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Comparative literature can be simply defined as the
study of texts across cultures.
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It’s said to be interdisciplinary.
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It’s concerned with patterns of connection in
literatures across both time and space.
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Tracing, for example, Shakespeare’s
source materials through Latin or
Spanish ones.
Borrowing from other writers
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In 1816, a series of French anthologies entitled cours de
litterature comparee used for teaching literature were
published.
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From that time and on, comparative literature carried this
name.
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In 1857, Matthew Arnold mentioned the term in the plural
form “ comparative literatures” in a lecture at Oxford.
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1854, the term first appeared in Germany when it was
mentioned in a book by Moriz Carriere.
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It has been clearly debatable whether
comparative literature is a discipline or is it
simply a field of study. (crises of CL) Rene Wellek
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In her book, Bassnett frankly mentions that
comparative lit. is a field of study.
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According to Croce, it is neither a subject nor a
separate discipline.
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From his point of view, comparative literature
is a process since he considered it as a
process of exploring alterations and
developments of literary ideas across
literatures.
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There are some nice definitions of the comparatist:
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While art is generally thought of as an instrument of universal harmony, the
comparatist is simply the one who is responsible for disseminating that harmony.
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comparatively speaking, the comparatist resembles an “international ambassador
working on the comparative literatures of united nations.”
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Harry Levin complained that we spend far too much of our
energy talking about the theory and not enough in comparing
the literature’
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In the late 1970s new programmes in CL began to emerge in
China, Japan and other Asian countries.
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In India, comparative literature has been “used to
assert the national cultural identity.”
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A shift of perspective took place there.
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While it used to start with Western literature and
then look outwards, nowadays comparative
literature especially in India is following a
completely opposite method: starting with India’s
own literature then looking outwards.
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English Lit is in Crisis.
How should we look at other literatures
written in English from all parts of the world
(by Africans, or Arabs)
The work of Edward Saied (orientalism) has
provided critics with new vision about the
Orient and the Other in postcolonial
literature.
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How to view Shakespeare or Milton?
Treat him comparatively by comparing his
work with reference to Indian culture and
literature.
CL declining in the west but rising in the east
(in India, Latin America, Africa…)due to rise
of nationalism.
Emergence of PCL in 1990 as another name
of CL.
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Translate to Arabic (activity) from Stylistics
slides
Relationship bet CL and translation studies.
Relationship bet linguistics and semiotics
Bassnette remarks that KL appears les like a
discipline and more like a branch of
something else.
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First appearance of the term was in
France 1816
Germany 1854
England 1848 Mathew Arnold
Influence studies (influence and imitation)
How to perceive influence: as borrowing or
appropriation or theft. (forgery, plagiarism,
attribution)
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Colonial writers usually underestimate the value of other literatures, Africans,
Arabs…etc.
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How to classify the works of African writers living in England and writing in
English..a vexed question…(Altayab Saleh)
Edward Fitzgerald’s attack on Persian Lit. Racist and absurd one in the eyes
of our author. This reflects the superiority of western culture which is part of
the politics of imperialism.
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Cultural Colonialism was also a form of Cl where native writers were
evaluated negatively in comparison.
Even in Europe itself, French scholars advocate the superiority of French
culture and lit. ( Cultural Chauvinism )
Establishment of Chairs of CL France (1897) and in the US at Harvard Un
in 1890. A chair of CL at the Un of Colombia for Edward Saied.
Journals of CL were then founded in Europe.
There has come to be two obviously different schools of
comparative literature:
the French and the American
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The French school was too narrow and relied too heavily on factual evidence.
It argued that Comparative literature ought to involve the study of two elements ( two
different languages).
Therefore, a study involving French and Germany was acceptable, but one including
Beowulf and Paradise Lost was not.
The French CL tended to focus more on the products of the human mind, whereas
the German CL were more concerned with the roots or spirit of the nation.
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Paul Van Tiegham tried to solve the problem of the term by
distinguishing bet cl, general lit and world lit. he is in favor of the
assumption that CL should involve the study of two languages……binary
study bet two literatures (restricted approach) linguistic barrier…..
Should we consider authors like Yeats and Shaw as English or Irish….
Wellek attacks the French schools regarding it as a cause of the crisis of
CL.
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The American school, however, was completely different. It was a lot
more liberal. Henry Remak.
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According to it, anything could be compared with anything else,
regardless even of whether that was literature or not. Interdisciplinary and
universal.
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Unlike the French one, the American school will even allow you to
compare a poem with a song.
Melting pot theory p33
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To assert two needs
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The need to involve politics in CL
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The need to start from home culture ( as a model or center of
excellence) and to look outwards.
Decline of Greek and Latin languages . Spread of English as the
new world of commerce and market place.
 Names of Dept of Cl in the West
 Concept of Placing
 Ibsen and Chekov in London
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Language and Culture
Lit and Culture.
Edward Saied and his famous book Culture and Imperialism
Simply speaking, a comparatist is normally expected to
A.
read the two texts to be compared.
B.
highlight the similarities
C.
find out the differences
D.
make clear the idea of influence
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Comparative Literature