IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/
MyIDEAS: Login to save this article or follow this journal

What is Wrong with National Literature Departments?

  • Meltzer, Françoise
Registered author(s):

    This article asks what is wrong with national literature departments. Traditional literature departments, even with various politically conscious additions – women writers, authors of colour, postcolonial conditions, linguistic minorities, queer theory – assume by their very structure a romantic notion of the nation state, of borders and of linguistics as a major aspect of national identity and canonicity. The article considers the early German Romantics to see how they understood the twinning of nation and culture, and how this is baggage that Western universities still carry, even as they try to open themselves to other cultures. ‘Frühromantiker’ such as Friedrich Schlegel, A.W. Schlegel, Novalis and Fichte (along with Chateaubriand) idealize the Middle Ages as a time of great unity in Europe, and understand nationhood to have a divine aspect. Recently, the idea of the university and of national literature departments is being fundamentally rethought. Said, Bernheimer, Moebius, Reading, Foucault, Spivak, Bauman – to name just a few – have all worried about the place of literature in the light of globalisation, the dominance of Europe in literature departments, and the place of minority discourses. The article suggests that Comparative Literature may be the hope for the future in literary studies, because it is a field that by definition combines linguistic, cultural and political perspectives in its approach to texts. At the same time, however, comparative literature has traditionally been dominated by Eurocentrism, which has been the source of much criticism. Should the dominant languages of Europe be set aside to make room for the less known, less powerful ones? The article sees the European project of community as a source of hope, analogous to comparative literature, in facing both the challenge and cultural wealth of diversity.

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL: http://journals.cambridge.org/abstract_S1062798709000635
    File Function: link to article abstract page
    Download Restriction: no

    Article provided by Cambridge University Press in its journal European Review.

    Volume (Year): 17 (2009)
    Issue (Month): 01 (February)
    Pages: 161-175

    as
    in new window

    Handle: RePEc:cup:eurrev:v:17:y:2009:i:01:p:161-175_00
    Contact details of provider: Postal: Cambridge University Press, UPH, Shaftesbury Road, Cambridge CB2 8BS UK
    Web page: http://journals.cambridge.org/jid_ERW
    Email:

    No references listed on IDEAS
    You can help add them by filling out this form.

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cup:eurrev:v:17:y:2009:i:01:p:161-175_00. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Keith Waters)

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.