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Paradigms

March 21, 2014

World Literature as Figure and as Ground


David Damrosch

World literature is often thought of as an expansive landscape "out there," extending far beyond the boundaries of any nation or even region, inevitably exceeding anyone’s direct scholarly competence. This perspective has been widely shared both by proponents and by opponents of world literary studies, and yet increasingly it seems to me that this is only half the story. Actual readers usually encounter world literature on their own home territory, within the national market in which books are published, reviewed, and assigned in classes. In a kind of figure/ground reversal, it is the nation that frames most people’s concrete experience of world literature, at least as much as it is world literature that frames any national canon.

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Futures

March 9, 2014

Minimal Criticism


Jos Lavery

The word “discipline”, designating as it already does a socialized process of individuation, must include not just the quasi-public objects with which we are beginning to grapple (Twitter, para-academic blogs, this report) but the quasi-private objects that we generally prefer to let rest unexpressed (Facebook, the hotel bar). This axiom might have some general applicability, but it is especially important for the discussion of CompLit for two reasons.

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Practices

April 11, 2014

Archive of the Now


Jacob Edmond

The practice of comparative literature today is increasingly shaped by the contested archive of the now that is the Internet. Contemporary works of poetry increasingly assume web searching as a precondition of reading. Though massive and massively larger than a decade ago, the Internet is a highly skewed and partial archive, subject to corporate and state control, as Anonymous’s hacktivist actions and Edward Snowden’s revelations about the National Security Agency remind us. The NSA and its partners are also busy compiling an archive of the now, one that would have been the envy of twentieth-century totalitarian states such as the Soviet Union and which at the same time may well be the most extensive archive ever complied for the comparative study of everyday life. To speak, then, of the archive of the now is also to acknowledge the now of the archive: the pervasiveness of archiving in our present moment, including in the theory and practice of comparative literature.

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Ideas of the Decade

April 8, 2014

Thug


Henry Schwarz

The Thugs were hereditary highway robbers and stranglers who were violently suppressed by 1840. Yet the British kept discovering new threats to their authority. In 1871 almost two hundred tribal communities were criminalized, subject to surveillance, registration and confinement Thug today signifies a proud new identity assumed by African Americans critical of white supremacy, and of radical Indian performers reclaiming their images from the stereotype of inherited criminality.

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Paradigms

March 9, 2014

Comparative Literature and the Environmental Humanities


Ursula K. Heise

Environmental literary studies have become increasingly international and comparatist over the last decade. But telling the story of ecocriticism as the victory of comparatism and transnational collaboration over anglo parochialism can take on overtones of disciplinary turf war and triumphalism as easily as of deepened knowledge. There are more interesting stories to tell about the encounter of comparative literature with ecocriticism – stories that challenge literary studies in their usual form: most importantly, the challenge of nonfiction, the challenge of the environmental humanities as a transdisciplinary matrix, and the challenge of the Anthropocene in its tension with posthumanism.

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Practices

April 8, 2014

Institutional Inertia and the State of the Discipline


Eric Hayot

Do we think that ideas only come in a limited number of sizes? Obviously not. And yet… it would be perfectly reasonable for someone from the outside to accuse us of so thinking. These are the constraints of the institution, and we reinforce them constantly: in, for instance, our evaluations of journal articles, including the ways we count them for tenure; but also, say, in the normal length of the normal end-of-term graduate seminar paper, which is merely a proxy for its potential future as a journal article. And so for historical periods, the graduate curriculum,and reports on the state of disciplines: we think very badly about institutions, when we do at all.

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Futures

March 9, 2014

Comparative Literature: The Next Ten Years


Haun Saussy

We can confidently predict that ten years from now, comparative literature will be in a state of crisis. It is always in crisis. In 2004 I ventured that nothing has ever defined comparative literature so well as the search for its own definition, a search conducted between and against better-established fields. That continued sense of crisis, however, is one we make for ourselves. External conditions impose another shape on comparative literature’s sense of crisis.

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Practices

March 3, 2014

Comparative Literature, World Literature, and Asia


Karen Thornber

For most of its history the field of comparative literature as practiced in much of the world has focused largely on certain privileged European literatures. In recent years, there has been a blossoming of interest in Western-language writings not only from previously marginalized European literatures but also from former European colonies in Africa, the Americas, the Middle East, Oceania, and South and Southeast Asia. Yet even today, scholars working on non-Western-language literatures – the creative texts of billions of people with thousands of years of literary heritage – remain a disproportionate minority in most comparative literature departments.

