Comparative Literature


Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Wikipedia.

Comparative Literature

 

the branch of literary history that deals with literary relationships, similarities, and distinctions among different countries. Similarities between works of literature may be based on similarities in the social and cultural development of the respective countries of origin or on cultural and literary contacts between the countries. Consequently, there are two areas of comparative literary studies: typological literary analogies and literary relationships and influences. Although these areas interact with one another, they should not be confused.

Comparative literature postulates a unity in man’s social and historical development. Since similar social relations have existed among different peoples, historical and typological analogies may be observed in the development of different literatures during a single historical epoch. Comparative literature may therefore study single literary works, literary genres and styles, the work of individual writers, or literary trends. Thus, during the Middle Ages, the folk heroic epos of different peoples of the East and West reveals similarities. During the period of feudalism, similarities existed among the chivalric lyrics of Provençal troubadours and German minnesingers, early classical Arabic love poetry, the versified chivalric romance in the West, and the romantic epic in eastern literatures.

An orderly succession of literary trends may be observed in the bourgeois literatures of different European countries: Renaissance literature, the baroque, classicism, romanticism, critical realism and naturalism, symbolism, modernism, and new forms of realism.

Although similar literary developments take place among different peoples, mutual contacts and influences are also common and generally accompany such developments. However, a prerequisite for a literary influence is an inner need for such a cultural “import” and an analogous social and literary course of development. A. N. Veselovskii wrote of “crosscurrents” in borrowed literature. According to his theory, every borrowed work becomes partially transformed, or adapted, to correspond with the national development and literary traditions of the country adopting the work. The adaptation is also influenced by the ideology and literary approach of the writer making use of the borrowed work. For comparative literature, such differences between works are as important as similarities.

Mutual literary influences among countries are not limited to contemporary literature. The literary heritage of great writers of the past continues to influence the present. An example is the influence of ancient Greek and Roman literature during the Renaissance and the period of 17th-and 18th-century classicism. An associated subject of study is that of the influence of various writers in different epochs and countries. Examples are the influence of Shakespeare and Goethe in France, Great Britain, and Russia and that of Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Chekhov, and Gorky in world literature. This field of study also involves the history of translations as well as of literary criticism, which reflects the development of social and literary thought in a given country.

Literary relationships and influences between countries differ in intensity and form under different historical conditions. These relationships and influences became particularly marked and wide-ranging beginning in the 19th century. From 1827 through the 1830’s, Goethe propagated the slogan “a universal world literature,” which referred to a literature that would include the most important works created by all peoples at every stage of historical development.

The October Revolution of 1917 gave rise to a multinational Soviet literature unified by the method of socialist realism. Toward the mid-20th century, the literatures of peoples that were formerly little known owing to their remoteness from Europe or to their social backwardness became increasingly drawn into the sphere of comparative literary studies. This phenomenon is related to the question of literary “interrelationships” between East and West.

After World War I (1914–18), increased attention was devoted in the West to literary relationships among different countries. The study of such relationships became a special field of literary history called comparative literature. This field of study was founded in France by F. Baldensperger and P. Van Tieghem, who published articles in the journal Revue de littératurecomparée (founded in 1921) and a series of monographs that were published as supplements to the journal.

In the years after World War II (1939–45), major scholarly centers for comparative literature studies were established in the USA by W. Friederich, R. Wellek, and other scholars. The journals Comparative Literature and Comparative Literature Studies were founded in 1949 and 1963, respectively. Somewhat later, comparative literature centers were established in the Federal Republic of Germany by K. Weiss and other scholars; the journal Arcadia was founded in 1966. Other such centers were founded in Canada. In 1954 the International Comparative Literature Association (ICLA) was founded; its central office is located in Paris and its official journal, Neohelicon, is published in Budapest. The association convokes international congresses and has published International Comparative Literature Association: Proceedings of the Congress (vols. 1–6,1955–70).

In Russia, comparative literature studies attained extensive development earlier than in other European countries. By the 1880’s, chairs of universal literature existed in most Russian universities. At the University of St. Petersburg, A. V. Veselovskii, the founder of Russian comparative literature studies, assumed the chair of comparative literature in 1870. Veselovskii’s works included Historical Poetics (1870–1906; separate edition, 1940).

Interest in comparative literature was revived in Soviet scholarship in the mid-1950’s. In 1960 a discussion was held in the USSR on interrelationships among national literatures.

In the other socialist countries, research on comparative literature is being conducted in Hungary by I. Söter, T. Klaniczai, and G. Vajda and in Czechoslovakia and the German Democratic Republic.

