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Comparing the Literatures: Literary Studies in a Global Age

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Organizer: B. Venkat Mani

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The aim of this seminar is to spark a discussion on the significance of literary comparisons in and for the twenty-first century. With David Damrosch's Comparing the Literatures (2020) at its center, the aim of the seminar is to conduct multi-faceted investigations of Comparative Literature: as an academic discipline, an art, a mode of reading, and a way of institution building. The “poetics of comparison” that Damrosch details in his book include, but are not limited to languages, authors, scholars, translators, digital productions, collections, libraries, archives, and educational institutions. Instead of privileging binaries such as originals and translations, aesthetics and politics, formal and substantial, print and digital, North and South, Damrosch proposes multi-lingual, multi-medial, polycentric, and multi-perspectival examinations of the world and its literatures.

The matrix of comparison in the migrant and exilic scholars from the Global North and South who contributed to the making of the discipline, political issues at stake within and outside the academy, multiple methodologies and -isms that converged and diverged as the discipline developed, the significance of translation, the position of so-called "national" literatures and departments, as well as digital-native publications. The book is both retrospective, and prospective. Comparing the Literatures marks several turning points in the discipline and is a major milestone for our discussions of comparative world literatures in the third decade of the twenty-first century.

Seminar contributions may take any aspects of the book listed above (as well as those not listed here) to reflect on the book in relation to their research, teaching, or public humanities work in their own specific geo-linguistic, thematic, medial, or political contexts. In the spirit of the book, the seminar invites conversations on comparison as “intersections of perspectives that haven’t always been in conversation.”

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