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Paradigms

June 28, 2014

Electronic Literature as Comparative Literature


Jessica Pressman

Electronic literature is Comparative Literature. It is born digital; it operates across multiple machine and human languages, and requires translation of these languages before it even reaches the human reader. It is procedural and computational and is processed across multiple platforms, protocols, and technologies in real-time, in accordance with the very real constraints and technical specificities of the hardware, software, and network configuration of the reader’s computer. What is presented onscreen – the artwork and poetic – is multimedia and multimodal. Combining text, image, sound, movement, interactivity, and design, such works challenge traditional disciplinary boundaries as well as genre categories. For these reasons and more, electronic literature requires its reader to read and think comparatively.

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Futures

June 24, 2014

Institution, Translation, Nation, Metaphor


Lucas Klein

Comparative Literature is defined in part by anxiety about its institutionality. Approaching translations as works of literary scholarship equivalent to our articles and monographs can address this anxiety and also work against the Herderian assumptions of national literatures. Ultimately, the comparison of comparative literature is a metaphorical process, putting it in the same process of negotiated familiarity and strangeness as translation. In this way, institutionalizing translation might help us de-institutionalize our other institutions.

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Ideas of the Decade

December 31, 2013

Fundamentalism


Mohammad Salama

Thematic questions about fundamentalism have recently proliferated in Arabic literature. One major theme is the aspiration to expose dominant religious radicalism and to win back the freedom of expression suppressed by the hegemonic ideologies of postcolonialism.

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Ideas of the Decade

April 1, 2014

Pseudotranslation


Brigitte Rath

The idea of pseudotranslation sharpens some central concepts of Comparative Literature. “World Literature,” according to David Damrosch, is “always as much about the host culture’s values and needs as it is about a work’s source culture” (283). Foregrounding a text’s imaginary origin in a different culture reads this “double refraction” as already built into a text. It thus stresses the conjecture and transnational imagination that is always involved in reading a text as world literature. Pseudotranslation as a mode of reading has also much to contribute to questions of translatability, representation, voice, authorship, authenticity, and multilingualism.

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Practices

March 5, 2015

Syllabus: An Anthropology of Literary Culture


Bernard Bate and Rebecca Gould

Syllabus Yale-NUS College, Spring 2014 Instructors: Bernard Bate (Anthropology) and Rebecca Gould (Literature)

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Paradigms

December 3, 2014

“World,” “Globe,” “Planet”: Comparative Literature, Planetary Studies, and Cultural Debt after the Global Turn


Christian Moraru

How can we rethink being-in-relation beyond the nationalist, imperialist, and, of late, globalist nexus, beyond the relational logos that, for such a long time, has underlain the main form of mapping and linking up here and there, self and other, ours and theirs? And how are we, artists, critics, humanists, to embark on such a radical rebuilding of our epistemologies and deontologies so as to deal responsibly with the surging availability of the imaginary museum, of the planetary archive, of sites of life and culture suddenly handy, vulnerable, ready to be googled, disembedded and disemboweled, exposed, toured, and sampled, intertextually used and commercially abused? Can we even “stop and think” in the face of the world’s overwhelming and hyperexposed Heideggerian Bestand?

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Ideas of the Decade

March 3, 2014

Philology


Timothy Brennan

As a term “philology” in comparative literature has been, over the last decade, attacked, extolled, distorted, appropriated, diluted, and wielded as a club. Assumed to be antique, it never goes away, in part because it is at the heart of Marxist literary theory and anticolonial thought.

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Ideas of the Decade

February 21, 2014

The Hermeneutics of Suspicion


Rita Felski

“The hermeneutics of suspicion” does not just describe the recent history of criticism; it redescribes it, giving us a fresh slant on the state of the field. The phrase signals a shift away from the broad philosophical or political questions associated with “theory” to a new concern with the specifics of method: how and why we read.

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Futures

July 3, 2014

The Reign of the Amoeba: Further Thoughts about the Future of Comparative Literature


Gail Finney

Based on recent curricular trends in Comparative Literature, publications in leading online and print journals, and practices implemented by current graduate students and young faculty, this essay suggests that the discipline of Comparative Literature promises to move in increasingly interdisciplinary directions. The metaphor of the amoeba reflects the ability of Comparative Literature to assimilate and nurture itself from other media, such as film and television, and other fields, such as art history, aesthetics, queer theory, gender and sexuality studies, philosophy, theater, ecocriticism, and, notably, Cultural Studies, whose importance for Comparative Literature is exemplified in the online journal CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture. The Winter 2014 number of Comparative Literature, examining the concept of remediation from the perspectives of media studies, ecocriticism, the law, disability studies, and education, likewise points to the growing interdisciplinarity of Comparative Literature.

