Origins and Definitions of Literature

Definitions: -Guyard: “Comparative literature is the history of international relations. -Aldridge, A. Owen. Comparative Literature: Matter and Method. : “… comparative literature… provides a method of broadening one’s perspective in the approach to single works of literature – a way of looking beyond the narrow boundaries of national frontiers in order to discern trends and movements in various national cultures and to see the relations between literature and other spheres of human activity… “ -Remak, Henry. Comparative Literature: Method and Perspective. Comparative literature is the study of literature beyond the confines of one particular country and the study of the relationships between literature on one hand and other areas of knowledge and belief, such as the (fine ) arts, philosophy, history, the social sciences, religion, etc. on the other. … it is the comparison of one literature with another or others, and the comparison of literature with other spheres of human expression. Within these definitions, 5 approaches to literature impose themselves: the study of : themes; myths, genres and forms, movements and eras, interrelations of literature with other arts and discipline, the involvement of literature as illustrative of evolving literary theory and criticism. The ideal situation of comparative literature is when it can use all the above 5 approaches, in order to achieve a meaningful comparison. Myths- a traditional or legendary story, has 3 functions: it tells a story, it explains, and it reveals. Very interesting is the fact that for eg. he fables of the Greek mythology can be given an exclusive abstract sense: in the 20th century Prometheus represents exclusively the figure of revolt. Literary myth- is born from literature: myth can be historically dated and attributed to a given author. For instance, the birth of Don Juan can be estimated around 1619. But once consecrated, Don Juan gained its autonomy and became independent from its first creator. This move gave to the myth the characteristic of a funding myth. History can also be a creator of myths, Julius Caesar is a good instance of that.

The comparatist’s task, when it encompasses several myths, is to identify the funding story by identifying all the specific constants of the myth used. Theme(temat, przedmiot)- means: what is given e. g. a question, or a figure to enable the reader to easily identify the problem. The study of network of themes is called “thematology” or “science of themes”. Kinds of themes: – Personal themes: those are characteristic of an author, and are issued out of his/her experience. Expressed in images, symbols, poetic figures. Determined historical themes: They are linked to the ideology and the mentality of a given period. These themes are met at the limit of the history of ideas and of the history of mentalities. – Archetypal themes: Freud, Jung, and Durand discovered the role of archetypal in our conscious. According to them, images are only material to put together literary works. Bachelard speaks of “dynamogene” images, which are transformed from one culture to another, and the task of the comparatist is to look for the paths of these transformations.

In Romantic period the writers and the readers become conscious of this psychological area as a source of inspiration and authenticity. Thanks to this evolution we have now 2 basic classifications of periods: 1. From Ancient Time to Enlightenment Ancient Greece ignored the individual as we understand the term today, indeed, the Ancient society used slavery to develop its economy, and the free citizens themselves were below the importance of the city.. However this is true that Greek society and later Roman society did sow the seeds of our contemporary vision of man. The philosopher Plato in order to develop his theory of knowledge had to situate and define the individual soul. It was a problem because he needed to claim that everyone is responsible for himself. This philosopher’s solitude is comforted by the idea of individual responsibility: each man will be judged according to his acts. – With Aeschylus, the tragedy was going to the same direction bringing to the surface the personae’ s responsibility. – This link between responsibility and knowledge of oneself was common in the Christian Western civilization.

Augustine’ s Confessions is the fundamental work for the Christian Western civilization. Indeed, this work generated a new anthropology: ? one does not give himself up to an omniscient(wszechwiedzacy) Providential(opatrznosciowy)-God, but rather tries to find his self as a pure being in this confession. ?This glance (spojrzenie) from outside to inside will enable the soul to acquire knowledge. – With the Renaissance, the anthropological reflection change radically. This movement has been richly supported by the Italian Renaissance. each individual endowed(obdarzony) with reason can judge his/ her behavior, and can lucidly(klarownie, przejrzyscie) observes the world. ?the glance given onto the world slowly shifts from a critical and self-blaming glance to a curious and careful one positively reevaluating one’s view of one’s self. ?This change can be observed in the evolution of fiction: fictive autobiographies start to appear. Consequently, at the end of the 18th century the self is no longer to be hated, but rather its emergence and development become the sole motive of interest within a civilization

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