What Is Comparative Literature?
The course, open to all undergraduates, is for anyone serious about literature. After first asking what "literature" is and what cultural roles it may fulfil, the course continues by exploring what, then, may be the cultural, political, historical and institutional needs to which "comparative literature" responds. A short story by Jorge Luis Borges and an accompanying essay serve as an introduction to both sets of questions. We will then look at a few texts of the western tradition from Aristotle through the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, taken as standard for later ideas and practices of literature, eventually, too, at one or two that clearly acknowledge possibilities of quite different traditions for the role played by what may be called the "fictive imagination." A series of texts, two plays, two (possibly three) novels, some poems, some critical writings, will then show other traditions interacting transculturally with and/or against western ones. Students will be able to choose their readings among several.