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Comparative Literature

Publisher:
Duke Univ Press
Duke University Press
ISSN:
0010-4124
Scimago Journal Rank:
14
journal article
LitStream Collection
A Multilingual Modernist: Avraham Shlonsky between Hebrew and Yiddish

BRENNER, NAOMI

2009 Comparative Literature

doi: 10.1215/00104124-2009-009

From the early years of his long and prolific writing career, Hebrew poet Avraham Shlonsky continually wrote and rewrote himself into the early twentieth-century cultural scene as consummate artist and ideologue. Affiliating his artistic persona with a new Zionist language, ideology, and land, Shlonsky challenged the styles and themes of his Hebrew poetic predecessors. At the same time, he experimented with the modernist forms and aesthetics that held sway in European culture in the first decades of the twentieth century, mixing aspects of Symbolism, Futurism, Expressionism, and Imaginism to create his own idiosyncratic Hebrew modernism. At the center of his modernist poetry and manifestoes is a chameleon-like lyrical "I" that dominates the text as it unfolds. Shlonsky brilliantly used a new literary Hebrew to create himself as a revolutionary modernist poet. Like many of his fellow staunch Zionists, he argued passionately that Hebrew should be the language of the emerging national culture and that Yiddish, the language of Jewish life in Eastern Europe, should be abandoned to the Diaspora. But, strangely enough, Shlonsky's early poetry and manifestoes are infused with Yiddish influences and inflections, an implicit poetics that stands in opposition to his explicit pronouncements. Over the course of his long career, Shlonsky and his critics largely erased from his canonical image the Yiddish resonances and rhythms that surface in his early poetry, as well as the affiliations with contemporary Yiddish modernisms. In this article, I analyze the contradictions that emerge in Shlonsky's deft self-inventions during the 1920s in the context of contemporary modernist trends and the emerging Hebrew literary center in Palestine. I read his flamboyant authorial images as a particular kind of self-fashioning in and in-between languages. Recovering the traces of Yiddish in Shlonsky's early poetic self-inventions in his poetry, manifestos, and criticism, I argue, reveals the complex negotiations of language and identity that have been largely overlooked both in Shlonsky's canonical image and Hebrew literary history. Almost despite himself, Shlonsky demonstrates a multilingualism that exists within the national canon.
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A New Kind of Realism: Flaubert's Trois Contes and Stein's Three Lives

HASELSTEIN, ULLA

2009 Comparative Literature

doi: 10.1215/00104124-2009-022

As a seminal work of modernism, Stein's Three Lives has often been discussed in the context of Cézanne and cubist painting, but the intertextual relation to Flaubert has rarely been put under scrutiny, even though it is well known that Stein had translated Flaubert's Trois Contes as an exercise, and allusions to this text can be easily traced throughout Three Lives in general and The Good Anna in particular. The following essay argues that Stein's "new kind of realism" (William James) constitutes a rewriting and a radicalization of Flaubert's decomposition of certain key features of realist narration in Un Coeur simple . While Flaubert's narratorial impersonnalité cites and displays the hegemonic bourgeois discourse of his day in his treatment of the servant Félicité, Stein's narrator deals in clearly marked stereotypes in an effort to master the servants; but by mimicking the latter's speech patterns it also reveals the presumptions of social power implicit in the epistemological hierarchy between narrator and character as such. Only when Stein's characteristic device of repetition is analyzed in this vein—as a symptom of the narrator's and the character's habits of parroting clichés, and as an ensuing dehierarchization of narrative structure—can the similarities with Cézanne's painting be fully accounted for.
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LitStream Collection
"Swann's Way. Basic Training": Interpretation in James Merrill's Late Collections and A la recherche du temps perdu

COFFMAN, CHRISTOPHER K.

