Edited By Jean Bessière and Gerald Gillespie
It is an honour and pleasure, as co-editor with Jean Bessière, to join my fellow past Presidents of ICLA and a distinguished panel in assessing the phenomena which today are gathered under the very broad label World Literature.
The position papers offered by speakers in the Presidential panel at Paris and by past Presidents of ICLA exhibit a considerable range of focalization and thematics. Some venture to theorize on a grander scale about the global level of comparative studies; some explain the internal situation of a large region and/or juxtapose the development of critical awareness in it and about it vis-à-vis other areas of the world; some take account of longer-range temporal and geographical flows in the transmission of cultural influences; some analyse the presence of the larger world in particular literary moments or in the creations of single authors. Behind all the presentations, whether implicitly or overtly, has been the question of why the notion of World Literature (WL) came back onto centre stage very recently and how it relates to our multifaceted discipline, Comparative Literature (CL).
In observing the spread of comparative literary studies over the past five decades, I have noticed tendencies which are typical not just of growth pains in the adoption of difficult bodies of practice and theory when they cross cultural boundaries, but also of generational breaks in the self-definition of our international collaborative discipline when, as a...
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