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ISSN 1409-6900 | UDK 82+7     Blesok no. 28 | volume V | September-October, 2002



                     Peer-reviewed journal
Blesok no. 28September-October, 2002

Words on Comparative Literature

or On the Survival of a Discipline Today

p. 1
Jean Bessiere

     I will speak to you a bit about comparative literature. It will be a banal topic. I will not try to give you a definition of comparative literature, or the regulations of comparative literature. The demand to give definitions and propose recipes, eventually, is a trap set by others – the representatives of other disciplines. I will also not try to enter debates on the crisis of comparative literature and literary studies, because the diagnoses of the crisis are very different. I will try to speak to you about what can the function of comparative literature be today. I will offer but a few options. I will do this starting from what I have heard at AILC (International Association of Comparative Literature).

    Note: The text was read at the conference “Comparative Literature: Theory, Methodology, Hermenautics” – Skopje, 1 December 2000.
     In what I have heard at various meetings of AILC I feel that there are four topics present in the studies of comparative literature:
     – cultural and literary identities and transfers;
     – synchronous readings of various literary periods, various language areas (regions), various cultures;
     – literary and cultural history of various regions;
     – meta-criticism.

     I will specify the position of each of these topics with an aim to determine their specific features.
     (1) When we speak of cultural and literary identities and transfers, the issue is not the doubt in identities, but the mutual relations of identities. Therefore, the cross-cutting within a certain culture is just a type of an existing identity, and not un-recognition, as it is usually said, of identities. Thus, literatures can be representing of the relations of identity. The crossing appears as something that carries within and illustrates in itself the relations of identities.
     (2) As far as the synchronous readings of various literary periods, various language spheres, various cultures are concerned, the issue is not to reach conclusions that will have positive or empirical character, but to create categories that will provide a common reading of those periods, those cultures. Virtual models that are means of this common reading are elaborated.
     (3) Concerning the literary and cultural history of various regions, there is the question and need to overcome the sharp national divisions to regions with an aim to understand literary histories as histories of regional communities. These regional communities manage the design of the new critical, cultural and sociological paradigms.

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