The Geography of Comparative Literature
Journal of Literary Theory, Vol. 5, No. 2, 2011
20 Pages Posted: 17 Jul 2011 Last revised: 11 Jan 2015
Date Written: August 31, 2012
This essay compares the geographic norms of contemporary comparative literature to those operative in the related disciplines of history and area studies. Surveying the standard anthologies in the field, especially the recently revised Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism (2010), it asks why comparative literature look most frequently to Europe, even and especially when positioning itself within postcolonial frameworks, even as the discipline of history evinces ever greater institutional and empirical openness to non-European archives. Franco Moretti's and David Damrosch's programs for world literature are placed in dialogue with those proposed by Gayatri Spivak, Emily Apter, and Stanley Corngold. I argue for a differentiated geography of the disciplines attuned to the spatial provenance of literary theories and for greater attentiveness to the cultural, temporal, and political inflections of the varying literary objects that constitute the discipline's archive.
Keywords: comparative literature, literary theory, Arabic, intellectual history, anthologies
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