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Across Literary and Linguistic Diversities

Essays on Comparative Literature

Edited By Goethe Society of India, Madhu Sahni and Mazumdar Shaswati

Comparative literary studies face new challenges today in a world marked by the migration of people, languages, ideas and texts across diverse and increasingly porous borders. The field is restricted by conventional notions of comparativism born in the era of nationalism and colonialism. However, scholars are now provoked to rethink these notions as a result of the social, economic and political forces that drive the contemporary world, which simultaneously draw it into an ever tighter global network and create new, or reassert persisting, lines of division.
What are the conceptual and methodological questions that must engage our attention if comparativism, as recent debates suggest, has to revive its critical potential and chart afresh the future of literary studies? The essays in this volume attempt to rethink comparison in this context through theoretical reflections and concrete comparative analyses. They investigate similarities and differences, connections and references, across diverse literary and linguistic cultures in Indian, German and other European literatures.
This volume is the 2014 Yearbook of the Goethe Society of India.
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‚Weltliteratur‘ heute. Begriffswandel im Zeichen neuer Kommunikationsmöglichkeiten


← 10 | 11 → ROMIT ROY

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe gave to the concept of World Literature its distinctive meaning. And yet, Goethe himself kept on rethinking and revising the nuances of this concept late in life. These revisions – some subtle, some fundamental – reflect the tremendous upheavals taking place in the first half of the nineteenth century with the expansion of European colonial powers, rapid growth of the capitalist economies of Europe, industrialization and urbanization, and the advent of new technologies of transport and communication based on the steam engine and electricity. A brief comparative study of representative paintings by two English painters, Joseph Mallard Turner and John Constable, bring to light the fact that Goethe’s vacillations with regard to how he regarded the world – and World Literature – were not the unique idiosyncrasies of an individual leading an apparently isolated life in a small provincial town. Meanwhile, a curious misinterpretation of the word ‘divan’ as in Goethe’s West-östlicher Divan by the French poet Gautier connects us today immediately and in a strangely coincidental way to Goethe and his own set of dilemmas: Internet users today seem to be both caricatures as well as reincarnations of the cosmopolitan spirit of the Weimar genius – and as such they seem to be on the verge of transforming once again and radically the concept of World Literature. This essay is a present-day response to an earlier essay of 1995 by Hendrik Birus entitled ‘Goethes Idee der Weltliteratur. Eine historische Vergegenwärtigung’. Walter Benjamin’s...

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