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Recherche littéraire/Literary Research

Fall 2019

by Marc Maufort (Volume editor)
Others 384 Pages
Open Access

Table Of Content

  • Couverture
  • Titre
  • Copyright
  • À propos du directeur de la publication
  • Zitierfähigkeit des eBooks
  • Table des matières
  • Editorial/Éditorial
  • Marc Maufort: The Polyphonic Voices of Comparative Literary Studies/Les voix polyphoniques des études littéraires comparées
  • Articles de recherche / Articles
  • Wiebke Denecke: What Does A Classic Do? Tapping the Powers of a Comparative Phenomenology of the Classic/al
  • Cyril Vettorato: Poésie diasporique, poésie totale ? Devenirs du paradigme avant-gardiste chez Ricardo Aleixo, Ronald Augusto et Nathaniel Mackey
  • César Domínguez: Genres as Gateways to the World for Minor Literature: The Case of Crime Fiction in Galicia
  • Essais critiques/Review Essays
  • Jessica Maufort: Multiple Convergences: Ecocriticism and Comparative Literary Studies
  • Daniel Acke: La ville moderne et ses mythes: Un essai de mise au point
  • Comptes Rendus/Book Reviews
  • François Lecercle: Eva Kushner, dir. La nouvelle culture (1480–1520). Tome II de la série « L’époque de la Renaissance (1400–1600) » de l’Histoire comparée des littératures de langues européennes. Amsterdam-Philadelphia: Benjamins, 2017. Pp. 544 +viii. ISBN: 9789027234674.
  • Sam McCracken: Anna Livia Frassetto. The Metamorphoses of Lucretia. Three Eighteenth-Century Reinterpretation of the Myth: Carlo Goldoni, Samuel Richardson and Gotthold Ephraim Lessing. Bern: Peter Lang, 2017. Pp. 247. ISBN: 9783034320580.
  • Franca Bellarsi: Larry H. Peer, ed. Transgressive Romanticism. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars, 2018. Pp. 207 + viii. ISBN: 9781527503618.
  • Gerald Gillespie: Michelle Witen. James Joyce and Absolute Music. London and New York: Bloomsbury, 2018. Pp. 299. ISBN: 9781350014220.
  • John B. Forster: Olga Soboleva and Angus Wrenn. From Orientalism to Cultural Capital: The Myth of Russia in British Literature of the 1920s. Oxford et al.: Peter Lang, 2017. Pp. 337 + xi. ISBN: 9781787073951.
  • Christophe Den Tandt: Simone Celine Marshall and Carole M. Cusack, eds. The Medieval Presence in the Modernist Aesthetic: Unattended Moments. Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2018. Pp. 194. ISBN: 9789004356108.
  • Sam McCracken: Walter Moser, Angela Ndalianis & Peter Krieger, eds. Neo-Baroques. From Latin America to the Hollywood Blockbuster. Leiden & Boston: Brill/Rodopi, 2017. Pp. 327 ISBN: 9789004324343.
  • Manfred Engel: Nathaniel Wallace. Scanning the Hypnoglyph: Sleep in Modernist and Postmodern Representation. Leiden and Boston: Brill/Rodopi, 2016. Pp. 343 + xxvi. ISBN: 9789004316188.
  • Jüri Talvet: Bernard Dieterle and Manfred Engel, eds. Theorizing the Dream / Savoirs et théories du rêve. Würzburg: Köningshausen & Neumann, 2018. Pp. 424. ISBN: 9783826064432.
  • Massimo Fusillo: Luigi Gussago. Picaresque Fiction Today. The Trickster in Contemporary Anglophone and Italian Literature. Leiden and Boston: Brill/Rodopi, 2016. Pp. 305. ISBN: 9789004311220.
  • Mateusz Chmurski: Helga Mitterbauer & Carrie Smith-Prei, eds. Crossing Central Europe. Continuities and Transformations, 1900 and 2000. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2017. Pp. 290. ISBN: 9781442649149.
  • Ursula Lindqvist: Thomas A. DuBois and Dan Ringgaard, eds. Nordic Literature: A Comparative History. Volume I: Spatial Nodes. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 2017. Pp. 747. ISBN: 9789027234681.
  • Danielle Perrot-Corpet: Claire Hennequet. Nation, démocratie et poésie en Amérique. L’identité poétique de la nation chez Walt Whitman, José Martí et Aimé Césaire. Paris : Presses de la Sorbonne Nouvelle, 2017. Pp. 257. ISBN : 9782878547085.
  • Mark Anderson: Ignacio M. Sánchez Prado, ed. Mexican Literature in Theory. New York: Bloomsbury, 2018. Pp. 305. ISBN: 9781501332517.
  • Jocelyn Martin: Harrod J. Suarez. The Work of Mothering. Globalization and the Filipino Diaspora. Urbana, Chicago and Springfield: University of Illinois Press, 2017. Pp. 209. ISBN: 9780252082962.