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Practices

March 4, 2014

Creative Reception: Reviving a Comparative Method


Brigitte Le Juez

The language used by writers to discuss the question of their reception of others tends to indicate an emotional response. Their own understanding of what moves them into creative action can be vague or at least difficult to articulate, as countless other examples could show. It is therefore the role of the comparatist to attempt a critical appraisal of such a fundamental, artistic phenomenon as the continuously innovative meeting of artistic minds.

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Ideas of the Decade

April 23, 2014

Big Data


Jonathan E. Abel

Big data and digital humanities can not threaten traditional humanities, they can only inform them. As a set of tools to be used by humanists (on the same order as such traditional humanist tools as bookmarks, indexes, footnotes, underlinings, notecards), digital humanities will never rise to the point of becoming ends of humanistic inquiry in themselves. The recent flurry and fetish for a digital humanities, however, is but part of a long history of quantitative, positivistic humanist inquiry which supplements but cannot supplant the quests for information, knowledge, and truth which have and will continue to have formed the humanities.

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Ideas of the Decade

May 27, 2014

Petro-


Michael Rubenstein

Amitav Ghosh coined the term “petrofiction” as the title of his review of Abdelraman Munif’s quintet of novels Cities of Salt in the March 1992 issue of The New Republic. There Ghosh pointed out just how few novels about the “Oil Encounter” between the United States and the Middle East had up until then ever been written. Munif’s work was, in Ghosh’s view, the exception proving the rule that “the history of oil is a matter of embarrassment verging on the unspeakable, the pornographic.” But if in 1992 Ghosh meant by petrofiction simply a fiction directly concerned with the oil industry, then, in a 2012 issue of the American Book Review with a titular focus on “petrofiction,” Imre Szeman argued that the term ought to be construed far more capaciously – and controversially – as a grand new periodizing gesture.

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Ideas of the Decade

February 4, 2014

The "Middle East" and/or The "Global" (!) War on Terror


Ipshita Chanda

This submission unpacks the phrases "Middle East" and "Global War on Terror" and opposes their status as ideas of the decade .

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Paradigms

August 18, 2014

Digital Displacement


Dennis Tenen

The digital humanities take literary studies from the fertile age of speculative thought and model building to a time of instrumental reason and robust empiricism. At the same time, academic interest in material contexts of all kind has grown: in labs and maker spaces, in book history, in sociology of literature, in physical computing, in problems of regional inequities of access to information, in the future of books, presses, and libraries, in free culture, in the praxes of remix and remediation, and in the actual labor conditions at the base of our academic practice. The way of comparative literature has always been to advance through axes of contrast and correlation, by period and geography. The digital humanities offer yet another axis that bisects familiar concepts along a methodological divide. At its worst, the methodology devolves into shallow futurism and blunt instrumental reasoning. At its best, DH is a force of iconoclasm, used to question and to refine prevailing orthodoxies.

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Paradigms

May 30, 2015

Love Stories, or, Multispecies Ethnography, Comparative Literature, and their Entanglements


Mara de Gennaro

“Species interdependence is a well-known fact—except when it comes to humans.” When Anna Tsing writes this in one of a series of essays that look to diverse matsutake mushroom forests around the world to show that “human nature is an interspecies relationship,” she joins a small but growing number of anthropologists and artists for whom the influential interdisciplinary work of animal studies has not yet gone far enough. For these multispecies ethnographers, what is needed is not simply a recognition of nonhuman agents still on the margins of current discourse on animality, whether plants, microorganisms, or less charismatic animals belonging to “unloved species.” What most animates these scholars, from Tsing and her Matsutake Worlds Research Group, to Deborah Bird Rose studying Aboriginals and their wild dingo “kin,” to Eben Kirksey and his Multispecies Salon, is the work of understanding the intricate, continually fluctuating relationships and interdependencies of humans and nonhumans across multiple species, in cultures and ecosystems treated as highly variable.

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Facts & Figures

March 8, 2014

Report on the Undergraduate Comparative Literature Curriculum: Update


Corinne Scheiner

This report on the national (US) state of the Comparative Literature undergraduate curriculum, updates the conclusions of a similar report done in 2005. As author Corinne Scheiner notes, early questions about whether Comparative Literautre should even have undergraduate programs (visible in the 1965 and 1975 reports) now seem to have entirely disappeared. The practical implications of the theoretical questions debated decennially in the reports on the state of the discipline, she suggests, are most evident in the structures of the undergraduate curriculum.

