A Companion to Comparative Literature
In “ The Crisis of Comparative Literature, ” the distinguished scholar of Comparative Literature Ren é Wellek wrote “ The most serious sign of the precarious state of our study is the fact that it has not been able to establish a distinct subject matter and a specifi c methodology ” (Wellek, 1963 : p. 282). That nearly over fi fty years later, the same can be said of the state of a discipline that has grown to over fi fty departmentsand programs worldwide (see http://www.swan.ac.uk/german/bcla/clusa.htm ) underscores not only the timeliness of this volume, but also the precarious and plural nature of the discipline itself, a discipline which defi nes itself as an inter – disciplinary, cross – cultural, and trans – national endeavor. Comparative Literature occupies a distinct and unique position in the humanities. Despite the small size of most departments and programs, the discipline typically plays a central role as a clearing – house of ideas nt simply for other literary departments on university campuses but across the humanities and humanistic social sciences. Indeed, with student interest in the traditional national literatures rapidly declining as evidenced by a shrinking number of majors, the fi eld of Comparative Literature is quickly emerging as the natural site aroundwhich to organize modern language and literary studies.
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