  • Hein Viljoen: Jeanne-Marie Jackson. South African Literature’s Russian Soul. Narrative Forms of Global Isolation. London: Bloomsbury, 2017 (2015). Pp. 236 + vii. ISBN: 9781350030305.
  • Marie Herbillon: Jenni Ramone, ed. The Bloomsbury Introduction to Postcolonial Writing: New Contexts, New Narratives, New Debates. London: Bloomsbury, 2018. Pp. 356. ISBN: 9781474240079.
  • Daria Tunca: Dominic Davies, Erica Lombard, and Benjamin Mountford, eds. Fighting Words: Fifteen Books That Shaped the Postcolonial World. Oxford: Peter Lang, 2017. Pp. 279. ISBN: 9781906165550.
  • S Satish Kumar: Gaurav Desai. Commerce with the Universe: Africa, India and the Afrasian Imagination. New York: Columbia University Press, 2013. Pp. 291. ISBN: 9780231364559.
  • Dorothy Figueira: E.V. Ramakrishnan. Indigenous Imaginaries; Literature, Region, Modernity. Hyderabad: Orient BlackSwan, 2017. Pp. 274. ISBN: 97893866689450.
  • Ipshita Chanda: Elizabeth Jackson. Muslim Indian Women Writing in English. Class Privilege, Gender Disadvantage, Minority Status. New York: Peter Lang, 2018. Pp. 170. ISBN: 9781433149955.
  • Frank Schulze-Engler: Janet Wilson and Chris Ringrose, eds. New Soundings in Postcolonial Writing: Critical and Creative Contours. Leiden and Boston: Brill/Rodopi, 2016. Pp. 296 + xxiv. ISBN: 9789004326415.
  • Isabelle Meuret: Daria Tunca and Janet Wilson, eds. Postcolonial Gateways and Walls: Under Construction. Cross/Cultures, 195. Leiden and Boston: Brill/Rodopi, 2017. Pp. 347. ISBN: 9789004337671.
  • Valérie-Anne Belleflamme: Salhia Ben-Messahel and Vanessa Castejon, eds. Colonial Extensions, Postcolonial Decentrings: Cultures and Discourses on the Edge. Brussels: Peter Lang, 2018. Pp. 236. ISBN: 9782807600539.
  • Delphine Munos: Jopi Nyman. Displacement, Memory, and Travel in Contemporary Migrant Writing. Leiden and Boston: Brill/Rodopi, 2017. Pp. 251. ISBN: 9789004342057.
  • Eugene L. Arva: Jay Rajiva. Postcolonial Parabola: Literature, Tactility, and the Ethics of Representing Trauma. London: Bloomsbury, 2017. Pp. 208. ISBN: 9781501325342.
  • Jenny Webb: Delia Ungureanu. From Paris to Tlön: Surrealism as World Literature. New York: Bloomsbury, 2018. Pp. 340. ISBN: 9781501333194.
  • Monica Spiridon: Mircea Martin, Christian Moraru and Andrei Terian, eds. Romanian Literature as World Literature. New York and London: Bloomsbury, 2018. Pp. 357. ISBN: 9781501327919.
  • Actes du congrès de l’AILC, Paris 2013 / Proceedings of the ICLA congress, Paris 2013
  • Thomas Buffet: Anne Tomiche, dir. Le Comparatisme comme approche critique / Comparative Literature as a Critical Approach. Tome 1: Affronter l’Ancien/ Facing the Past. Paris : Classiques Garnier, 2017. Pp. 584. ISBN: 9782406065227. Tome 6 : Littérature, science, savoirs et technologie/ Literature, Knowledge, Science and Technology. Paris : Classiques Garnier, 2017. Pp. 621. ISBN : 9782406065371.
  • Daniel-Henri Pageaux: Anne Tomiche, dir. Le Comparatisme comme approche critique / Comparative Literature as a Critical Approach. Tome 2 : Littérature, arts, sciences humaines et sociales / Literature, the Arts, and the Social Sciences. Paris: Classiques Garnier, 2017. Pp. 534. ISBN : 9782406065258. Tome 3: Objets, méthodes et pratiques comparatistes / Objects, Methods, Practices. Classiques Garnier, 2017. Pp. 453. ISBN: 9782406065289.
  • Lieven D’hulst: Anne Tomiche, dir. Le Comparatisme comme approche critique/Comparative Literature as a Critical Approach. Tome 4 : Traduction et Transferts/Translation and Transfers. Paris : Classiques Garnier, 2017. Pp. 625. ISBN : 9782406065319.
  • Marc Maufort: Anne Tomiche, dir. Le Comparatisme comme approche critique/Comparative Literature as a Critical Approach. Tome 5: Local et Mondial : circulations/Local and Global: Circulations. Pp. 561. Paris : Classiques Garnier, 2017. ISBN: 9782406065340.
  • Notes Biographiques/Notes on Contributors
  • Brève présentation de l’AILC/ICLA Mission Statement
  • Comités de recherche de l’AILC/ICLA Research Committees
  • AILC / ICLA

