Haun Saussy on the interplay between Modern Languages and Comparatism

From: Comparative Literature: The Next Ten Years


“We can confidently predict that ten years from now, comparative literature will be in a state of crisis. It is always in crisis. In 2004 I ventured that nothing has ever defined comparative literature so well as the search for its own definition, a search conducted between and against better-established fields. That continued sense of crisis, however, is one we make for ourselves. External conditions impose another shape on comparative literature’s sense of crisis.”

“Comparatists will have to stand up for themselves in the next ten years, first by championing the so-called national language departments without which comparative literature will not survive except as a label for general-education literature-in-translation courses; second by reminding the culture around us of the value there is in being able to synthesize complex and discrepant information that was never designed to be drawn together; and third by demonstrating new ways of making sense exactly where existing canons and methods fail us. That is how we can keep comparative literature’s specific difference open in an increasingly consolidated and shrinking humanities domain.”

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