Comparative Literature: The Definition Of Comparative Literature

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The first thing that we need to do, in order to explain what comparative literature is, is to observe the words: “comparative” and “literature” - focusing more on the word “comparative”. It is difficult to find one suitable definition of comparative literature. What we need to do is to place side-by-side, the prominent definitions that celebrated scholars and critics of this field have come forward with, over the years. Doing that, we would immediately observe that they have all sprung up from multiple ways and multi-levels of “comparison” in literature, along with other forms of art. For instance, according to René Wellek and Austin Warren (stated in 1942), comparative literature, firstly, should study oral literature – folk-tale themes, their…show more content…
Paul Van Tieghem (in 1946) differentiated between general literature and comparative literature. He called studying movements and fashions of literature transcending national lines as general literature, while comparative literature meant studying inter-relationship between two or more literatures. Henry Remak’s conception of comparative literature, in 1971, was that of studying literature beyond the confines of one particular country, plus looking at the relationships between literature and other areas of knowledge and belief, like other arts (painting, music, architecture and so on), the sciences, other spheres of human expression. The most recent definition of comparative literature, which is held in high regards, would be the one by Steven Tötösy de Zepetnek in 1999. He stresses on at least two ways of studying literature. Number one, a comparatist should know more than one national language or literature. There should be knowledge and application of other disciplines in and for the study of literature. Number two, comparative literature should include the Other: that might be a “marginal” literature, a genre or various…show more content…
For instance, the clay tablets of Mesopotamia being the proof of rivalries and strategic merging among hero-narratives of neighbouring cultures. Or the fact that Chinese writers and speakers became aware of how their own linguistic structure (tones, logographic characters) stood out, after their prolonged exposure to Pali and Sanskrit idioms of Buddhist teaching. Languages in contact with one another give rise to hybrid forms (translation, pidgins, creoles, bilingualism), thereby posing a problematic in the way a particular literature/language is known. Some important figures could be considered, who paved the way for future comparative literature studies. For instance, Madame de Staël. Her French text, De l’Allemagne (1810) shows the beginning of spotlighting and critically analysing genuine interrelationships. Even though she does not draw scholarly conclusions here, she looks at the bonds uniting German and French literatures and their mutual influences, in a nascent manner. Her angle is spoken of as being essentially sociological. She also displays the ability to differentiate between aesthetic and non-aesthetic moments. Her text, it is said, shows French culture with its unconscious universalism, as a world of differently ordered thoughts and sentiments. Herder (who was one generation

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