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Ideas of the Decade

April 8, 2014

Afropolitan


Aaron Bady

“Afropolitan” is not a politics, but it dresses in the commodified residue of political struggle, Fela Kuti’s style stripped of its revolutionary substance. In a displacement characteristic of our neoliberal age, the flows and circulation of capital become the pathway to individual self-realization. The Afropolitan declines to be Afro-pessimistic, then, because she has the privilege of declaring victory from the dance floor in London, the art exhibition in Rome, or the runway in New York.

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Futures

May 8, 2015

African Languages, Writ Small


Jeanne-Marie Jackson

What is Comparative Literature’s stake in the supposed “resurgence” of African writing, most work on which is being done in monolingual departments? The following remarks sketch out some practical and intellectual challenges that greater emphasis on African language study might pose to the discipline. To take African literatures seriously, world literature in English must become a comparative domain.

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Paradigms

April 18, 2015

Comparative Non-Literature and Everyday Digital Textuality


Scott Kushner

Digital textuality has transitioned from the novel to the banal, provoking an explosion in everyday textual culture in forms such as blogs, social networking platforms, and various genres of short messaging services. These forms of everyday digital textual culture are not literary by most conventional definitions, and this is precisely the point. The opportunity they present to literary studies is not to expand the scope of the literary, but to open the notion of literary studies to literature’s great other: non-literature.

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Ideas of the Decade

April 23, 2014

Areas: Bigger than the Nation, Smaller than the World


Christopher Bush

Surely I was not the only one surprised by Gayatri Spivak’s having become, over the last decade, a kind of defender of a kind of Area Studies.

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Practices

March 3, 2014

Toward an Ecocritical Approach to Translation: A Conceptual Framework


Daniela Kato & Bruce Allen

Translation's recent growth stems in part from many critics’ efforts to widen the scope of ecocritical research beyond its hitherto disproportionate focus on Anglophone literatures. It also is related to an increased commitment to an environmental world literature canon comprising works “currently being translated and circulated through a variety of languages and cultures as texts whose principal – if not always exclusive – focus is on the ecological crises of the last half-century,” as Ursula Heise has noted. The lack of critical attention paid to translation in ecocriticism comes somewhat as a surprise at this juncture, given that translation is the transnational practice par excellence, embodying intercultural exchange that is vital to the interpenetration of the local and the global.

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Practices

March 6, 2014

World Famous, Locally: Insights From the Study of International Canonization


Mads Rosendahl Thomsen

Following decades of focus on the impact of globalization, the wave of big data flooding all subjects could be put to good use to acquire a better understanding of the difference between local and international canonization of literature.

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Ideas of the Decade

August 25, 2014

The Sinophone


Yucong Hao

Sinophone literature, a term coined by Shu-mei Shih in 2004, describes (per Shih) Sinitic-language literature written “on the margins of China and Chineseness.” As an emerging field of inquiry, the Sinophone provides a conceptual alternative to the paradigm of China-based national literary studies; as an organizing category, the Sinophone evinces the plurality of cultural identities, linguistic practices, and ethnicities of Sinitic-language communities around the world. It also crystallizes discussions—the destabilization of Chineseness in the era of transnationalization and the reflections on the hegemony of China and Sinocentric discourses—that have penetrated the field of Chinese studies since the 1990s.

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Ideas of the Decade

March 3, 2014

Climate Change


Jennifer Wenzel

An "Anthropocene literature" would pose challenges to periodization, not merely for the term's implicit dual designation of 1) what some argue is a new geological epoch that eclipsed the Holocene in the late eighteenth century, and 2) recent discussion across the disciplines, catalyzed by Eugene Stoermer's and Paul Crutzen's 2000 coinage of Anthropocene, to mark how human activity has transformed the geophysical processes of the planet.

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Futures

January 30, 2015

Close Reading and the Global University (Notes on Localism)*


Rey Chow

What might close reading, the literary method associated with critics such as I. A. Richards and his contemporaries and followers such as Allen Tate, J. C. Ransom, M. Beardsley, W. K. Wimsatt, William Empson, T. S. Eliot, Cleanth Brooks, and others, and strategic to the consolidation of English as a (historically recent) field of study, have to tell us about the shifting academic institutional relations around 2015?

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Futures

March 4, 2015

Arabic: Acceptance and Anxiety


Alexander Key

Being an Arabist elicits warm acceptance in Comparative Literature in 2015, but Arabists are still in no position to advocate for the inclusion of Arabic thinkers on our departments’ theory reading lists. Why?

