What Is Left of Comparative Literature and World Literature? Notes on International Literature, Its Concrete Universality and Enigmaticity

Jean Bessière


"can we bring to any large unification of literatures the same kind of understanding brought to bear on the acts and works of individuals - writers, readers - or limited writers’ or readers’ groups, or broader ensembles - nations and, eventually, regions? The answer to this question should paradoxically lead to a minimal characterization of literary works and consequently to an equally minimal approach to comparative literature and world literature, or to what is left of them. This article’s tentative minimal requalification of both disciplines will rest on cursive readings of the subtext of one canonical work of comparative literature, Erich Auerbach’s Mimesis, and of the book that provoked the return to the notion of world literature in North America, David Damrosch’s What Is World Literature?"

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