Lecture: Units of Comparison

‘Units of Comparison: The Paths of Comparative Literature and the Rise of “World Literature”‘

Thursday 11 FebruaryRoom 243 of Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1

You are warmly invited to join the IMLR Working Group on the Reception of German/Austrian/Swiss Literature for a lecture by Professor Galin Tihanov entitled:

‘Units of Comparison: The Paths of Comparative Literature and the Rise of “World Literature”‘.

We meet for sherry at 5:30 pm, with the lecture beginning at 6 o’clock and concluding at 7:30 pm after questions and discussion.

Précis and speaker profile:

In this paper I offer an examination of the changing prisms of comparative literature since the eighteenth century. The starting point of my analysis is the notion of methodological nationalism; I demonstrate, however, that the discourse of comparative literature begins with attention to formations larger than national literatures. In the second part I dwell in more detail on developments in the twentieth century that have, equally, tended to emphasize supranational categories. It is in this context that I finally address the question of the rise of ‘world literature’ as a response to the unresolved issue of the underlying unit of comparison. By describing successive units of comparison, one can commence the process of conceptualizing the history and current predicaments of comparative literature as a discipline.

 Galin Tihanov is the George Steiner Professor of Comparative Literature at Queen Mary University of London. His most recent research has been on cosmopolitanism, exile, and transnationalism. His publications include four books and nine (co)edited volumes. Tihanov is winner, with Evgeny Dobrenko, of the Efim Etkind Prize for Best Book on Russian Culture (2012), awarded for their co-edited A History of Russian Literary Theory and Criticism: The Soviet Age and Beyond (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011). He is member of Academia Europaea and Honorary President of the ICLA Committee on Literary Theory. He is also on the Advisory Board of the Institute for World Literature (Harvard University) and has recently been appointed honorary scientific advisor to the Institute of Foreign Literatures, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Tihanov has held visiting appointments at Yale University, St. Gallen University, University of Sao Paulo, Peking University, and Seoul National University.