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Paradigms

February 11, 2015

Comparative Literature and Animal Studies


Mario Ortiz-Robles

The comparative study of literature is intertwined at its origins with the comparative study of animals by virtue of the methodology used to compare members of otherwise very different sets of objects. Whether the method begets the object of study or the object of study the method is not entirely clear since the use of comparison in comparative literature is based on an analogy between literary forms (meters, figures, plots, genres) and biological forms (vertebrae, organs, species, genera) that seems to suspend their differences in “nature.” To compare animals to texts could well advance the cause of literary studies by giving a new purchase on what comparison might signify for students of literature around the world without making its practice archaic, vestigial, or, worse, extinct. We may yet learn something about the nature of the discipline of comparative literature by attending to its constitutive figuration as the literarization (the making literary) of animal comparison. Without a reconsideration of its literariness comparative literature could go the way of comparative zoology: a museum housing the fossilized remains of a discipline.

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Ideas of the Decade

March 3, 2014

Postcolonial Studies


Sangeeta Ray

To think about postcolonial studies is to think in terms of crisis, death and futurity.

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Ideas of the Decade

March 3, 2014

Untranslatability


Shaden Tageldin

Impasse and imposture—if not sheer impossibility—haunt the dream of translatability. If translatability has underpinned “efforts to revive World Literature” within and against the discipline of comparative literature over the last decade (3), as Emily Apter has argued in Against World Literature (2013), surely its obverse—untranslatability—is a ghostwritten word of that decade and a watchword of the next.

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Paradigms

February 28, 2015

Arabic and the Paradigms of Comparison


Waïl S. Hassan

The study of Arabic in the age of globalization and terrorism has been subject to two logics: one that sees Arabic as an extension of foreign policy imperatives (an instrumentalist “language plus” approach), and one that broadens the scope of the discipline. The current boom in Arabic studies is largely driven by the instrumentalist imperative. The study of modern Arabic literature within Comparative Literature in the “ages” of multiculturalism and globalization has remained by and large confined to the North-South paradigm, as a small subset of the postcolonial, and studied mainly in relation to English and French. Postcolonial studies has thus had the paradoxical effect of creating a space for Arabic, African, Caribbean, and South Asian literatures by tying them to the center-periphery, or North-South paradigm. The enormously rich area of South-South comparison remains largely unexplored.

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Paradigms

January 12, 2015

Paradigm Shift in Comparative Humanities: Digital Humanities, Pedagogy with New Media Technology, and Publishing Scholarship Online


Steven Tötösy de Zepetnek and Graciela Boruszko

Many faculty members feel overwhelmed by technological challenges as they try to incorporate them into their pedagogical routines. There is a crucial need for facilitators and for a more open communication between all constituents of higher learning and research, to combine academic disciplines with their practice in pedagogy. Faculty need to be more involved in the design and adoption processes of digital texts for pedagogical practice. The digital text is here to stay, and even if this is an area that is not at the core of current faculty interest at too many institutions of higher learning, it is to the faculty's benefit to express their need of support and involvement in new media technology. The world wide web is the natural venue in which to find, to interact with, and to get to know "the other."

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Ideas of the Decade

March 3, 2014

Cosmopolitanism


Haun Saussy

Comparatists, one would think, are well placed to consider the harm done by nationalisms. Comparatists translate, relativize and transpose. Surely a nation cannot be all in all to them, just an example. And yet the shapers of the discipline held back from identifying comparative literature with a universal, ecumenical or cosmopolitan drive.

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Ideas of the Decade

March 3, 2014

Performative Scholarship


Avram Alpert

Contemporary scholarship has a content problem. I do not mean that there is anything wrong with the actual contents of academic criticism. Rather, I mean that the academy focuses too narrowly on innovations in content. We assume that advances in modern scholarship will arrive as content-ideas and not as form-ideas. This state of affairs is endemic to an academic situation that privileges publication over pedagogy, knowledge of smaller periods over broad-based investigation, and that allows an economy of information to dictate an increasingly unjust labor market.

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Futures

January 30, 2015

Future Reading


Rebecca Walkowitz

How will we read literary works in the future? And how does thinking about the future of literary works change the way we read?

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Facts & Figures

August 11, 2014

Graduate Program Size Data


ACLA Report

The data below was collected in Spring and Summer 2014; it reflects the overall program size (total number of students enrolled) and the number of funded students accepted, on average, over the last three years. To add data to this chart, please contact Michelle Decker (mdecker at psu.edu).

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Ideas of the Decade

January 14, 2014

Neoliberalism


Snehal Shingavi

David Harvey lays out the two primary ways that neoliberalism has been understood: “We can, therefore, interpret neoliberalism either as a utopian project to realize a theoretical design for the reorganization of international capitalism or as a political project to re-establish the conditions for capital accumulation and to restore power of economic elites … The evidence suggests, moreover, that when neoliberal principles clash with the need to restore or sustain elite power, then the principles are either abandoned or become so twisted as to be unrecognizable."

