I had a lot of food for thought these past few weeks, but it seems that since actively forcing myself go to think about my PhD everyday, my head is filled with symphonies and dances. Maybe I can say I am doing my marathon training after all… Training the mind is a thing, but enough about that.
I spent my Saturday commemorating constructive German-US interaction for the past 70 years, and was reminded that life is all about perspective. We live our lives the only way we know how based on previous experience. We act based on premonitions of the future, but what we predict is also only that which we can find in our past. I foolishly, fool-heartedly told someone I would like to be able to predict what kind of future our literature will have and later realized I can only do that based off what I see now- I cannot predict difference.
These thoughts about perspective stemmed from listening to a US Ambassador talk about Germany, and a German lawyer, former politician, and cultural-political-economic facilitator talk about Germany. Both men had great speeches. Both men were ultimately trying to say that TTIP is a good idea. Both men referred to German-US partnership as something valuable and worth supporting. Both men spoke differently about Germany.
In a parallel experience I made this weekend, I decided I cannot say that I study German or English literature, but rather, I study literatures written in these languages. This may be a “well, obviously” moment for many. It may be intuitively obvious, given that I am studying literature; I study the language found between bound covers, organized in elective groups of 0s and 1s. Yet, since studying, I’ve been thinking that I’m looking at the literature put forth by a country, a plume of clouds made of the cultures, ideas, and experiences forming the molecules in just these arrangements. I also can’t say that I am only looking at the language, since I have to distinguish between US American texts, British and Scottish. I don’t mean I look at Austrian and Swiss texts when I look at German language. I do look at the identity of the author.
Since the Romantics, author is a title and a profession that signifies genius. The genius puts the words together. We still believe this, even in a world where texts seem more made up of citations than new words. It is impossible to get past the idea that the experiences these these authors make in their communities is what makes them write the way they do. They cannot make something about of something they’d never experienced. The fact that we can all access ideas we’ve never experienced is because we also do not start with nothing. We start with the myths that just get rewritten.
Obviously, what I’m describing is structuralism.
I don’t know where I’m going with this. I think I’m still trying to answer the question of what makes the comparative study interesting.
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