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Abstract

In his article "European Comparative Literature as Humanism" Bernard Franco presents an epistemological reflection on comparative literature in the context of the evolution of the relationships between different forms of knowledge. Franco argues that in the late nineteenth century the notion of the "humanities" replaced that of the "human sciences," but that we have recently returned to a humanist concept of knowledge linked to ethics. Franco focuses on the origins of this critical reflection about the nature of knowledge and on the debate in the Romantic period between rational and non-rational forms of knowledge. The idéologues (Cabanis, Destutt de Tracy, Fauriel) and Dilthey, Goethe, and Humboldt were at the heart of this epistemological debate, a debate that in early modernity had already been related to the question of humanism in the dialog between Erasmus and Luther. In the mid-twentieth century Zweig and Thomas Mann looked to literature to seek a European spirit and to build a model of cosmopolitanism in which literature becomes a deeper source of knowledge.