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The Polyphonic Voices of Comparative Literary Studies

The 2019 issue of Literary Research foregrounds the polyphonic diversity typifying the current configurations of comparative literary studies. Such an array of perspectives can immediately be perceived in the first section of this issue, comprised of three scholarly essays reflecting their authors’ cutting-edge research in progress. In the opening essay, “What Does a Classic Do? Tapping the Powers of Comparative Phenomenology of the Classic/al,” Wiebke Denecke embarks on what she calls a “comparative historical phenomenology of the classic/al and of classicisms” (54). She examines our current anxieties about the classic/al by drawing on examples from ancient Greek, Roman, Chinese, Korean and Japanese societies. She argues that the classic/al may encourage us to come to terms with the nationalisms, fundamentalisms, inequalities and traumas of our age (55). In his contribution, “Poésie diasporique, poésie totale? Devenirs du paradigme avant-gardiste chez Ricardo Aleixo, Ronald Augusto et Nathaniel Mackey,” Cyril Vettorato compares Black poets from Brazil and the United States. He subtly shows how their works make it possible to combine representations of Blackness with avant-garde aesthetics. In “Genres as Gateways to the World for Minor Literature: The Case of Crime Fiction in Galicia,” César Domínguez focuses on the work of Galician crime fiction author Domingo Villar, whose works can be regarded as instances of world literature. Domínguez carefully examines the thorny translation issues that characterize Villar’s crime fiction.

Polyphony also pervades the review essay section of this issue. The two contributions collected here deal with the complex articulations of the growing field of comparative ecocriticism. In “Multiple Convergences: Ecocriticism and Comparative Literary Studies,” Jessica Maufort traces how ecocriticism, which originated in American academic circles, has considerably diversified in recent years so as to include studies by postcolonial as well as European scholars respectively. In “La ville moderne et ses mythes: un essai de mise au point,” Daniel Acke focuses ←19 | 20→on literary depictions of the urban environment, privileging the “myth” of Paris.

