In brief

Comparative literature is the study of literature and other cultural expressions across linguistic and cultural boundaries Usually it focuses on the analysis and comparison of works and authors using two different languages, but it can also study literatures written in the very same language, if this is shared by two national or cultural groups. It can also deal with the relation between literature and other artistic means of expression or, in a broader sense, with the relation between literature and other intellectual human activities. Comparatists should be fluent in a number of foreign languages, and be familiar with two or more literary traditions and literary theory.

This entry analyses the reasons why literary translation has traditionally been considered an activity (or a product) qualitatively inferior to literary writing and original texts; it considers the way in which Comparative Literature has questioned the legitimacy of studying texts in translation, especially when they belonged to European literary traditions and the way in which reluctance was overcome when Comparative Literature adopted a multiculturalist bias; it highlights the contributions made by Translation Studies to the study of literary translation, understood as a product and from a descriptive point of view; finally, it analyses contemporary reformulations of the concept of “world literature” and some scholarly arguments against it.

Origins: The academic discipline of Comparative Literature originated in the 19th century alongside other new fields such as Comparative Law or Comparative Philology. The aim of those disciplines was to find what was common to different legal systems, different languages or, in the case of Comparative Literature, different literatures. The origin of the term has been debated, but its first steps were taken, undoubtedly, in France. The first record of the term is to be found in the volume Cours de littérature comparée, which brought together several texts published in 1816 by Jean-François-Michel Noël, but it bore little resemblance to what Comparative Literature would become.The pioneers in the field were François Villemain, Philarète Chasles and Jean-Jacques Ampère. Comparative Literature was established as a field of study with the contributions of Charles-Augustin Saint-Beuve, who used the term in a conference in 1868, even though previously, in 1840, he had already talked about “compared literary history.” The first specialised journal on the topic was published in Cluj, Romania, in 1877, and was run by Hugo Meltzl. The title appeared in several languages, with the meaning “comparative literature journal”. In 1879 it became Acta Comparationis Litterarum Universarum.The term in English was made popular by Hutcheson Macaulay Possnett in a work published in 1886, precisely under the name Comparative Literature.

Other termsCA, Literatura comparada;ES, Literatura comparada; EU: ¿¿???;GL, Literatura comparada;

About this entry

Obra de Luis Pegenaute Rpdríguez (Universitat Pompeu Fabra)

Fecha de primera publicación: 2014.

Modo de citar: Pegenaute Rodríguez, Luis. 2014. Comparative Literature. Trad. de Ana Compañy Martínez (Universidad de Alicante) @ Enciclopedia Ibérica de la Traducción y la Interpretación. AIETI. Disponible en: http//….

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