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Ideas of the Decade

December 11, 2014

Discursive Possession


Wendy Laura Belcher

Discursive possession is a new model of European authorial agency in the colonial and postcolonial context. Rather than positing European authors as masters deliberately selecting delicacies from the smorgasbord of the exotic other, the model imagines European texts and authors as experiencing discursive possession by the other.

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Paradigms

September 14, 2014

Baku, Literary Common


Nergis Ertürk

The First Congress of the Peoples of the East, convened in the Azerbaijani city of Baku in 1920, had to address complex problems of plurilingualism and translation. Comparative Literature might reclaim the history of this congress as an alternative genealogy for the discipline, an experiment in displacing the discipline's other founding stories: Goethe’s invention of Weltliteratur in conversation with Eckermann, Leo Spitzer and Erich Auerbach’s missed encounter with an Orientalized Istanbul.

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Ideas of the Decade

June 3, 2014

Human Rights


Sophia A. McClennen

Regardless of period or region of scholarly focus, one would be hard pressed to find a field of comparative literary research that has not been touched by “the human rights turn.” If the cultural turn signaled the critical response to post 60s politics, and the 90s were marked by the postcolonial turn, then perhaps the human rights turn best characterizes the period following the attacks of 9/11/2001.

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Ideas of the Decade

March 31, 2015

Academic Boycott


Salah D. Hassan

Since the 1990s “progressive tendencies” in literary studies have harnessed comparative methodologies to textual analysis of human rights documents, interpretations of geopolitical systems, and critiques of foreign policy. As comparative literature has increasingly engaged in world affairs, comparative critical approaches have influence critical writing on boycotts from the anti-apartheid movement to Palestine solidarity activism. The issue of academic boycott in particular has generated prolific and polarizing public debates among literary scholars, at the center of which is a general question about the place of pro-Palestinian activism in the academy.

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Ideas of the Decade

March 3, 2014

American Literature


Antonio Barrenechea

In July 1980, Earl E. Fitz, a professor of Spanish, Portuguese, and Comparative Literature at Penn State University, made the following prediction: “It is our contention that inter-American literary studies, naturally of a comparative nature, will prove themselves to be a major trend of the near future, one which will eventually establish itself as a permanent and vital part of every comparative literature department and program in the country” (“Old World Roots/ New World Realities” 10). Over 30 years later, comparatists know that Fitz was only half right.

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Ideas of the Decade

March 3, 2014

Counterinsurgency


Joseph R. Slaughter

Comparative literature has mostly disregarded the weaponization of culture under the counterinsurgency doctrine (COIN) crafted for U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, released as Army Field Manual 3-24 and published simultaneously by the University of Chicago Press. However, COIN has not ignored comparative literature. During the “counterinsurgency decade” (General David Petraeus’s words), comparative literature was (like everything else) entangled in the contest between insurgency and counterinsurgency.

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Paradigms

January 15, 2015

Aesthetic Humanity and the Great World Community: Kant and Kang Youwei


Ban Wang

Can we speak of an aesthetic that matters both to Kant and Kang Youwei and that makes sense to China and the West? Can we speak about a common culture while attending to specific traditions? In the current talk of a world literary republic, distinctive cultural difference is to be superseded in order to attain to an overview or superstructure that transcends national and historical distinctions. Although the aspiration to a worldwide culture may go beyond the boundaries of a national tradition, the quest for the universal has to work through the particularity of a specific culture in order to access a common ground. While access to the common world seems more dream than reality, the road to the commons must begin from home: it is to engage one’s native culture reflectively and creatively.

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Paradigms

April 9, 2015

Comparatively Lesbian: Queer/Feminist Theory and the Sexuality of History


Susan S. Lanser

Reversing the conventional paradigm, I ask not only what history can tell us about sexuality, but what sexuality can tell us about history. My research relies for its core claims and findings on a comparative approach that has led me to queerer versions of spatiality and periodicity than those I inherited. It has also led me to privilege confluence over the more traditionally comparative project of influence, to engage in “large reading,” and to see the sign “lesbian” as itself a site for comparison. In claiming for female homoeroticism a central place in sexuality studies as an unmarked case, I argue that modernity itself can be read as the emergence of the sapphic—or what I call the logic of woman + woman—as an epistemic possibility.

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Facts & Figures

March 3, 2014

ACLA Rene Wellek Book Prize Winners, 2004-2014


ACLA Report

In 2013 the Wellek Prize, formerly awarded every two years to the best book in "literary theory," began to be awarded annually to the best book in the field of Comparative Literature. A list of winners and links to award citations for the last decade.