The book review section, containing some thirty contributions, includes discussions of titles ranging from the Renaissance to the postmodern period and dealing with various regions of the American and European continents. This section showcases the work of ICLA research committees, as it provides accounts of two recent collections of essays sponsored by the ICLA Comparative History of Literatures in European Languages project: Eva Kushner’s La Nouvelle Culture, the second tome in L’époque de la Renaissance (1400–1600), and Thomas A. DuBois and Dan Ringgaard’s Nordic Literature: A Comparative History, Volume I: Spatial Nodes. The second volume in the series published by ICLA’s Research Committee on Dreams is also reviewed: Bernard Dieterle and Manfred Engel’s edited Theorizing the Dream/Savoirs et theories du rêve. Further, the titles examined in this section introduce us to Mexican, South African and Filipino material, subjects too infrequently tackled in Literary Research. A subsequent cluster of recent books in postcolonial studies is prefaced by a review of Jenni Ramone’s edited The Bloomsbury Introduction to Postcolonial Writing: New Contexts, New Narratives, New Debates. By way of conclusion, the book review section deals with two titles in world literature studies, in an echo of Domínguez’s scholarly essay: Delia Ungureanu’s From Paris to Tlön: Surrealism as World Literature, as well as Mircea Martin’s edited Romanian Literature as World Literature. In the summer of 2019, ICLA will hold its triennial congress in Macau. It is therefore fitting that this volume of Literary Research should conclude on several reviews devoted to the 6-volume proceedings of the successful 2013 ICLA congress in Paris.

As of 2019, Literary Research will be published by the Brussels branch of Peter Lang. In this regard, I wish to thank Dr. Laurence Pagacz, the publishing director, who greatly facilitated the transition of the journal into its new format. The completion of this issue would not have been possible without the help and encouragements of many colleagues. I am particularly grateful for the useful advice I received from Dorothy Figueira, the immediate past editor, and from the colleagues serving on our advisory board. I owe a debt of gratitude to my dedicated editorial assistants, Jessica Maufort and Samuel Pauwels. Finally, I wish to acknowledge the unflagging financial support of ICLA.

Marc Maufort

Brussels, June 2019

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What Does A Classic Do?
Tapping the Powers of a Comparative Phenomenology of the Classic/al

Wiebke Denecke

1. Variations on a Classical European Question

“What is a Classic?” This question sounds familiar. We might not remember right away what people have said about it, but it is a question that already implies answers. Not any particular one, but a clearly defined arena animated by forces engaged in Titan Wars of cosmic proportions: timeless authority versus historical coincidence or oblivion; the sanctioned canon versus the mere archive; universal relevance versus local parochialism; sanctioned school book text versus ephemeral entertainment tome and so forth. Unlike other big, unanswerable academic questions like “what is philosophy?,” the answer calls for revelations about personal tastes and values, confessions of our innermost cherished convictions. And readers would expect an author with gravitas, of a certain age and with a certain life experience, to take on this question. An authoritative author who can equal the authoritativeness of the subject matter. The question is archetypal and highly personal, calling for the autobiographical.

This is at least what three influential grapplings with the question that span the past one-and-a-half centuries have in common. All respondents were literary men of weight at the time, reaching out publicly on this important issue to their contemporaries. The French literary critic, scholar, and writer Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve was in his mid-forties when he published “Qu’est-ce qu’un classique?” in a newspaper column in October of 1850 and was a well-published poet and critic, who had just published his masterly study of the famed Cistercian abbey Port-Royal and its role in the intellectual and religious life of 17th century France. T. S. Eliot was in his mid-fifties and a magnet of literary life in London when in October of 1944 he delivered his presidential address to the Virgil Society on “What is a Classic?,” as German rockets were falling ←29 | 30→on London. And J. M. Coetzee was in his early fifties, a celebrated South African novelist, critic, and academic decorated with numerous prizes, when he presented his own “What is a Classic. A Lecture” in 1991 to an audience in the Austrian city of Graz.

Their various answers could not have been more different. One of the most notable points in Sainte-Beuve’s column is that he promotes the concept of a “classic” of European vernacular – rather than classical Greco-Roman – literatures. This is particularly remarkable given his cult of Latinity, his distaste of popular and contemporary literature and his non-democratic views (Prendergast). Taking his readers back to the locus classicus of “classicus” as a term for canonical writers, the Latin erudite raconteur Aulus Gellius (2nd cent. CE), he states: “a writer of value and distinction, classicus assiduusque scriptor, a writer who is of account, has valuable property, and is not mistaken in the proletarian crowd.” (Sainte-Beuve 39). The Latin root of the word is socio-economic, referring to the land-owning classes of Roman society; it is patrician and anti-proletarian. Gellius applies it to works of publicly acknowledged worth and reputation, literally pieces of cultural capital. Eliot dismisses the European vernaculars and elevates Virgil’s Aeneid to the one and only universal classic, a metaphor for the pinnacle of European cultural history. For him, no works in any of the European vernacular traditions deserve the predicate of “universal classic.” Coetzee, visibly uncomfortable with any assumption of inherent timeless worth, finds the classic in the process of social and academic consensus building, in the fact that it has “passed the scrutiny of hundreds of thousands of intelligences before me, by hundreds of thousands of fellow human beings.” He thus clears space for the critic, like himself, who becomes not the foe, but producer of the classic by “interrogating” it (Coetzee 16).

