Literary Research Guide/T

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Comparative Literature

This section is highly selective and emphasizes those works likely to be of most value to researchers whose primary interest is literatures in English. For additional reference works in comparative literature, consult Thompson, Key Sources in Comparative and World Literature (S4850).

General Introductions[edit]

For an evaluative survey of introductions to comparative literature, see Ulrich Weisstein, “Assessing the Assessors: An Anatomy of Comparative Literature Handbooks,” Sensus Communis: Contemporary Trends in Comparative Literature / Panorama de la situation actuelle en littérature comparée, ed. János Riesz, Peter Boerner, and Bernhardt Scholz (Tübingen: Narr, 1986) 97–113.

T4990[edit]

Weisstein, Ulrich. Comparative Literature and Literary Theory. Trans. William Riggan. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1973. 339 pp. (Translation and partial revision of Einführung in die Vergleichende Literaturwissenschaft [Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1968], 256 pp.) PN874.W4 809.

———. Vergleichende Literaturwissenschaft: Erster Bericht, 1968–1977. Bern: Lang, 1981. 218 pp. Jahrbuch für Internationale Germanistik, Reihe C: Forschungsberichte 2. PN874.W4 430.5.

An introduction to the history and theory of comparative literature, with chapters on the definition of the discipline and its study of influence and imitation; reception and survival; epoch, period, generation, and movement; genre; thematology; and relations of literature to the other arts. Concluding the study are two appendixes (a history of comparative literature and an evaluation of the major bibliographies) and a selected bibliography (through June 1973). Indexed by persons and anonymous works. The supplement updates the chapters and selective bibliography and adds discussions of publications and projects of the Association Internationale de Littérature Comparée, new periodicals and Festschriften, and national images. The volumes remain a useful general introduction to the theory and methodology of comparative literature. Review: (German ed.) Richard Bjornson, Monatshefte 62.2 (1970): 186–88.

Covering much the same ground—but less authoritatively—are S. S. Prawer, Comparative Literary Studies: An Introduction (London: Duckworth, 1973; 180 pp.), and Susan Bassnett, Comparative Literature: A Critical Introduction (Oxford: Blackwell, 1993; 183 pp.).

See also[edit]

Barricelli and Gibaldi, Interrelations of Literature (U5955).

Guides to Scholarship and Criticism[edit]

Serial Bibliographies[edit]

Unfortunately there is no remotely adequate serial bibliography of comparative literature. Some studies by British and Irish scholars and foreigners at British universities are listed in “Bibliography of Comparative Literature in Britain and Ireland,” Comparative Criticism: An Annual Journal 1–20 (1979–98), a very selective list that never migrated to the Web as planned; and for a time the “Revue des revues” section of Canadian Review of Comparative Literature / Revue canadienne de littérature comparée (1–15 [1974–88]) printed abstracts of selected general comparative studies. The best current coverage—by no means adequate—is offered by ABELL (G340) and MLAIB (G335).

For an overview of the development of comparative literature and assessment of the current state of the discipline, see J. Michael Holquist, “Comparative Literature,” pp. 194–208 in Nicholls, Introduction to Scholarship in Modern Languages and Literatures (A25).

See also[edit]

ABELL (G340): Comparative Literature division in the volumes for 1923–60.

“Bibliography on the Relations of Literature and the Other Arts” (U5965).

MLAIB (G335): General VII: Literature, General and Comparative/Other General and Comparative section in the volumes for 1953–55; General II: Literature, General and Comparative/Other General and Comparative section in the volume for 1956; General III: Literature, General and Comparative/Comparative Literature section in the volumes for 1957–80; Professional Topics/Comparative Literature section in the volumes for 1981–99; and Comparative Literature division in later volumes. Researchers must also check the “Comparative Literature” heading in the subject index to post-1980 volumes and in the online thesaurus.

Other Bibliographies[edit]

T5000[edit]

Baldensperger, Fernand, and Werner P. Friederich. Bibliography of Comparative Literature. New York: Russell, 1960. 705 pp. (A reprint of the 1950 edition with a revision of the Scandinavian section by P. M. Mitchell.) Z6514.C7 B3 016.809.

