Asia and Future Directions of Comparative Literature
this lecture series, Masao Miyoshi, Haun Saussy, Christopher
Hill, and Christopher Bush tackle the problematics
concerning the roles East Asia and East Asian literatures might play
in the crucial changes of today's humanities, particularly as manifested
through the field of comparative literature. A brief schedule is as
Prospect of the Humanities (including Comparative Literature)"
Comparison's Sake: East Asian Literatures as Exception and as Rule"
Literature, World Systems, and the 'Specialist'"
Other of the Other: 'East Asia' as Comparative Literature"
talks take place at 4:30, with a reception to follow. For more information
on the speakers and the locations of each talk, please see
Lecture Series Speakers.
issues they will address are of critical importance, especially given
the history of humanistic disciplines. Although the field of comparative
literature was founded with the goal of including all literary traditions
of the world, soon national boundaries and cultural contiguity began
to assert themselves with great force of separation. Scholars of East
Asia often found themselves labeled specialists, with their area of
expertise finding little reception in mainstream Eurocentric comparative
literature. One may get a sense of the divide by way of the apparently
ludicrous label, “Chinese comparative literature,” which
has served as a descriptor for scholarly associations in China and even
in the United States, or by way of the logical inconsistencies of some
Japanologists in America who continue to make claims for a cultural
uniqueness that renders Japan entirely incomparable in anyway.
recently, the rise of world literature in the American university has
begun a process of restructuring the humanities, and has called into
focus the identity of the field of comparative literature and its relation
with non-European traditions. If Asia has often served as a foil for
Western thought, from the Jesuit idealization of Ming China as a kingdom
ruled by a Platonic philosopher-king, to post-modernist inventions of
the Sino-Japanese “ideograph” as an answer to European metaphysical
failings, it is especially important to ask now, at this juncture of
increasing globalization, how one should locate East Asia in an University
that has struggled to include non-European traditions with only modest
success. What are the persistent problems and rewards of such inclusion?
What role will East Asia, specifically East Asian literatures, play
in the future of comparative literature?
that these questions represent deeper issues not just of comparative
literature, but of the humanities in general, a number of scholars have
already begun to theorize on the place of East Asian literatures in
the university. One hastens to add that these scholars are not limited
to East Asian specialist. Even some thinkers without particular affiliation
or disciplinary interests in East Asia such as Frederic Jameson have
over the last decade recognized the importance of these questions. We
hope that you will join us to consider these vital issues that no one
can afford to neglect anymore.
lecture series was organized by Jonathan Abel and Kevin
Tsai under the auspices of the Society for Intercultural
Program Committee included Andrew Hui and Matthew
a small image of the poster for the lecture series.