Question 1. What do you understand by the term ‘comparative literature’? 20
Ans: Comparative Literature is referred to as the study of literary writings that cross the borders of traditions around the globe, historical periods, genres, forms, and subjects, as well as literature between other kinds of cultural interpretation. Furthermore, rather than referring exclusively to individual pieces of literature, Comparative Literature may be applied to a region or aspect of a group’s literature.
Researchers and academicians attempt to define the main features of literature while also placing it in the larger context of social development, history, and existentialist philosophy. Comparative literature analyses and compares literary works by different languages and ethnicities, as well as works by cultures and nations sharing the same language. Comparatists are professionals who are passionate about languages and have a broad understanding of literary theory, criticism, and traditions. They are also talented in the arts, history, culture, and religion, among other things. Complex, multilingual, and eclectic studies that combine national and international perspectives are included in comparative literature. Comparative literature has evolved through time from restricted, selective examinations of European masterpieces and works by former colonial powers to more eclectic, interdisciplinary study, shifting from a Eurocentric to a global perspective that includes minority literatures. Some Comparative Literature departments and study institutes at international universities, on the other hand, are more concerned with literary history and critical approaches, while others are more inspired by post-modern philosophy.
The word “comparative literature” may be traced back to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s idea of Weltliteratur (global literature) in 1827, as well as Mathew Arnold’s usage of the term in a private letter in 1848. “Different nations recognise each other and their various creations,” Goethe noted, and “in this sense [global world literature]… has existed for a long time” (cited in Birus 13). Birus highlights Goethe’s catholicity, which predicted the future emergence of a plethora of European and non-European literatures, including popular literature. This simply implies that the lines between literatures from other countries, as well as classical and popular literatures, should be blurred.
Nonetheless, today’s definition of Comparative Literature differs significantly from past global perspectives. Cultural studies prompt us to examine or redefine the phrase “comparative literature.” Comparative cultural studies have pushed the frontiers of comparative literature today. Of course, we have some opportunity to study or grasp comparative literary development, techniques, and approaches through the theoretical and practical/applied books mentioned above or other works; nevertheless, we cannot say that we comprehend its theory and practise or contributions.
In his theoretical work, Wellek uses Van Tieghem’s definition of comparative literature: “the goal of comparative literature is basically the study of various literatures in their connections with one another”. Scholars were able to access other cultures, languages, and literatures from beyond the borders as a result of such a concept. They began to study the forerunners, their masterpieces, and their impacts on each other’s in global literature as a result of the possibility of Comparative Literature. When we turn our attention to world literature, we recognise echoes of a masterpiece on our literature or a work of the other nations’ literatures as translations and imitations, sometimes by second-rate authors, or to the prehistory of a masterpiece, the migratory process.
By using comparative approaches, a researcher who compares literatures from other countries to local literature will notice similarities, differences, and developments in the languages, literatures, and cultures of two or more nations, as well as common themes in the literary texts of different nations. As a result, a comparatist will be able to learn about the impacts of books or writers on each other through Comparative Literature.
Amongst the most prevalent misconceptions in the theory and practise of Comparative Literature would be that the writers and works of literature of a nation may be analysed through the lens of comparative literature. It is permissible for any country to compare its own writers or literary works to those of other nations, but this is not comparative literature. This work is a developmental and historical examination of the works of a national or local literature; it is a comparative evolution of that nation’s literature. If we wish to produce a comparative literature or research, we must compare two or more literatures from distinct countries, languages, customs, or civilizations.
When we compare English writers or novelists to one other, for example, we learn about English literature; but, when we compare English literature to French, American, Russian, or Turkish literature, we are comparing literatures. Comparative literature or comparative cultural methods can be used to examine and contrast features, parallels, similarities, or developments of English and Turkish poets from the nineteenth century. In fact, one English poet can be compared to another English poet(s), but as previously said, such a study will focus on the historical, social, and political evolution, as well as comparable and dissimilar elements of English poetry. Comparing and contrasting an English poet or writer to a Turkish poet or writer, on the other hand, is a comparative literature research.
Without a doubt, studying a country’s own national writers will provide information about that country’s literature, but this will be a limited study of that area; however, if we want to learn about other people’s literature(s), we need literatures from two or more nationalities that are not limited by the boundaries of one national language. In addition, as Wellek points out, “we need both literary history and critique, as well as the broad viewpoint that only comparative literature can provide.” A comparative analysis of other literatures will provide us with a deep understanding of the literatures, languages, cultures, and identities of other nations, allowing us to compare the works of different literatures and recognise both our values and those of others.
We certainly need to break down borders when comparing literatures from various nations or languages; we have vast resources to compare literary genres and works across time and place, synchronically or diachronically. We must read, recognise, critique, and assess the literary works of various countries. We must grow, we must learn what others are doing, and we must compare ourselves to others. We must look at literature from all times, from classical to postmodern, as Matthew Arnold argues. During a comparative literature study, we identify similarities and differences across literatures, as well as assess and evaluate the position they take.
We should therefore try comparing the works of other eras with those of our own era and region, so that, even if we are proud of the enormous advancement of skills and manufacturing power that we have, we can sometimes learn empathy in considering the enhancement of emotion and way of thinking characterised in the works of earlier schools. That is our problem: to know how others stand so that we may know how we stand; and to know how we stand so that we can fix our faults and accomplish our deliverance.
On the other hand, in today’s globalised world, the relevance of linguistics for comparative literature is clear. It will be best to study original works in their native languages while comparing and contrasting poetry, epics, tales, stories, novels, or essays from various languages.
We already understand how challenging it is to accurately translate a poetry into another languages. If we don’t remember the previous text’s language, we’ll have to rely on a better translation; else, we’ll have to rely on the translated text, which will inevitably lead to errors in text comparisons. In this regard, knowing at least a second language is necessary for accurate findings in comparative/cultural, linguistic approaches to literatures, as well as learning the methodologies and techniques of literary assessment and review of other national literatures. After understanding what translation studies is in a theoretical sense, students can practise comparative literature on literary genres chosen from the literatures of other countries. When determining the writers and their literary works in their own literature and those of other countries or countries, comparatists must use caution. They must have a thorough understanding of the literary values of the countries being compared.