Comparative Literature Review Essays

he title of the volume Companion to Comparative Literature, World Literatures and Comparative Cultural Studies brings forward a few conjectures – that it will deal with comparative literature, world literatures and comparative cultural studies within the same framework, that it has a particular stand on the debate on world literatures, emphasizing the plural form as it does, and that cultural studies within the framework would necessarily be comparative - and most of the essays do abide by them.Comparatists, particularly from certain parts of the world still feel that despite the path-breaking formulations of David Damrosch and others working in the area of world literature, the focus on world literature would be detrimental to the larger interests of comparative literature by shifting the focus from many other kinds of relational work in the field and also because there lingers in many cases the concept of two different world-orders and notions of and peripheries and their reiteration may reinstate hierarchies.

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Some of the other essays in the section take up traditional areas that comparative literature has engaged with for several decades now or since its very beginnings.

One such area is that of comparative literature and interart relations where Anke Finger advocates the study of the comparative history of the arts on a global scale, tracing dialogues and communications between the arts and calls for a redefinition of the area by including new technologies and multi-media and questioning boundaries between each.

Their focus in the area of comparative cultural studies is on new media and digital humanities to a large extent and in this context one has to mention Tötösy de Zepetnek’s laudable for free access to humanities scholarship through the more than a decade long sustenance of the open access online clc web journal.

The articles, particularly in the section on theory, to a large extent, validate the shift to comparative cultural studies and most of them are revised versions of articles from the clc web journal.

The reader for instance, gets to know what the Indian comparatists are not doing and not what they have been doing except in a few cases.

This is not a comment on the very important article by Anand Balwant Patil on comparative literature in India in the volume, important because of his statement on literary caste politics beginning with the personal, and proceeding to local as well as global place-making (307),but a general statement on gaps of communication that continue to exist even in the globalized interconnected era as far as the voice of the global south is concerned.

The models, he suggests, " would probably emerge from a subtle and self-conscious analysis that may deal with literature per se, certain textual features, or even the notion and nature of medium and communication" (96).

There is a great deal of caution that he incorporates in his proposal and suggests that a preliminary beginning would have to be cautiously "verified or disproved within larger contexts" (96) - an important statement for comparative projects in constructing models in general.

The point perhaps lies elsewhere, in the question of how an area of dialogue could be generated between work that is being carried out in the so-called global south and the so-called global north and then again, how a genuine core of interest could be created in the so-called global north regarding work in the field in the global south.

Even in this volume for instance, as a reader from the so-called south, there is the lingering sense of an absence despite the varied fare that is offered.


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