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Access options available:. Jeanne J. Comparative Literature: A Critical Introduction. Oxford UK: Blackwell Publishers, At the Southern Comparative Literature conference, James Rolleston made a remark that cast some light on our field's recent history.
When Duke University decided to launch its version of comparative literature, Rolleston recalled, the academic climate ofthe early s made the adjective seem irrelevant. The result was the soon-to-be-famous "Ph.
For Bernheimer criticizes the field for being too literary, yet admires its urge to cross cultural, linguistic, and disciplinary borders, thereby reviving the force of"comparative. Whatever the value ofthis insight, Susan Bassnett's critical introduction to the field, written from a British perspective, proposes to go one step further—to abandon the term entirely.
Such a drastic step is needed, she contends, because "Comparative literature as a discipline has had its day" and we "should look upon translation studies as the principal discipline" But despite the new field's strengths, her proposal is not entirely persuasive. For one thing, to the extent that Bassnett stresses "the manipulative process of intercultural transfer and its ideological implications" , she makes "translation " serve much the same purpose that "comparison" does for Bernheimer.
To do herjustice, however, her term has useful semantic links with such key cross-cultural concepts as "transformative" and "transnational. Bassnett's case against comparative literature becomes more troubling when she somewhat skews its history. In particular, by sharply criticizing the simplistic binarism of Van Tieghem and the French school , but then rapidly passing over the accomplishments of the American school in the s and s, she makes the field seem narrower and less adventurous than it really was.
The spirit ofAmerican comVcH. Finally, even Bassnett's title betrays a certain confusion. For if comparatists really are "dinosaurs from a liberal-humanist prehistory" 5 , why the need to invoke the much-discussed and often criticized name ofour field? Clearly the term still exerts a certain magnetism; and given this continued attraction, it makes more sense to concede that inquiry into the significance ofcultural differences in literary study requires a cluster ofapproaches and associated labels.
These approaches all overlap to some degree without losing their separate identities, leaving room for both comparative literature and translation studies, as well as for related topics like multiculturalism, postcolonial studies, world literature, cultural theory, and multiethnic national literatures. These reservations aside, however, Bassnett's lively and wide-ranging book should prove useful in method and theory courses for both advanced undergraduate and early graduate students.
For until she makes her provocative case for translation studies in the final chapter, Bassnett herself follows the cluster approach recommended above. Thus she surveys several recent trends that enlarge or Project MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide. Forged from a partnership between a university press and a library, Project MUSE is a trusted part of the academic and scholarly community it serves.
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Comparative Literature: A Critical Introduction
You are currently using the site but have requested a page in the site. Would you like to change to the site? Susan Bassnett. Bassnett asks questions not only about the current state of comparative literature as a discipline, but also about its future.