Whither Comparative Literature?

Organizer: Victoria Kuttainen (James Cook U)

“National literature is now rather an unmeaning term; the epoch of world literature is at hand,” wrote Goethe in 1827. Almost two hundred years later, our literary imaginations and critical frameworks are still held captive by the nation.

Even as a transnational turn has directed literary studies in the last decade to focus on the transits of CanLit, the nation still holds sway. Yet, back in the 1990s, world literatures and comparative paradigms proliferated. They were both enabled and constrained by the embattled field of postcolonial studies, which increasingly formed a hostile position to literatures from invader- settler nations like Canada. Shortly thereafter, resource-scarcity affected literary studies more broadly. As Stephen Slemon observed in 2003:

Comparative Literature in Canada is the kid who wears glasses. He sits between grades and is accepted by neither of them…English Studies in Canada have arrived at a disciplinary moment of hulking self-interest, arrested development, and…violence, while Comparative Literature Studies cower self-protectively in profound institutional crisis.

This panel invites scholarly discussions of the current state of comparative literary studies in, or about, Canada. Focused comparative studies are welcome, as are theoretically informed considerations of the present state of the field.

Proposals of 300-500 words are welcome by November 1st. Please ensure abstracts conform to ACCUTE’s CFP proposal guidelines. (NO identifying marks for the author, an abstract of 100 words, a bio of 50 words, and a Proposal Submissions Information Sheet.)

Please send submissions to Victoria.Kuttainen@jcu.edu.au.