Throughout their meandering reflections on the topic all three engage, with some gravitas, in personal confessions of sorts. For Sainte-Beuve, the classic is also biographical capital, accrued over a life time, that unfolds its full powers in a process of ageing, maturation, and ultimate fulfillment:

Blessed are those who read and reread, those who can follow freely follow their inclinations in their reading! There comes a time in life when – all journeys completed, all experiences made – there is nothing more palpably joyful than to study and reexamine the things we know, to truly savor what we feel, as if we see the people we love again and again: pure delights of the heart, of that taste of maturity. It is then that the word ‘classic’ acquires its true meaning… (Sainte-Beuve 54)

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The classic becomes a tool to nurture the sublime maturity of the man of “good taste”; and a tonic against the vagaries of life, offering “a friendship which never deceives and could never fail us” (55). Eliot mentions Sainte-Beuve’s essay and says he doesn’t have it at hand – yet some of Eliot’s concepts seem to owe much to or at least resonate with the Frenchman’s. “Maturity,” both of the individual or a civilization and literature, is the backbone of Eliot’s vision. A language and literature need history behind them to deserve the appearance of the classic. What in Sainte-Beuve still resonates as a romantic éloge on the personal maturation with and through books, has by Eliot’s time become more of a desperate gasp of the waning 20th-century European Bildungsbürgertum.

Just how autobiographical and confessional Eliot’s lecture might actually be becomes clear in Coetzee’s merciless dissection of it. In contrast to Eliot’s lack of explicit engagement with Sainte-Beuve, much of Coetzee’s lecture is devoted to unveiling Eliot’s elevation of the Aeneid to the universal classic as an allegory of Eliot’s own life and his attempt to bolster his standing as an American who has made it in British letters and espouses a radically conservative political program of European unity (in 1944!), centered around the epitome of Europe’s Latin heritage and guarded by the Catholic Church. An attempt to be the prophet of this vision and remake his identity “in which a new and hitherto unsuspected paternity is asserted – a line of descent less from the Eliots of New England and/ or Somerset than from Virgil and Dante, or at least a line in which the Eliots are an eccentric offshoot of the great Virgil-Dante line” (Coetzee 6). In a “transcendental-poetic” reading Coetzee sees Eliot inserting himself into a venerable lineage, thereby appropriating the weight of the classic himself. In a “sociocultural” reading he sees Eliot’s essay as the “magical enterprise of a man trying to redefine the world around himself – America, Europe – rather than confronting the reality of his not-so-grand position as a man whose narrowly academic, Eurocentric education had prepared him for little else but life as a mandarin in one of the New England ivory towers” (7).

If the autobiographical and confessional are made visible in Eliot’s essay as a deeper allegorical structure, Coetzee makes an explicit personal memory into the capstone for theorizing his own idea of the classic. The date is summer of 1955, the place his Afrikaans family garden in the suburbs of Cape Town, the revelation are melodies from Johann Sebastian Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier drifting by. This was “the first time I was undergoing the impact of the classic” (9). His own rather ←31 | 32→self-referential answer to the question of what a classic is – defined by generations of critics and academic professionals – emerges from his uncertainty about the nature of his fateful encounter with Bach: was it truly an impersonal aesthetic experience, “connecting” with Bach across the ages? Or motivated by ulterior motives, by his status as a postcolonial South African subject, a “symbolic election on my part of European high culture as a way out of a social and historical dead end” (15)? The belief in the tested classic allows Coetzee to move away from (colonial) universalist claims and closer to an institutional definition of the classic. It downplays the aesthetic charisma of the object and elevates those of us who are creating this charisma: the critics, commentators, scholars.