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Ideas of the Decade

March 20, 2015

Corporate Personhood


Purnima Bose and Laura E. Lyons

Corporate Personhood refers to the concept that a corporation, as a group of people, enjoys some of the same legal rights and privileges as individuals. While many scholars and critics of this doctrine point to its origins in the nineteenth century, others note that it dates back to the medieval period when the Catholic Church conducted property transactions in its own name.

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Ideas of the Decade

September 8, 2014

Next: New Orality


Charlotte Eubanks

Conceptions of “orality,” a big idea of the 1980s, held that the introduction of writing enforced global, fundamental cognitive changes to human society. That model has exhausted itself. What’s next?

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Practices

March 26, 2015

Comparative Literature and the Public Sphere


Doris Sommer

Interpreting art, appreciating its power to shape the world, can spur and support urgently needed change. This is not a deviation from humanistic attention to the mechanisms of art production and reception. It is a corollary and a homecoming to civic education. Acknowledging art’s work makes us cultural agents: those who make, comment, buy, sell, reflect, allocate, decorate, vote, don’t vote, or otherwise lead social, culturally constructed lives. Social change begins with incremental work to change hearts and mind, what the Enlightenment called taste or aesthetic judgment.

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Practices

June 15, 2015

Comparing Structures of Knowledge


Michael Swacha

If the titles of the two most recent State of the Discipline reports (Comparative Literature in the Age of Multiculturalism, 1994; Comparative Literature in the Age of Globalization, 2006) function as a signature of anything, it is certainly that the field of Comparative Literature has now come to encompass an exponentially wider breadth than was institutionally legible only a few decades ago. This radical expansion has opened up the possibilities of comparison dramatically, and yet, the push Comparative Literature has made to expand method at a scope resembling anything close to its expansion in content has been, at best, minimal. Comparative work is still largely practiced as a traditional mode of setting one text or author in relation to another, where variation is found along the lines of critical perspective, and such perspective is itself usually varied according to the contextual emphasis of the texts at hand. Yet Comparative Literature should be part of the larger project of the humanities: to study and wrestle with the experience of being human across the multiple contexts and scales of existence.

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Ideas of the Decade

March 3, 2014

The End of Languages?


Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

I think the emphasis on languages is getting less and less important as the corporatized university goes toward globalized uniformity. The coming together of comparative literary studies and the social science methodologies that we had hoped for a decade ago seems to have dissipated into various fundable directions, courting international civil society directions rather than research methods. Language learning has also become instrumental to human rights work. In this way, the focused discipline of comparative literature has undergone transformations that may not be always to the good.

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Ideas of the Decade

March 12, 2014

The Vernacular


S. Shankar

The work of critically engaging the vernacular, begun in a somewhat fragmentary way in the decade gone by, promises much if taken up more concertedly in the decade to come.

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Ideas of the Decade

January 14, 2014

Periodization


Adam Miyashiro

Critical examinations of how “periodization" shaped ideas of time and space through “antiquity” and “the Middle Ages" contextualizes the foundations of literary fields alongside the emergence of European nationalisms and empires. These studies have had broad implications for other fields, including postcolonial theory, transnational studies, and globalization studies, and shows us how a historical period, such as “medieval,” can signify anxieties about Western "secular modernity” in its relationship to South America, Asia, and Africa.

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Ideas of the Decade

April 8, 2014

Pandemic


Neville Hoad

The term “pandemic” shows the story of AIDS has always crossed borders: geopolitical, disciplinary, personal. From claims for an African origin, the positing of Canadian flight attendant Gaetan Dugas as patient zero in the North Atlantic epidemic to Kenyan truck drivers as agents of infection to the two decades long US ban on HIV positive immigrants inter alia, “pandemic” attempts to contain an impossibly proliferating disease and the persistently transnational stories that may be told about it.

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Practices

May 12, 2015

The Politics of the Archive in Semi-Peripheries


Adam F. Kola

Although the first world, as seen through the lens of academia, seems to be prospering, and the third world has found its own place in the postcolonial intellectual order, the post-cold war world of semi-peripheries in East and Central Europe has largely disappeared from the discourse of Comparative Literature. It sometimes appears as a convenient intellectual counterpoint or is included in postmodernist or postcolonial narratives; in both cases, however, it doesn’t convey regional specificity or allow local voices to speak. Both strategies – core and postcolonial – expropriate the semi-peripheral realm of second-world non-places. Second-world memory has been blurred and occluded within academic neocolonialism and the politics of the archive.

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Futures

March 5, 2015

RGP: Markus Reisenleitner, York University


Markus Reisenleitner

My presentation introduces two initiatives: diploma programs in Comparative and World Literature (implemented in 2014/15); and a re-thinking of course work that substitutes topic-oriented seminars with a much smaller number of skills-oriented mandatory courses while providing supervisors with the opportunity to regularly meet with their graduate students in a group-like setting (“privatissima”; not yet implemented).

