Cross-Culture:A New Change and Breakthrough of Comparative Literature

Cross-Culture:A New Change and Breakthrough of Comparative Literature

 

    At the end of this century,it seems that comparative literature is facing a new Ў°crisisЎ±again,which stands for,at the same time,a new change and breakthrough.ЄҐ
     We are already on the turning point for such a new option and important strategy.The history is challenging us and the opportunity is at hand.But how to meet this challenge and grasp the chance is necessarily the important task for the scholars in the field of comparative literature,both in China and even the whole world.ЄҐ
     In the early 50's,the study of comparative literature was in a serious Ў°crisisЎ±.It was,however,that crisis that caused the field to make a remarkable breakthrough,in which the Parallel Approach,the American School,was born.Since then this field has been on a new phase.ЄҐ
     In 1958,Rene Wellek pointed out at the conference of the International Comparative Literature Association held at Cathedral Hill that the discipline was in crisis with the sign that both the object and the methodology had not been defined...Comparative literature thus had almost become dead in terms of its methodology.And right now this field in China is in the similar situation.Meanwhile the discipline theory of the field outside China seems more and more indefinite,because of the outgrowth of the field.Some even think it is unnecessary to define its thoery.For example,a scholar says,Ў°comparative literature in one sense is dead.Ў±(Susan Bassnett:Comparative Literature-a Critical Introduction)Such situation and attitude have caused the new crisis.If we say the crisis as Wellek pointed out in 1958 was Ў°a dead waterЎ±,the crisis today could be Ў°a fogЎ±in which direction has been lost.ЄҐ
     Is comparative literature really dead? Is this discipline really out of date?In fact,the conference of the association held in every other four years is still flourishing.The field in China is on the right way with more standardized speciality.Such fact shows that this field has been far away from being dead.On the the contrary it proves its growing vitality.ЄҐ
     But why is it,theoretically,facing a crisis since it is with growing vitality?This is the question we must answer.ЄҐ
     Pan-culture:the Wrong Track for Comparative LiteratureЄҐ
    
