46th International Philological Research Conference

Against Cultural Imperialism: World Literature, Comparative Literature, and «Generalism»

Лииза Стейнбю
Университет Турку

14:00 - 14:30

Ключевые слова, аннотация

World literature, comparative literature, Eurocentrism, hermeneutics, «generalism».


In contrast to what is commonly thought, modern, historical literary studies were not originally restricted to a national — even less, nationalist — perspective, but already in Herder and Goethe we find the idea of a world community of literatures. Nevertheless, in the course of the nineteenth century literary studies narrowed to the study of literature in national frames. This approach was contested only after WWII, when some seminal works, such as those of E. Auerbach and E. R. Curtius, established the unity of European literature. In the end-of-the-twentieth-century discussion concerning the globalisation of culture, the Eurocentrism of Comparative Literature was criticized and a study of world literature in the broad sense of the word called for. (An implicit Eurocentrism can also be discerned in the understanding of hermeneutics as the mediation of tradition (H.-G. Gadamer)). However, the approaches emphasizing globalisation, (post)colonialism, multiculturalism, marginalization etc. are themselves criticized for a cultural imperialism in the manner how theoretical concepts are imposed on the subject of study. The question how to face world literature as a whole is given different answers of which F. Moretti’s and D. Damrosch’ are here briefly discussed. At the end of the paper, an approach is proposed which stresses the necessity of developing theoretical concepts in close contact with the subject of study.
Auerbach, Erich 1967a: Mimesis. Dargestellte Wirklichkeit in der abendlndischen Literatur. Bern und Mnchen: Francke Verlag (1946).
Curtius, Ernst Robert 1973: Europische Literatur und lateinisches Mittelalter. Bern und Mnchen: Francke (1948).
Damrosch, David 2003: What Is World Literature? Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press.