This book examines how a long line of imaginative writers, starting from Rabelais and continuing over Cervantes and Sterne down to such modernists as Proust, Mann, Joyce, and Barth, has reaffirmed the picture of an enduring Western civilization despite repeated crises and transformations. The humanist capacity to recapture a sense of European greatness as exhibited in Antiquity was paralleled by and continued in the guise of newer vernacular works, achievements regarded as vital forms of a shared cultural rebirth. This was amplified most notably in the tradition of the ironic encyclopedic novel which surveyed the state of successive phases of culture. The evolving heritage and revitalization of the arts constituted main subject matters in the series of major self-conscious epochal movements, the Enlightenment, Romanticism, and Modernism, which Postmodernism reflexively now struggles to supersede.
Chapter 7: North/South, East/West, and Other Intersections
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North/South, East/West, and Other Intersections
This chapter pays tribute to the late Milan Dimić, founding editor of the Canadian Review of Comparative Literature, who advocated (Dimić and Garstin) a polysystem or general systems approach in literary and cultural studies. In her essay “Marketing and Managing the Other”, the comparatist Dorothy Figueira has trenchantly pinpointed intellectual and institutional abuses in such studies in North America. We could elaborate comparable problems in other societies than that of the USA which affect the quality of our critical discourse as international comparatists. By the title “North/South, East/West, and Other Intersections”, I hope to suggest the grand dimensions of hemispheric and regional divisions and interactions, as well as the myriad other cultural encounters and milieux at all levels in our actual world past or present. It is that composite global realm I want to address as a cornucopia of subject matters, a treasury of worthy challenges for an international comparative literature, for a discipline that should, indeed must, include a serious sociology of literature among its interlocking subfields.
The actual complexity of what has existed and now exists in terms of cultural systems should, at the least, be kept in mind by us literary comparatists who are acutely conscious of being naturally limited in our scope. That polyform and polymorphous evolving worldwide “it” of variously interactive systems is the ideal background against which we make transcultural observations as best we can. For the...
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