Intro to Comparative Literature
‘Tongues in Trees’: Scripts, Letters, Leaves
In this introduction to the discipline of comparative literature, we will compare figures of writing--marks, traces, signs of passage--in various examples of world literature and literary theory. Taking our cue from Shakespeare’s phrase, we will explore circuits of partial transfers and translation in various material practices of inscription, citation, dissemination, erasure and preservation. Resisting the premise of the priority of speech over writing, we will attend to multiple relations between ear and eye while also assessing certain received ideas about the differences between logosyllabic and alphabetic writing. How can comparative literary practice responsibly address the status of Chinese writing in Western thought? How does writing as a means of extending the reach of words in space and time both participate in and bear witness to histories of colonial and racialized violence?