REFERENCES

Zhirmunskii, V. M. “Sravnitel’noe literaturovedenie i problema literaturnykh vliianii.” Izv. AN SSSR: Otd. obshchestv. nauk, 1936, no. 3.
Zhirmunskii, V. M. “Literaturnye otnosheniia Vostoka i Zapada.” In Trudy iubileinoi nauch. sessii Leningr. un-ta: Sektsiia filologich. nauk. Leningrad, 1946.
Zhirmunskii, V. M. “Srednevekovye literatury kak predmet sravnitel’nogo literaturovedeniia.” Izv. AN SSSR: OLla, 1971, no. 3.
Gudzii, N. K. “Sravnitel’noe izuchenie literatur v russkoi dorevoliutsionnoi i sovetskoi nauke.” Izv. AN SSSR: OLla, 1960, vol. 19, issues 1–2.
Vzaimosviazi vzaimodeistviia natsional’nykh literatur: Materialy diskussii. Moscow, 1961.
Neupokoeva, I. G. Problemy vzaimodeistviia sovremennykh literatur. Moscow, 1963.
Lomidze, G. Metodologicheskie voprosy izucheniia vzaimosviazei i vzaimoobogashcheniia sovetskoi literatury. Moscow, 1963.
Konrad, N. I. Zapad i Vostok: Stat’i, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1972.
Vzaimosviazi i vzaimodeistviia literatur mira: Bibliografiia (1961–1965), parts 1–2. Moscow, 1968.
Vzaimosviazi i vzaimodeistviia literatur mira: Bibliografiia (1966–1970), parts 1–2. Moscow, 1973.
Baldensperger, F. Goethe en France, 2nd ed. Paris, 1920.
Van Tieghem, P. La Littérature comparée, 3rd ed. Paris, 1946.
Friederich, W. P. Outline of Comparative Literature From Dante Alighieri to Eugene O’Neill. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1954.
Curtius, E. R. La Littérature européenne et le Moyen Age latin. Paris, 1956.
Baldensperger, F., and W. P. Friederich. Bibliography of Comparative Literature. New York, 1960.
Wellek, R. Concepts of Criticism. New Haven, Conn., 1964.
Krauss, W. Probleme der vergleichenden Literaturgeschichte. Berlin, 1963.
Pichois, C, and A. M. Rousseau. La Littérature comparée. Paris, 1967.
Aktuelle Probleme der vergleichenden Literaturforschung. Berlin, 1968.
Block, H. M. Nouvelles Tendances en littérature comparée. Paris, 1970. (Bibliography on pp. 55–61.)

V. M. ZHIRMUNSKII

References in periodicals archive ?
The crisis of Comparative Literature originated from the American scholar Wellek.
Li: In 1993 Susan Bassnett declared that "Today, comparative literature is in one sense is dead" (47), she saw it destined to be subsumed within translations studies.
Karim earned her doctorate in comparative literature and master of arts in Middle Eastern studies from the University of Texas, Austin.
Therefore, Neutrosophy and Quad-stage Method can play a very important role to expand comparative literature.
Hassan's essaywas followed, a few weeks later, by Alexander Key's " Arabic: Acceptance and Anxiety, " in which Key writes that being an Arabist within comparative literature currently "elicits only acceptance.
These controversies evidence that comparative literature is far from dead, and that those who enjoy doing comparatism, whether we engage in quests, puzzles or patchwork, following the dictates of convergent, divergent, problem-solving, or other types of thought processes, will be able to continue to perform both distant and close readings, and draw analogies as well as paradoxes; all the more if we are able to read in several languages and across an increasing wider range of cultural contexts.
Yet translation has continued to play second fiddle to comparative literature, even to this day.
The article suggests, as central to discussions in globalizing comparative literature, the need to initiate polyvalent dialogue from various geographical, cultural, ideological, racial and religious contexts, strengthening the commonalities and celebrating the differences in an atmosphere of mutual indebtedness for a noble cause of peaceful living.
The paper makes a case for institutionalizing Comparative Literature in Pakistani institutions of higher learning.
At the very roots of comparative literature are recognized the principle of unity amidst diverse cultures, and the principle of intellectual freedom amidst variety in life.
Remak was one of the most visible and influential proponents of an American Germanistik that overcame its often narrow fixation on German Germanistik by creating a more cosmopolitan approach through cultural comparison, mainly by establishing, after World War II, Comparative Literature as a comprehensive field of study.
I was planning to write my dissertation on Arabic and comparative literature and, already grounded in Arabic literature, I did not think it was relevant to take more courses in the Department of Middle East Languages and Cultures.

Full browser ?