Comparative Literature: Retrospect and Prospect - B.K.Das
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Discuss the various definitions of Comparative Literature
The simple way to define Comparative Literature is to say that it is a comparison between two literatures and does not have an independent status. It analyses the similarities and dissimilarities and parallels between two literatures. It further studies themes, modes, conventions and the use of folk tales and myths in two or more different literatures.
“Comparative Literature is the study of literature beyond the confines of one particular country, and the study of the relationships between literature on one hand and other areas of knowledge and belief, such as the arts, philosophy, history, the social sciences, the sciences, religion, etc. on the other. In brief it is the comparison of one literature with another or others, and the comparison of literature with other spheres of human expression.” Henry Remak, Comparative Literature: Method and Perspective (1961).
“Comparative literature juxtaposes literary texts from different languages and cultures. It connects, say, a poem with dance, a film with the novel, photography with the essay.” Sandra Bermann
“First, Comparative Literature means the knowledge of more than one national language and literature, and/or it means the knowledge and application of other disciplines in and for the study of literature and second, Comparative Literature has an ideology of inclusion of the Other, say, a marginal literature.” Steven Tötösy de Zepetnek, Comparative Literature: Theory, Method, Application (1998).
Comparative literature is an interdisciplinary field whose practitioners study literature across national borders, across time periods, across languages, across genres, across boundaries between literature and the other arts (music, painting, dance, film, etc.), across disciplines (literature and psychology, philosophy, science, history, architecture, sociology, politics, etc.). Defined most broadly, comparative literature is the study of "literature without borders."
Discuss the different senses in which Wellek and Warren used the term Comparative Literature.
Wellek and Warren have used the term comparative literature in three different senses.
The first sense is the interaction between oral literature and written literature of a particular culture or country. This interaction can be studied profitably by comparison. To Wellek and Warren, the term comparative literature may mean “the study of oral literature, especially of folk tale themes and their migration: of how and when they have entered ‘higher’, ‘artistic’ ‘literature’. Oral literature is an integral part of culture and literary scholarship and thus, should be read along with written literature.
The second sense is the study of relationships between two or more literatures. However, it is not always easy to distinguish one literature from another. The general notion is that a literature is usually known by the language in which it is written. In the post-colonial period we find that several literatures are written in the same language. For example, English literature, American literature, Canadian literature, Caribbean literature, Australian literature and Indian English literature are all written in English language.
The third sense is by identifying comparative literature with world literature. The concept of World literature comes from Goethe’s Weltliteratur, which means all literature should be studied and taken as one. The conception of World literature is utopian in nature. Some comparatists have advocated that all the literary masterpieces should be taken as one and read in comparison.
How does Wellek and Warren theorize literary influence?
Page 37 first paragraph.
How does literary influence work in the Indian context?
British Romantic Poetry has been hailed in India for its revolutionary, liberating character and sentimental appeal. Madhusudan Pati points out that Wordsworth rather than Byron became the major source of inspiration. Certain aspects of Romantic poetry were particularly stimulating and gratifying to the Indian poets. In the Indian context we can make a two-fold approach to Comparative Literature: one, the influence of European writers on our writers and vice versa, and second, the influence of Indian writers of one region on the other Indian writers of another region. In the first category we may include Eliot’s influence on our poets and Indian influences on Eliot, Whitman and so on. In the second category we may include Premchand’s, Bankim Chandra’s, Tagore’s influence on Fakir Mohan Senapati and so on.
What are the recent trends in Comparative Literature?
In the 20th century there is a rise in interest in the study of comparative literature all over the world – particularly in the countries where multilingual situation prevails. In Canada there is a remarkable growth of Comparative Literature which involves the two main literatures of the country – English and French. The Canadian Comparative Literature Association founded the journal called the Canadian Review of Comparative Literature that contributes richly to the growth of Comparative Literature. In Australia, leading comparatists like David Myers and a few others of Queensland University have done commendable job in the field of Comparative Literature. In India, leading comparatists like K.M. George, Amiya Dev, Sisir Kumar Das, K. Chellappan, R.S. Pathak, Chandra Mohan and a few others have done excellent work in the field of Comparative Literature.
Copyright © Manu Mangattu, Assistant Professor, Department of English, SGC Aruvithura
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