XLVI Международная филологическая научная конференция

The birth of comparative literature as a subversive discipline from the margins of Europe

Шарлотт Краусс
Университет Пуатье (Франция)

15:00 - 15:20

Ключевые слова, аннотация

History of Comparative Literature as a Discipline, Tension between Nationalism and Cosmopolitism, History of Literary Studies, French and German Examples.


The rise of comparative literature as a university discipline took place at the end of the 19th century. One may notice, though, that the first universities where comparative literature was taught were not located in European major capitals: apart from Aleksandr Veselovskij’s chair in Saint Petersburg, chair inaugurations were held in Napoli, Belgrade, Geneva, Zurich and Lyon; only in 1910 also in Paris. The first journal, Acta comparationis litterarum universarum (1877–1888), was edited by Hugo Meltzl von Lomitz in Kolozsvár (today Cluj-Napoca), in the Austro-Hungarian province. The project still amazes by the great variety in languages that were represented and by its decidedly cosmopolitan approach. To this geographical location on the margins, one may add that the actors of the nascent discipline were polyglot and had at least a double cultural background: Louis-Paul Betz, for example, in Zurich from 1896 on, came from an Alsatian family that had emigrated to the USA. The example of the Wilhelmine Germany shows that comparative literature may be seen as a nearly subversive discipline developing in opposition to national concepts of literary studies: Whereas German philology, called «Deutschkunde», received official aid on a massive scale, not a single chair of comparative literature existed in Germany until 1946 — but they existed nearby, in Switzerland. Through the example of some texts from the beginnings of comparative literature in France and in German-speaking countries, my paper aims to disclose the tension between cosmopolitism and nationalism that determines the discipline. This may show the large influence political contexts have on scientific questions, but also, that innovations often start from the margins.