Coetzee’s analysis undoes the self-promoting halo of Eliot’s lecture – which, curiously, still maintains the status of a classic on the classic question despite its ensconced brand of Roman catholic imperialism that today is even more foreign to us than it already was in the middle of the 20th century. What is more, Coetzee’s essay carries the seed of undoing the question and the genre of “what is a classic?” as a whole. It becomes a potentially rotten, embarrassing question and he senses it: “Is being spoken to across the ages a notion that we can entertain today only in bad faith?” (13)

Indeed, in what form can and should the classic question still exist today? The question “What is a classic?” is in some ways a remnant of 19th century European intellectual life. In the 20th and 21st centuries, with the waning of the naturalized, a priori status of Greco-Roman classical literature and humanistic education in Western societies, the question has morphed into: “why read the classics?” In times of the global humanities crisis which hits historical research and scholars of the premodern world hardest, the value of classical literature and Classics has become debatable, rather than assumed. This is both liberating and devastating. It is a new global condition des sciences humaines that has inspired passionate defenses. They range from the convincingly tautological and nihilistic, in the face of the question’s weight as with Italo Calvino in “Why read the Classics:” “I should really rewrite it a third time, so that people do not believe that the classics must be read because they serve some purpose. The only reason that can be adduced in their favour is that reading the classics is always better than not reading them” (Calvino 9); all the way to the rousingly civic, as in Pierre Judet de La Combe’s L’avenir des anciens. Oser lire les grecs et les latins [The Future of the Ancients. Daring to Read the Greeks and Romans], where he solemnly invokes a “Right to Read” ←32 | 33→and a “Right to History” (Judet de La Combe). The classic has become a world-wide challenge and the new why question is recognized as a new global genre beyond the 19th century European roots and limitations of the earlier what question. The what question arose in Europe increasingly during the nineteenth century when the previously only Greco-Roman definition of the “classic” was opened to works in European vernaculars and formal education in vernacular languages and literatures rather than just Greek and Latin came to be instituted in the newly developing general education systems. The why question, along with European concepts of what a “classic” is and why nations need them, has spread around the world. As with Naze koten o benkyōsuru no ka [Why study the Classics?], published in 2018 by the Japanese literary historian Maeda Masayuki, it is inspiring scholars around the world to take stock of their own literary heritage, in the climate of a pretty much global humanities crisis.

2. The “Comparable Classic” and the Classic Question for a New Age: What Does a Classic Do?

It is Italo Calvino’s answer to the why question that opens our eyes to a hitherto disregarded dimension of the classic question, namely the question of a “comparative” or “comparable classic.” Calvino first refreshes some of the previous answers to the what question: that classics are works to be reread (with special pleasure in maturity), that they are part of collective memory and the social subconscious. He also evokes the magic power of the classic, its mystic unity with the universe: “A classic is the term given to any book which comes to represent the whole universe, a book on a par with ancient talismans. A definition such as this brings us close to the idea of the total book, of the kind dreamt of by Mallarmé” (Calvino 6 f.). Or, inversely, its mysterious power to attract us, even if we resist it or dispute the author and his work. The evocation of the classic’s numinous powers, paired with the nihilism regarding the why question, already makes for a potent mixture. But the real punch-line appears in his sudden confession towards the end of the essay:

I notice that Leopardi is the only name from Italian literature that I have cited. This is the effect of the disintegration of the library. Now I ought to rewrite the whole article making it quite clear that the classics help us understand who we are and the point we have reached, and that consequently Italian classics are indispensable to us Italians in order to compare them with foreign ←33 | 34→classics, and foreign classics are equally indispensable so that we can measure them against Italian classics. (9)

Details

Pages
384
ISBN (PDF)
9782807612808
ISBN (ePUB)
9782807612815
ISBN (MOBI)
9782807612822
Open Access
CC-BY-NC-ND
Language
English
Publication date
2020 (March)
Published
Bruxelles, Berlin, Bern, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2019. 384 pp.

Biographical notes

Marc Maufort (Volume editor)

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Title: Recherche littéraire/Literary Research