Zero Plus One
This book is a proposal for a new globalized, non-Eurocentric comparative literature. First, the author applauds the globalization of Comparative Literature, its moves away from Euro-centrism. That is the way to go. Second, a responsible global Comparative literature will involve the presumption that such languages as are necessary for responsible work will have to be learned, even if a given university does not teach them. The model here is anthropology, which assumes as one of its protocols the possibility and the necessity of learning the language of whatever culture is being studied. Much work in comparative literature these days is, in any case, a form of social science and has much to learn from the protocols of social science, for example the necessity to get signed consent forms when studying living people. The author is aware, as most cultural anthropologists have also long been aware, of the historical complicity of anthropology in Western imperialism. That is certainly an acute danger for globalized Comparative Literature, for example in the importation of Western theory into the study of non-European literatures, a process that is both productive and profoundly problematic. Thoughtful awareness of the danger of inadvertent imperialism will help, as it has in cultural anthropology. The new globalized Comparative Literature will need to institutionalize in its curricula and requirements, as anthropology has, the need to learn non-European, as well as European, languages. This will be necessary in order to “compare the literatures” responsibly, that is, to respond to the call made on us by other cultures.