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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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‘Doing’ comparativism: Some reflections on the works of two Indian comparatists

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← 62 | 63 → JUDHAJIT SARKAR

Dieses Paper setzt sich kritisch mit dem Werk der beiden indischen Komparatisten Manabendra Bandyopadhyay und Sisir Kumar Das auseinander. Beide Wissenschaftler haben entscheidend zur Gestaltung des Fachs Komparatistik in Indien beigetragen. Ihre Arbeiten haben einen unmittelbaren Bezug zur Praxis der literarischen Komparatistik, und zugleich sind beide aktiv in ihrem jeweiligen literarischen kulturellen Kontext engagiert. Letzteres ist, so lautet die These dieses Papers, das Markenzeichen der Komparatistik in ihrer spezifischen indischen Ausprägung. Zusammenfassend ist festzustellen, dass hier am Beispiel der Werke von Bandyopadhyay und Das die dynamische Entwicklung der indischen Komparatistik konzeptionell aufgezeigt/aufgezeichnet werden soll.

We spend far too much of our energy talking … about Comparative Literature and not enough of it comparing the literature.

— HARRY LEVIN, 1972

I begin with this (now overused) observation of Harry Levin1 for clarifying why the word doing is there in the title of this essay and also because, despite its regular appearance in discussions on Comparative Literature, it is yet to lose its relevance in the practice of this discipline. ‘Comparing to what purpose’ is the question that has triggered this essay and what follows is an attempt to show what has been gained by ‘comparison’ in the historical itinerary of Comparative Literature in India. I present here two specific cases, the works of two Indian comparatists – Manabendra Bandyopadhyay and Sisir Kumar Das – in order to imagine some possible ← 63 | 64 → answers to the frequently articulated question why ‘compare’ or more...

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