     In recent years,the basic tendency of the field worldwide has been toward the Pan-culture direction.Oberviously during the 14th Conference at Edmonton in 1994,scholars noticed that the literary study would possibly be overwhelmed by the cultural study.As Ye Shuxian pointed out the general impression of that conference was the literary study had been drowned by the cultural study.Ў°The crisis of comparative literatureЎ±caused by the concept definition appeared again in a new form.(Ye:1995) It is with such background that certain scholars advocate that comparative literature should go toward comparative culture.Prof.Charles Bernheimer,president of American Comparative Literature Association put forward two proposals during the syposium on comparative literatue at the turn of the century that firstly,the Euro-centralism should be given up and the whole world be put into consideration.Secondly the study should be turned from literature into culture.These proposals have evoked a great controversy. Janathan Culler, Professor of Department Comparative Literature,Cornell University,said that comparative literature would face another identity crisis should it expanded into the global cultural study.Because if it was developed like this,it would evolve everything(see Charles Bernheimer ed.:1995).When a discipline could evolve everything it would be drowned dead in such an evolvement.Since every study could be a comparative literature,it could be nothing.In a sense,what Susan Bassnett's remark that comparative literature had been dead and the field as a discipline had been out of date is not an empty word.The Pan-cultural tendency of the comparative literature would cause the decline of the field.Therfore I think the Pan-culturalization is the wrong track.ЄҐ
     When I assume this,however,I don't mean to negate the cultural study.Comparative literature will be connected with the cultural study.But such a connection should deepen the comparative literature on the basis of cultural study,which should not replace the comparative literature.The way to deepen the study,in my opinion,could be the cross-cultural study,particularly East-West intercultural study,which would serve as a breakthrough turning the crisis into a new phase.It is possibly the significant strategical turning for international comparative literature.ЄҐ
     Cross-culture:the Strategical Turning for Comparative LiteratureЄҐ
     As I mention above that Culler was against the expansion as to change comparative literature into cultural study.But what he suggested was to make the field retreat to literature itself.He remarked that comparative literature,if negating the cultural study,would discover a new identity with litrature, as its central task.(see Charles Bernheimer ed.:1995)It should point out what Culler suggested was somewaht rational.Some Chinese scholars in this field hold the similar opinion.But I do think such attitude is not appropriate enough.When the great trend of cultural study is approaching,it is not possible to avoid it nor worth atopting.Therefore the field of comparative literature both inside and outside China has been in a dilemma whether to expand it into cultural study or retreat to literature itself.ЄҐ
     Are there only two opinions for us at the critical time?Of course not.Ў°Cross-cultural studyЎ±could be a broad road for us to push comparative literature worldwide onto an entirely new stage.Comparative literature on the basis of cross-culture would not cause the comparative culture to replace comparative literature nor make it retreat to literature-centered self-enclosure.We should combine comparative literature and comparative culture studies.Such a combination should be with the purpose for literature study while cultural study as its important media.In this way comparative literature could be deepened with the cultural study.If such purpose and media could be dealt with approapriately,cultural study could hardly overwhelm comparative literature.On the contrary it would push the latter into a new stage,the one to cross different cultures and the third Ў°wallЎ±between the East and West.Such a cross-culture study evolves at least two advantages,the first of which would be that comparative literature could be much more deep going,and secondly it would become much more charaterized with internationalization.This new stage is not only the one for comparative study in China but also the one beyond the French School and American School.It would be the one to blend both eastern and western cultures and literatures.ЄҐ
     Let us see why cross-cultural approach could deepen the study of comparative literature rather than overwhelming it? In the development of comparative literature,there have been a phenomenon of making a far-fetched comparison.In the beginning,this phenomenon was obvious in China.The reason lies in the fact that scholars at that time paid their attention only to literature itself rather than the culture background behind the literature.Mr Yuan Hehsiang,an overseas scholar,once critized someone who blindly borrowed the Western term Ў°baroqueЎ±to apply it to the Chinese poetics,which brought about certain shallow or even wrong conclusion.While in the main land of China there appeared quite a lot of papers as Ў°X and YЎ±pattern.The comparison based on the culture roots could to certain extent avoid such misunderstandings.For example when the Western tragedy is discussed to view the Chinese drama,people began to controvert whether tragedy existed in China or not.If such a controversy were only on tragedy itself without regarding the cultures,it would be more and more confusing.The fact shows that only by comparing the different cultural implications,values as well as trgedy consciousness could deepen the study of Chinese-Western concept of tragedy.In this way we could avoid such embarrassing problems as whether Li Bai,poet in Tang Dynasty,belongs to Ў°romanticЎ±and Bai Juyi to Ў°realisticЎ±or not.Therefore cross-cultural approach would bring about the result that the comparative literature could be deepened.We should,however,be alert that cultural study is but a method with a purpose for literature and should not replace the literature study.ЄҐ
     The second advantage of cross-culture approach could serve the scholars in this field to have real international perspective and to follow the different cultures with great interest.The confrontation,misreading of different cultures and the way for mutual understanding,exchanging co-existance would be paid much attention to.ЄҐ
     It has been known that the early stage of this field was Euro-centered and then Western-centered.The so-called comparative study was in fact the comparasion within the Western culture.As Ulrich Weisstein,renowned American scholar in this field pointed out in one of his books that it would hardly sound reasonable to discover the similar patterns between Western and Eastern poetry (Weisstein:1973).This is the typical Western-centered point of view.Such a narrow view limited the globalization of the field.As Wai-lim Yip pointed out in his Comparative Poetics that within the Euro-American sytems,as Weisstein says,was a mono-cultural system.ЄҐ
     But now at the turn of the century,and with rising of the East,the Western circle of comparative literature could no longer be blind.Another celebrated American scholar Earl Miner's Comparative Poetics has explained what Weisstein felt confused by comparison of Eatern and Western poetics.Armando Gnisci,Italian scholar,advocated a comparative literature as a non-colonial discipline that the West should introspect and coperate with other cultures in order to push the field forward.Bernheimer in his dicipline report pointed out that the Euro-centerd concept should be given up and the whole world be put into considerations.It can conclude that cross-cultural approach is not just the will of certain scholars but rather the requirement of the time.The major difference of this method lies in the fact that the cultural difference has been put on the forefront,which plays an important role in the field of comparative literature.The foundmental task right now for comparative literature is to cross or link up.If the first stage with the head of French School advocating the influence study has crossed the wall between countries,connecting the influenced relationships;the second stage with American school as the head advocating the parallel study has crossed the wall between West-East disciplines connecting the non-influenced literary relationships,the third stage with the forming Chinese school would cross the wall between different cultures and Civilization with its cross-cultural approach.It is identical with other international scholars like Bernheimer who advocate the global perspectives.It is in aggreement with the tendency of the development of comparative study while serves to push the field theory going on. People could be clear out of Ў°the fogЎ±.ЄҐ
     It can be expected that during the third stage,comparative literature instead of being dead will be into a broader field.The crisis is disapperaing and the turning point is drawing near.Such a new direction has been described by many scholars in this field both in and outside China,as non-colonial discipline advocated by Armando Gnisci and the effort to establish the New school by constructing the methodogy system for discipline theory.The comparative literature study is once more facing an impaortant turning worldwide.Let us get ready to meet such a briliant era!ЄҐЄ¤
    
     Є¤
     Rene WellekЎ°The Crisis of Comparative LiteratureЎ± in Essays in Comparative Literature ed.by Chang Lung-hsi,Peking University Press,1982Є¤
     Susan BassnettЎ°Comparative Literature-A Critical IntroductionЎ±Oxford and Cambridge, Blackwell publishers, 1993.Є¤See Charles Bernheimer ed.Comparative Literature in the Age of Multiculturalism,The Johns Hopkins University Press,1995Є¤
     Cao Shunqing Ў°Zhuangzi and Schopenhauer:Comparason of Tragic Sense of LifeЎ± in Chinese Comparative Literature,No.1 1996Є¤
     Ulrich Weisstein Comparative Literature and Literary Theory, Survey and Introduction Indiana University Press,1973Є¤
     Wai-lim Yip Comparative Poetics Taiwan Dongda Book Co.,1983Є¤Є¤Є¤
    
    
    

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