The trend toward world literature and globalization in literary studies motivated Gayatri Spivak to make the ominous claim that Comparative Literature is dead. Her solution was to suggest that Comparative Literature join forces with Area Studies, and combine its techniques of "close reading" with a more focused and in-depth analysis of national literatures that only Area Studies can provide. Although this appears a welcome suggestion to give "new life" to Comparative Literature, there are obstacles in the way of this ideal. This essay discusses Spivak's idea with reference to Chinese aesthetics, namely, Haun Saussy and Stephen Owen, and an analysis of the late poems of Du Fu. The essay argues that the emphasis Chinese studies places on "distinctness," which is true of all Area Studies, hinders the possibility of a comparative reading. An analysis of Du Fu's late poems shows that there is a discrepancy in approaches between a Chinese and a Comparative approach that is irreconcilable. If Comparative Literature is to stay alive, it has to retain its theoretical freedom to "close reading" and forego the temptation to combine forces with Area Studies.


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pp. 211-228
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