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Academic Network for the Reflection of Comparative Practices


Concepts like plurality, difference and fragmentation are often employed to describe how individuals experience modern society. Likewise, the simultaneity of divergence and convergence in globalized European societies are a currently debated issue. It is exactly this tension between the foreign and the familiar, the different and the similar that characterises Comparative Literature as it works between national, medial and academic cultures. Its fundamental methodological problems therefore include a social and ethical dimension that the network studies: Not only the issues of comparison and comparability, but also those of translation and multilingualism as well as of globalization and world literature – to name only a few key concepts of comparative studies – imply a constitutive reference to the other.

Despite this obvious correspondence, interfaces between Comparative Literature and society are underdeveloped, as the absence of Comparative Literature as a subject in educational curricula shows (Eggers/Hammann 2018). The network seeks to fill this gap by conceptualizing Comparative Literature from the perspective of practice theory. It thus takes up the dynamics of the recent “praxeological turn” in the philosophy of science and conceives Comparative Literature as a “nexus” of practices that extend into society in many ways, since social life relies on the comparative negotiation of differences. Its main question therefore is: how much “knowledge of conviviality” (“ZusammenLebenWissen”, Ette 2010) do comparative practices imply? Does the “comparative way of thinking” (Saussy 2006) foster symmetrical communication situations and a reciprocal estimation of foreign cultures?

The network analyses the relationship between method and ethos by reflecting on the issues of comparison, translation and world literature. The aim is to determine the current self-determination of the subject (in relation to the present and society) in the German-speaking world, but also to connect literary and cultural scholars working in comparative literature. For comparative literature is an "undisciplined" discipline – or rather a practice that is used in different sciences and lives from interdisciplinary dialogue.

Organisation: Joachim Harst (Köln), Alena Heinritz (Innsbruck), Melanie Rohner (Bern)


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