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??? COHPAnATIST EDITOR'S COLUMN: COMPARATIVE LITERATURE ON THE BORDERS For more than a century comparatists have, on the one hand, brought to Ught the porousness and contingency ofcultural boundaries whUe, on the other, they have revealed the Ungering impact ofthose very borders, even in cases of relatively free transit and interchange. But "border work" of this kind has never—it would seem—been so widely accepted and practiced in university research as at our present "multicultural" and "transnational " moment. Comparatists who once defied the departmental/discipUnary equivalents ofnational, cultural, or artistic-discursive boundaries , whether by analyzing the Baroque, Romanticism, or Symbolism as international movements; by observing the unfolding of lyric, dramatic, or narrative forms in several languages; by tracking the vicissitudes of Classical-Modern, Sino-Japanese, or Franco-German literary relations; or by studying interactions between Uterature and the arts or phüosophy, are clearly no longer isolated pioneers. In the US academy, at least, they have now been joined by scholars pursuing analogous kinds of research in English and American Studies and in all the language departments, not to mention history, anthropology, geography, or religious studies. As a telling but ambiguous sign of the current diffusion of the comparative spirit, it is worth recaUing how our field fared in the second edition of the Modern Language Association's Introduction to Scholarship in Modern Languages and Literatures, issued in 1992. Though the MLA's annual convention features five expUcitly comparative divisions as weU as two sessions run by the American Comparative Literature Association , and though one of the three units in this manual for graduate students focuses on "Cross-DiscipUnary and Cultural Studies," comparative Uterature merits no separate chapter under that highly relevant heading nor, indeed, any serious mention. Even an intriguingly named chapter on "border" studies turns out to cover what many comparatists would view as one example among many, the intersection of gender and color in the United States. Yet despite this surprising silence, many of the chapters—on second-language acquisition, on textual criticism, on canonicity and textuaUty, on Uterary theory, on feminist and gender studies, and on ethnic and "minority" studies—rely on insights and methods that are second nature for comparatists. Famihar topics for readers of this journal include the benefits of multiUnguaUsm, the need for interplay among methods and theories drawn from different cultural settings, the importance ofaUowing for cultural particularity and variability in framing generaUzations, the vital role ofalternate or submerged traditions in accounting for any culture, and the contributions ofthe Greek and Latin classics to Western inteUectual agenda. But only at times, as with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.'s zest for the impetus that African American Studies could give to a "comparative" study ofAmerican culture, do these impüed paraUels with comparative literature rise to the surface. Vol 23 (1999): 1 EDITOR'S COLUMN In this odd situation of barely visible ubiquity, one of this journal's missions must of course involve calUng attention to the continued relevance ofcomparatist traditions. Stül, though this issue of The Comparatist features essays that employ many ofthe practices Usted in my opening paragraph, they also move beyond them into new forms of border work. Thus emphasis faUs on four kinds of research that, in the United States, only attracted widespread notice in the last few decades—interregional comparisons on a global scale, Western hemisphere studies, postcolonial studies, and (most recent of aU) the rethinking of our cultural situation in the aftermath of the Cold War. Interregional work, traditionaUy represented by East-West studies which juxtaposed the Uteratures of East Asia with those of Western Europe and the United States, have undergone an important shift in emphasis with the contributions of Edward Said and Gayatri Spivak, to name only the most influential figures. I refer, ofcourse, to the renewed scrutiny ofArab-Western cultural relations heralded by the former's Orientalism (1978) and to the latter's turn toward postcolonial issues emphasizing India foUowing her pathbreaking work on Derrida. In the wake ofthese initiatives, the first two essays in this issue address Western connections with each of these two regions, connections which remain understudied and which, despite the fact that aU Western cultures use Arabic numerals and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-0887
Print ISSN
0195-7678
Pages
pp. 1-4
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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