First World War Poetry Digital Archive

Why not 'Comparative Literature?'

It is interesting to note that the title of this tutorial deliberately avoids the much used, abused, and argued over term 'comparative literature' and adopts the much safer term 'comparing literature'. Although many students of literary theory will see this as a 'neglection of duty' it is a deliberate policy to avoid entering into the debate. However, if pushed, it is perhaps noticebale that the form the tutorial takes, at its most simplistic level, is similar to the 'American School', but at the same time at odds with it as the discussion of 'nationality' is central to the way the tutorial progresses. To remind readers of what is meant by the 'American School' I repeat the often used definition by Henry Remak in Stallknecht and Frenz (eds.) Comparative Literature: Method and Perspective (1961), p. 3:

Comparative Literature is the study of literature beyond the confines of one particular country, and the study of the relationships between literature on the one hand, and other areas of knowledge and belief, such as the arts...In brief, it is the comparison of one literature with another or others, and the comparison of literature with other spheres of human expression

We should also bear in mind the following definitions:

Comparative Literature
'The examination and analysis of the relationships and similarities of the literatures of different peoples and nations.'
Weltliteratur
'A term coined by Goethe which means...that literature which is of all nations and peoples, and which, by a reciprocal exchange of ideas, meiates between nations and helps to enrich the spirit of man.'

Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms

I will leave it to the individual reader to choose if they wish to pigeon-hole the activities of this tutorial under one title or another.