2/1030: Why comparative literature?

When I went to submit my application to the department of Comparative Literature for the right to complete my PhD through the FU AVL department (don’t worry about acronyms- see disclaimer below), I realized, waiting in the hallway, that I hadn’t made clear why a comparative study was necessary for me to make the claim I aim to with my dissertation (see “About My Dissertation”).

I want to show how media changes the individual voice of minority characters in literature- but why couldn’t I do this with just German or just English literature? Also, why am I applying to AVL as opposed to the English or Germanistik departments? Well, I suppose the topic on its own refers to something I’m trying to address that may be happening in all literature. I don’t think think the conjunction of multimedia and multicultural/ethnic societies is merely a timeline coincidence. I know that the two work together. Thus, I definitely am pursuing an allgemeine Literatur Untersuchung.

I also suppose that looking at postcolonial, or New German and English Literatures is comparative in itself, since its challenge is addressing the changing cultural tones and linguistic features appearing in “national” literatures. Popular German, English, and no doubt many other “national” literatures are no longer written by, for example, Germans born in Germany speaking only German.

On another note, my study is for the field of Comparative Literature since I am also comparing mediums. TV news has a different function in the truth/fiction portrayal than realist novels. I can compare the effect of the narratology in news with the narratology of a book, and still be looking at literature.

I know what I am doing is work for the field of Comparative Literature. The short Wikipedia definition (why, oh why am I resorting to Wikipedia?) is that

Comparative literature is an academic field dealing with the study of literature and cultural expression across linguistic, national, and disciplinary boundaries.

Clearly I am looking at expression across linguistic, national, and disciplinary boundaries. What I don’t understand quite for myself, or how to justify to others, however, is why I’m only looking at German and English literature. Clearly, I can’t use my own personal history as justification- I’m fluent in both languages so…

No. There has to be a better reason. Short of making something up to fit, something in the back of my mind may be the answer. Both England and Germany played large roles in European and World History. Both countries experienced huge shifts with the end of WWII. England was made to accept the independence of most of its colonies and Germany, for lack of thoughtful phrasing, became a colony. They are both global superpowers that became significantly impacted by migration following WWII, with rather homogeneous societies becoming extremely heterogeneous within a generation- so why wouldn’t it be interesting to see how their literatures  compare? Especially in a question about the strength of minority voice in the literatures?

As some rebuttal to this argument, I have to consider France- another major superpower greatly affected by migration. I have very little knowledge about French literature, and even less about contemporary French literature. Is focusing on what I know a good reason to stick to two countries? I feel uneasy about that. It’s something I will have to return to.

The good news: I just completed my second day of writing about my project, as is my goal for the next 1028 days. I’m not sure if I want all this public or not- I’m especially concerned about being able to claim originality for a new contribution to research. I should probably get some advice about this though as I continue on. However, I hope that by posting this, I also generate some conversation. I don’t want people to randomly be able to cite stuff, but rather challenge me, ask me questions.

Disclaimer: this series is a collection of brainstorms and free-writes that are a part of my planning for actual text in my dissertation. Therefore, I am giving myself the liberty to make mistakes, make assumptions (call me out on offensive ones, though!), not tie up loose ends, and generally not make any sense. 

Copyright 2016 Dorothea Trotter: because these writings are planning for actual text in my dissertation, some of this will appear in my dissertation. I hold the right to the words in this post and require that interested parties ask for permission before copying the words or ideas too closely. Obviously, the date of posting is the date of copyright and I reserve the right to challenge suspected plagiarism in my future dissertation submission using these blogs as proof of originality. 


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