. • Developments in comparative literature beyond Europe and North America do indeed cut through and across all kinds of assumptions about literature that have come increasingly to be seen as Eurocentric. • What we have today, then, is a very varied picture of comparative literary studies that changes according to where it is taking place. African, Indian, Caribbean critics have challenged the refusal of a great deal of Western literary criticism to accept the implications of their literary and cultural policy. • The growth of national consciousness and awareness of the need to move beyond the colonial legacy has led significantly to the development of comparative literature in many parts of the world, even as the subject enters a period of crisis and decay in the West. • The way in which comparative literature is used, in places such as China, Brazil, India or many African nations, is constructive in that it is employed to explore both indigenous traditions and imported (or imposed) traditions, throwing open the whole vexed problem of the canon. • There is no sense of crisis in this form of comparative literature, no quibbling about the terms from which to start comparing, because those terms are already laid down. What is being studied is the way in which national culture has been affected by importation, and the focus is that national culture. • It is possible to argue that as we come to the end of the twentieth century, we have entered a new phase in the troubled history of comparative literature. That the subject is in crisis in the West is in no doubt. • Falling student numbers, the uneasiness of many comparatists that is revealed in defensive papers or a reluctance to engage in definition of what exactly their subject consists of, the apparent continuation of the old idea of comparative literature as binary study, i.e., as the study of two authors or texts from two different systems, all these factors, reinforce the picture of a subject that has lost its way, even as courses in literary theory and post-colonial theory proliferate and publishers' catalogues list books in these areas under separate headings. • But equally, it is also apparent that the subject is expanding and developing in many parts of the world where it is explicitly linked to questions of national culture and identity. Comparative literature as it is being developed outside Europe and the United States is breaking new ground and there is a great deal to be learned from following this development. • Whilst comparative literature in the Third World and the Far East changes the agenda for the subject, the crisis in the West continues. The new comparative literature is calling into question the canon of great European masters, and this process coincides with other challenges—that of feminist criticism, which has questioned the male orientation of cultural history; and that of post-modernist theory, which revalues the role of the reader. • Another rapidly expanding development in literary studies, and one which has profound implications for the future of comparative literature, is “translation studies”. Since the early usage of this term in the mid-1970s, the subject has developed to such an extent (through publishing, conferences, the establishment of Chairs in universities, research programmes, etc.) that there are many now who consider it to be a discipline in its own right. • What distinguishes translation studies from translation as traditionally thought of, is its derivation from the polysystems theory （多元文化理论）developed by Itamar Evan-Zohar and later by Gideon Toury in Tel Aviv. • The key to the rapid expansion of translation studies and its successful entry into literary studies lies in its emphasis on literature as a differentiated and dynamic conglomerate of systems, characterized by internal oppositions and dynamic shifts. This notion of literature as a polysystem sees individual literary systems as part of a multi-faceted whole, thereby changing the terms of the debates about “majority” and “minority” cultures, about “great” literatures and “marginal” literatures. • Moreover, translation studies derives from work in linguistics, literary study, history, anthropology, psychology, sociology and ethnology among others, and posits the radical proposition that translation is not a marginal activity, but has been and continues to be a major shaping force for change in the history of culture. • Comparative literature has traditionally claimed translation as a sub-category, but this assumption is now being questioned. The work of scholars such as Toury, Lefevere, Hermans, Lambert and many others has shown that translation is especially significant at moments of great cultural change. • Evan-Zohar argues that extensive translation activity takes place when a culture is in a period of transition: when it is expanding, when it needs renewal, when it is in a pre-revolutionary phase, then translation plays a vital part. In contrast, when a culture is solidly established, when it is in an imperialist stage, when it believes itself to be dominant, then translation is less important. • This view explains why, in simple term, the emergent European nations in the early nineteenth century, those engaged in struggles against the Austro-Hungarian or Ottoman Empires, translated so enthusiastically, and why translation into English began to decrease as the British Empire extended its grasp ever further. • Later, as English became the language of international diplomacy in the twentieth century (and also the dominant world commercial language), there was little need to translate, hence the relative poverty of twentieth-century translations into English compared with the proliferation of translations in many other languages. • It may well be that we need to reassess the role of translation studies vis-à-vis comparative literature, for whilst comparative literature in the West seems to be losing ground, even as it becomes more nebulous and loosely defined, so translation studies is undergoing the opposite process. • The time is approaching for comparative literature to rethink its relationship with Translation Studies. • Comparative literature has always claimed translation as a sub-category, but as translation studies establishes itself firmly as a subject based in inter-cultural study and offering a methodology of some rigor, both in terms of theoretical and descriptive work, so comparative literature appears less like a discipline and more like a branch of something else. • Seen in this way, the problem of the crisis could then be put into perspective, and the long, unresolved debate on whether comparative literature is or is not a discipline in its own right could finally and definitely be shelved.