A selective bibliography of publications and “significant” American dissertations through 1949 on comparative and world literature (principally of the western hemisphere). Although international in scope, Bibliography of Comparative Literature emphasizes scholarship from Western Europe and North America. The approximately 33,000 entries are organized in four extensively classified divisions:

  • general topics (with sections for comparative, world, and European literatures; literature and politics; literature and arts and sciences; intermediaries; comparisons, sources, and imitations; themes; collective motifs; and genres and forms)
  • Orient, classical antiquity, Judaism, early Christianity, and Mohammedanism (with sections for the Orient, classical antiquity, Greek literature, Latin literature, and Hebraism and Christianity)
  • aspects of Western culture (with sections for modern Christianity, various literary movements, and international literary relations)
  • the modern world (with sections for Celtic and Arthurian, Provençal, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and Belgian, French, English, Swiss, German, North and South American, Scandinavian, and East European literatures)

Most sections are extensively subdivided. Entries for books usually omit subtitles; those for articles, page numbers. Users must remember that (1) coverage varies considerably from section to section (e.g., the treatment of genres, literary theory, and Asian and East European literatures is especially weak; in many sections, selection seems arbitrary); (2) because the classification is heavily dependent on titles, works are frequently inappropriately classified; (3) influence studies are listed under the influencer; (4) effective use requires close familiarity with the classification system outlined on pp. v–x. The lack of any index or sufficient cross-references, the classification practices, and inconsistencies mean that users must exercise considerable ingenuity to track down studies (and will usually end up searching entry by entry through several sections). Although it lacks an adequate explanation of scope, limitations, and principles of organization and selection; omits many important works; and is frustrating to use because of its classification practices and lack of indexing, the work remains the most complete bibliography of comparative scholarship before 1950. (Scholars would thank the selfless person who compiles a subject index to this bibliography.) Reviews: B. Munteano, Revue de littérature comparée 26.2 (1952): 273–83; Sigmund Skard, JEGP: Journal of English and Germanic Philology 52.2 (1953): 229–42.

Although the supplement planned for 1955 was never published, the “Annual Bibliography, [1949–69],” YCGL: Yearbook of Comparative and General Literature 1–19 (1952–70), continued coverage through 1969. Until the bibliography for 1960 (10 [1961]), the organization followed Baldensperger and Friederich. Then, until the bibliography’s unfortunate demise, entries were organized in eight classified divisions: comparative, world, and general literature; translations, translators, correspondents, travelers, and other intermediaries; themes, motifs, and topoi; genres, types, forms, and techniques; epochs, currents, periods, and movements; Bible and classical antiquity and larger geographic and linguistic groups; individual countries; individual authors.

Some additional coverage is offered by Bibliographie générale de littérature comparée [1949–58] (Paris: Didier, 1950–59), with sections for bibliographies, theory, stylistics, genres, themes and types, general studies, intermediaries, movements and periods, and individual countries. (This work is essentially a cumulation of the bibliographies for 1949 through 1958 in Revue de littérature comparée.)

T5005[edit]

Dyserinck, Hugo, and Manfred S. Fischer, eds. Internationale Bibliographie zu Geschichte und Theorie der Komparatistik. Stuttgart: Hiersemann, 1985. 314 pp. Hiersemanns Bibliographische Handbücher 5. Z6514.C7 I6 [PN870.5.].

A bibliography of studies (from 1800 through autumn 1982) on the history, theory, and teaching of comparative literature. The entries are placed by publication date in one of two divisions: 1800–99 and 1900–82. In the first division, entries are organized alphabetically by author in three sections: general works on the theory of comparative literature; bibliographies and studies of special topics, terminology, and the relationship to other disciplines; and works on the history of comparative literature. The 1900–82 division is organized chronologically, with each year divided into the same three sections as in the 1800–99 division. Two indexes: proper names and subjects (with headings in German); scholars. The Bibliographie is confusing and inconsistent in organization and omits some important works but is still the most complete guide to scholarship on the history and theory of comparative literature. Reviews: Adrian Marino, Archiv für das Studium der neueren Sprachen und Literaturen 224.1 (1987): 124–28; Ulrich Weisstein, YCGL: Yearbook of Comparative and General Literature 34 (1985): 161–63.