A Companion to Comparative Literature
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More About This Title A Companion to Comparative Literature


A Companion to Comparative Literature presents a collection of more than thirty original essays from established and emerging scholars, which explore the history, current state, and future of comparative literature.

  • Features over thirty original essays from leading international contributors
  • Provides a critical assessment of the status of literary and cross-cultural inquiry
  • Addresses the history, current state, and future of comparative literature
  • Chapters address such topics as the relationship between translation and transnationalism, literary theory and emerging media, the future of national literatures in an era of globalization, gender and cultural formation across time, East-West cultural encounters, postcolonial and diaspora studies, and other experimental approaches to literature and culture


Ali Behdad is John Charles Hillis Professor of Comparative Literature and Chair of English Department at UCLA. He is the author of Belated Travelers: Orientalism in the Age of Colonial Dissolution (1995) and A Forgetful Nation: On Immigration and Cultural Identity in the United States (2005).

Dominic Thomas is Madeleine L. Letessier Professor of French and Francophone Studies and Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of California, Los Angeles. He has edited several volumes on cultural and political topics and is the author of Black France: Colonialism, Immigration and Transnationalism (2007) and Africa and France: Postcolonial Cultures, Migration and Racism (2013).


List of Contributors viii

Introduction 1
Ali Behdad and Dominic Thomas

Part I Roadmaps 13

1 A Discipline of Tolerance 15
Rey Chow

2 Why Compare? 28
David Ferris

3 Method and Congruity: The Odious Business of Comparative Literature 46
David Palumbo-Liu

4 Comparisons, World Literature, and the Common Denominator 60
Haun Saussy

5 Comparative Literature in America: Attempt at a Genealogy 65
Kenneth Surin

Part II Theoretical Directions 73

6 The Poiein of Secular Criticism 75
Stathis Gourgouris

7 Vanishing Horizons: Problems in the Comparison of China and the West 88
Eric Hayot

8 Art and Literature in the Liquid Modern Age: On Richard Wollheim, Zygmunt Bauman and Yves Michaud 108
Efraín Kristal

9 A Literary Object’s Contextual Life 120
Michael Lucey

10 The Theater of Comparative Literature 136
Sharon Marcus

Part III Disciplinary Intersections 155

11 What Pictures Tell Us about the Letter: Visual and Literary Practices in Latin America 157
Jorge Coronado

12 If There’s a Text in this Class, Where Did it Come From? Or, What Does Marilyn Monroe Have to do With The Sorrows of Young Man Werther? 176
Richard Maxwell and Toby Miller

13 Comparative Literature in the Age of Digital Humanities: On Possible Futures for a Discipline 193
Todd Presner

14 Comparing Pain: Theoretical Explorations of Suffering and Working Towards the Particular 208
Zoë Norridge

15 Comparativism, Transfers, Entangled History: Sociological Perspectives on Literature 225
Gisèle Sapiro

Part IV Linguistic Trajectories 237

16 Orphaned Language: Traumatic Crossings in Literature and History 239
Cathy Caruth

17 Contested Grammars: Comparative Literature, Translation, and the Challenge of Locality 254
Simon Gikandi

18 Comparative Literature and the Global Languagescape 273
Mary Louise Pratt

19 Persian Incursions: The Transnational Dynamics of Persian Literature 296
Nasrin Rahimieh

20 Rudimentariness as Home 312
Mireille Rosello

Part V Postcolonial Mobilities 333

21 Afro-European Studies: Emerging Fields and New Directions 335
Allison Van Deventer and Dominic Thomas

22 The Comparative and the Relational: Meditations on Racial Method 357
David Theo Goldberg

23 Kidnapped Narratives: Mobility without Autonomy and the Nation/Novel Analogy 369
Deborah Jenson

24 Counterpoint and Double Critique in Edward Said and Abdelkebir Khatibi: A Transcolonial Comparison 387
Françoise Lionnet

25 How French Studies Became Transnational; Or Postcolonialism as Comparatism 408
David Murphy

26 Towards a Planetary Reading of Postcolonial and American Imaginative Eco-Graphies 421
Sangeeta Ray

Part VI Global Connections 437

27 Terrestrial Humanism: Edward W. Said and the Politics of World Literature 439
Emily Apter

28 Logics and Contexts of Circulation 454
Brian T. Edwards

29 “Worlds in Collision:” The Languages and Locations of World Literature 473
Charles Forsdick

30 The Trouble with World Literature 490
Graham Huggan

Index 507