Comparative Literature Studies

Published by Johns Hopkins University Press
Online ISSN: 1528-4212
Print ISSN: 0010-4132
Publications
This essay examines the ecocritical poetics of Chechen and Russian literary texts shaped by the mountainous topography of the Caucasus as a means of deepening the encounter between postcolonial and ecocritical theory in contemporary literary studies. While ecocritical poetics have effectively challenged epistemologies of nature and culture, scholars have critiqued this subfield’s geographic and cultural provincialism (Heise, Huggen, Nixon, Garrard). Seeking a rapprochement between the multilingual vernacular literatures of the Caucasus and a literary-theoretical movement that continues to be dominated by European master narratives, I look beyond traditional Euro-American sites of inquiry for constructing an ecopoetic consciousness, and assay the varieties of discourses concerning the ecopoetical sublime in the literatures of the Caucasus.
 
Comparative Literature Studies 43.1-2 (2006) 57-78 In a 1993 interview with Andrew Graham-Yooll, the Chilean author Luis Sepúlveda heralded the advent of his forthcoming publications and new literary projects. In the wake of the success of previous work such as Un viejo que leía novelas de amor (The Old Man Who Read Love Stories, 1989), his first, perhaps best known novel, and Mundo del fin del mundo (World at the End of the World, 1991), Sepúlveda announced what he called "a rather rumbustious project" which, he claimed, "was to be written jointly with the English author Bruce Chatwin." In the interview, Sepúlveda recalled how "[w]e met and went to Patagonia together. It was [Bruce's] second visit, after he had published In Patagonia. We wanted to write a four-handed story about the last two days in the life of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The novel will be called Two Gringos. " While the story of a joint sojourn to Patagonia may be apocryphal, Sepúlveda did publish a book about a journey to the region which famously, for Paul Theroux, is the ultimate nowhere place. Rather than a novel, however, Sepúlveda went on to write Patagonia Express, a travelogue which relates in part the author's return to a Chile from which he had been exiled for many years and in the course of which he repeatedly invokes the memory of Chatwin and his 1997 book In Patagonia. Published in Spanish in 1995, Sepúlveda's book was translated the following year into English as Full Circle: A South American Journey. Tracing the footsteps of itinerant precursors is a commonplace of contemporary travel writing: indeed, as a number of scholars have pointed out, the experience of travel itself is fundamentally intertextual. Chatwin's In Patagonia is especially significant in this regard, not only in terms of its own pervasive citation of other works of travel literature but also in the sense that it in turn has become, in the words of Daniel Buck, "the most widely read work about South America's bright-skied south." It is within this intertextual context that I shall frame the first part of my discussion in this article, in order to map out the apparently anomalous yet heterogeneous correspondences between the two chronicles of journeys to the region by the English aesthete and nomad and the former Chilean political activist. In doing so I want to explore the somewhat overlooked "Chilean" travelogue rather than dwell in much length on the already well-documented subject of Bruce Chatwin's work. In effect, I aim to reveal how a reading of Patagonia Express through its intertext can shed light on a number of wider issues (some of them profoundly problematic), which pertain to processes of modernization and globalization. Therefore, a second matter that I shall explore in this essay regards a reading of Sepúlveda and his book within this broader context: as narratives (both biographical and "literary") that not only engage but are also bound up in a global travel network. First, a word about Luis Sepúlveda and his own journeys is in order. In Chile, Sepúlveda worked as a theatre director, writer and was also active for many years in the Popular Unity government of Salvador Allende. When it fell in the military coup of 1973 led by General Augusto Pinochet, Sepúlveda was sent to prison for twenty eight years, a sentence which was quashed in 1976 thanks to a successful campaign for his release on an expatriation clause by the German section of Amnesty International. Initially reluctant to go to Europe (and follow in the footsteps of many other political exiles from the Southern Cone in this period), Sepúlveda subsequently spent some years "travelling" around Latin America. After becoming involved in and imprisoned for further left-wing activism in Nicaragua, Sepúlveda finally left for Germany in 1980. Since his relocation there he has achieved considerable international success with his novel-length fiction, which has also been widely translated. It was not until 1988, however, after some twelve years in exile, that...
 
Comparative Literature Studies 42.4 (2005) 297-311 Francophonie is: Francophonie names multiple regions marked by the French language rather than a specific nation or theory. Defined as a new comparative literature, often but not necessarily housed in French studies, it becomes a disciplinary site of theory much like Comparative Literature at the dawning of its institutional formation in exile during and after World War II. Like Comparative Literature, Francophonie negotiates the planetary extension of a field whose critical paradigms originally sprang from predominantly European languages and literatures. But where Comparative Literature escaped the legacy of a single national language, Francophonie defaults to France, and to a postcolonial map of discrepant French-speaking communities. Comparative Literature has translation studies to fall back on when seeking to measure incommensurability among languages and literatures, whereas Francophonie maintains a unipolar orientation around "French" and offers few criteria of comparison among the French-cognate vernaculars that it subsumes. Where Comparative Literature has been historically marked by empire, Francophonie—as a territory of languages with French colonialism as common ground—has a more specific history of colonial dependency and disciplinary effacement to overcome, as Réda Bensmaïa reminds us in an important polemical essay published in Yale French Studies in 2003. Bensmaïa placed Francophonie under erasure, adopting Martin Heidegger's transcript of the barred metaphysics of presence as an X superposed over Dasein (Being), and recalling Jacques Derrida's use of the grapheme in placing the originary logos on a path of deferral and différance. The X over Francophonie, in Bensmaïa's ascription, marks a history of disciplinary scotomization; that is to say, of historical subjection by non-European French literatures to "primal interdict" or "built in, pre-programmed in-existence." Francophonie—shining through the lateral bar—resembles an early prop plane; not yet fully airborne, but prime for theorization. To theorize Francophonie is to work through a disciplinary negation that defines what the field is by virtue of what it is not: not the French canon; not the literature of the hexagon; not a discrete linguistic territory. In naming the problem of its own nomination, Francophonie points to what comes after the identity politics of language politics as the field takes on a deconstructive epistemology; breaking the isomorphic fit between French as the name of a language, and French as the name of a people. As Samuel Weber notes: "French" as the name of a language contains the predicate of a national subject that is silently enunciated. Read as a problem of nominalism, "French" replaces linguistic and national heterogeneity with an abstract generality; a universal sign on the order of Wittgenstein's Urzeichen. It is left to ungrammatical expressions such as "translated from the Frenchman" to sound out the forçage of nation-subject and language-subject in the process of nomination. An equivalent disjunct is heard in David Georgi's exhumation of romans as the name of French before French had currency as the name of a language ("derived from the Latin adverb romanice; it declares...
 
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