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Paradigms

April 3, 2015

Queer Double Cross: Doing (It with) Comp Lit


Jarrod Hayes

The crossing of borders in both ways becomes a double-crossing in the sense of a treason in both the literal and figurative sense of the expression, of which the latter refers to bisexuality. So whereas the colloquial expression “comparatively queer” can mean queerer than some, but nonetheless not too queer, we proceeded as if there could be no such as thing as too queer. “Comparatively Queer” thus became for us a way of naming our project of queering comparative studies and making comparatist strategies central to queer studies. This particular example of going both ways was inseparable in our minds from converting (or shall I say inverting) the subject of comparison into its object. Paradoxically, this becoming-object double crosses his objectivity. Comparatively queer studies should queer the comparatist as well.

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Ideas of the Decade

March 3, 2014

Trans-


Jessica Berman

Over the past decade, Comparative Literature has become increasingly animated what I call “trans” critical perspectives. The rubric “trans” as I employ it has affinities with the kind of “trans-disciplinary” work that has always characterized Comparative Literature and that has motivated many of the prize winning books of the past several years. But it also draws from “transnational,” “trans-medial,” and “trans-gender” critical practice.

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Futures

March 5, 2015

RGP: Paul Saint-Amour, University of Pennsylvania


Paul Saint-Amour

Offered the chance to rethink an entire graduate program from the ground up, I started by informally canvassing graduate students and faculty in several departments and institutions (including my own) about what they found most dissatisfying in their programs.

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Futures

March 16, 2015

RGP: Hassan Melehy, University of North Carolina


Hassan Melehy

Eric Hayot’s invitation to design an entire PhD program from the ground up offered me a welcome opportunity, since one of the last things I did in the five years (2006-11) I spent as Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Romance Studies at UNC–Chapel Hill was to coordinate the restructuring of the our program. We have since implemented this proposal, and the students whom we’ve just accepted for fall 2015 will be the first to enroll in it.

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Facts & Figures

January 14, 2014

ACLA Conference Data, 1993-2014


ACLA Report on the Discipline

In the last decade the ACLA conference grew from 525 participants (in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 2004) to over 3,000 participants for the 2014 New York conference. A list of conference attendees from 1993 to 2014, with a chart.

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Futures

March 5, 2015

RGP: Eric Hayot, Penn State


Eric Hayot

I recently shared some statistics on the current state of the humanities job market with my colleagues.The number of tenure-track jobs in language and literature is down, this year, 50 percent from where it was in 2007. At the same time, humanities enrollments are declinining dramatically nationwide; maybe not in every program, and not always for the same reasons (English enrollments at Maryland are for instance down 40 percent in three years, probably as a result of a change in the General Education program). Nonetheless the situation certainly seems to have changed.

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Futures

March 5, 2015

Rethinking Graduate Programs


Eric Hayot

This year's ACL(x) conference, held at the University of South Carolina, included a panel on the future of graduate education in the languages and literatures. Its participants were asked as much as possible to reimagine graduate programs from the ground up -- to begin with no assumptions about what a PhD program might include (classes, for instance), and to from that starting point come up with some practical suggestions about ways things might be different.

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Facts & Figures

January 14, 2014

ACLA Harry Levin Book Prize Winners, 2004-2014


ACLA Report

In 2013 the Levin Prize, formerly awarded every two years to the best book in "literary history or criticism," began to be awarded to the best first book in the field of Comparative Literature. A list of winners and links to award citations for the last decade.

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Futures

March 5, 2015

RGP: Rachel Gabara, University of Georgia


Rachel Gabara

My B.A. and Ph.D. degrees as well as my first academic job were in Departments and Programs of Comparative Literature. I also received French Maîtrise and Diplôme d’études approfondies (D.E.A.) degrees in Comp Lit, so I claim a certain international experience of the discipline. After all of this training, however, I find myself in my second year serving as Graduate Coordinator for the Department of Romance Languages at the University of Georgia

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Futures

March 5, 2015

RGP: Eva-Lynn Jagoe, University of Toronto


Eva-Lynn Jagoe

The White Paper on the Future of the PhD in the Humanities (WP) looks at the increasing number of PhDs and the decreasing number of academic jobs, and argues that there is much to be gained in a society by having people pursue graduate work in the Humanities–i.e., the ability to think critically, to read across discourses, to nurture the senses, and to imagine alternative futures – but that we need to better equip students with skills that are not just honed for academic careers.

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