2009 Comparative Literature

doi: 10.1215/00104124-2009-023

One would find it difficult to overstate the importance of Marcel Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu to James Merrill's work. Although almost any of Merrill's works could be read with an eye to Proustian concerns and motifs, Merrill's final two collections of poems, The Inner Room and A Scattering of Salts , demand particularly close considerations of the intertextual presence of Proust's novel. Such considerations reveal not only superficial connections between the work of the two authors, but also Merrill's deep engagement with interpretive strategies modeled by Proust. Utilizing the hermeneutic categories Paul Ricoeur established in his Freud and Philosophy (Hermeneutics as Recollection of Meaning and Hermeneutics of Suspicion), categories that implicitly guide his commentary on Proust in Time and Narrative , this essay reads several poems from Merrill's last two collections in light of Proustian hermeneutics. Furthermore, this essay argues that Merrill follows the lead of Proust's narrator in taking steps toward overcoming the partial incompatibilities implicit in the different interpretive modes. Merrill, as did Proust, declares art the means by which the two modes may be brought together and the means by which their results are made permanent, a process which likewise unites time lost with time regained. Such readings reveal the degree to which Merrill adapts those hermeneutic strategies essential to Proust's project to his own poetic ends and also illustrates the French author's remarkable transatlantic influence during the mid- and late-twentieth century.
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Adorno's Comment c'est

ULLYOT, JONATHAN

2009 Comparative Literature

doi: 10.1215/00104124-2009-024

According to Theodor Adorno, the modern artwork makes the beholder shudder and reflect, purging his habit of over-conceptualizing. Furthermore, although the modern artwork may seem incomprehensible and foreign to the beholder, it expresses only a simple message: "this is how it is." The artwork is not in itself an imposition, demand, or confrontation, though it may have all of these effects. Ontologically, the artwork is an expression: "It is thus." To avoid the trap of conceptualization, Adorno varies the concept-name of this simple expression throughout Aesthetic Theory —from Sosein (or So-und-nicht-anders-Seins ) to So ist es (with some other variations: for example, the "Here I am" or "This is what I am" of Etruscan vases), and finally to "Comment c'est," which Adorno equates with "that's what it's like out there" ("so geht es zu, so ist es draussen") as well as with "how it is" ("wie es ist"). This concept-name at times appears demonstrative—"It is thus"—at times general—"how it is"—and at times self-referential—"here I am." Although Adorno's English translator Hullot-Kentor notes that the meaning of Sosein for Adorno is equivalent to that of Beckett's "Comment c'est," he refers to the French phrase as though it were a theoretical concept instead of the title of a prose work by Beckett published in 1961. In this essay I attempt to rectify that oversight by demonstrating that within Adorno's Aesthetic Theory Beckett's Comment c'est functions not as an artwork but as the slippage of the concept Sosein . Comment c'est remains a "comment c'est" for Adorno—not just an exemplum, or a reference, but something between a concept-name and an actual artwork: a "title" that reveals not only its own essence but also the essence of modern art. My analysis thus moves between reading Comment c'est as, on the one hand, a literalization of Adorno's ideas in Aesthetic Theory (in other words, as a kind of meta-text) and, on the other, as an exemplum of his views on the new, on unity and meaning, and on mimesis and expression. In doing so, I hope to deepen our understanding of the special place that Beckett occupies within Adorno's philosophy.
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Working in the And Zone: Comparative Literature and Translation

BERMANN, SANDRA

2009 Comparative Literature

doi: 10.1215/00104124-2009-025

"Working in the And Zone: Comparative Literature and Translation" argues that in conjunction with translation and translation studies comparative literature can offer new energy and purpose to the humanities today. The paper considers the changing roles of comparative literature in the twentieth century, as well as the recent importance of translation and translation studies to our field. Pointing to some deep similarities of method and aim between the two areas of study—particularly their dependence upon the analogical and abductive methods associated with and —it also underscores some key differences. I argue above all for the gains to be had in "thinking translation" as we go about our increasingly transnational and interdisciplinary teaching and writing in comparative literature. These gains include a range of new questions affecting what we mean by "text," and "close reading," as well as political, religious, and commercial issues connected to the writing and transmission of literary works. They also include an invigorated awareness of the ways in which questions of "foreign" and "home," other and same, might find a place in a more dialogic and responsive mode of reading. In ways such as these, thinking translation in tandem with comparative literature will encourage the kind of collaborative re-imaginings especially important to the humanities of the twenty-first century.
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