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  • 1 Indiana University Ballantine Department of Comparative Literature Hall 605 Bloomington IN 47405 USA Hall 605 Bloomington IN 47405 USA
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Abstract  

The paper presents theses for discussion locating some common cultural denominators in view of the interest of the general practitioner of the discipline. Today, American scholars carve out from texts special angles pointing not inwards but outwards, toward other, prevalently non-aesthetic disciplines (political, ethnic, racial, gender-and-sex related, etc.) to illustrate their broadly 'cultural' commitments. Comparing integral literary works from different cultures, the crux of comparative literature, has become a rarity. Context is not brought in to elucidate the total import of the text, but, inversely, text is used to elucidate context, confirm theory, deductive rather than inductive. There has been a major shift from the vertical literary-cultural to the horizontal literary-non literary. In the United States the literary core of comparative literature has become secondary if not dropped altogether. On the pro side, truly interdisciplinary studies, especially in historiography, philosophy, anthropology, the hard sciences and technology, along with the consanguine inter-arts constellation, have enriched comparative literature scholarship. On the con side, the inter-disciplinary drive, with its pitfalls of amateurism, has pushed back the inter-national/inter-linguistic core of comparative literature which demands a slow-to-acquire, reasonably comprehensive knowledge of language, literature, and history of at least one non-English culture. Most interdisciplinary studies currently carried on in the United States are distressingly monolingual and monocultural. Of the two principal aims of interdisciplinary scholarship envisaged 40–50 years ago, the affinity-and-interaction-oriented goal of interdisciplinary studies in comparative literature has proved, if anything, too successful, but the co-equal goal of refining and redefining distinctions has been submerged in the tide of culture theory and criticism.

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