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Abstract

In his paper, "Comparative Literature versus Comparative Cultural Studies," Tomo Virk discusses debates of the role, essence, and the future of comparative literature as it has developed since the 1995 publication of the Bernheimer Report. Virk explores the situation of the discipline in its North American context: "contextualists" argue for the abandoning of comparative literature understood as the study of literature with theoretical investigations of literariness while the "non-contextualists" underscore the study of the linguistic structure(s) of the text. Virk supports comparative literature understood as the traditional concentration of the discipline with focus on the specificities of literary questions while supplementing this focus with the discoveries of new theoretical frameworks and he suggests to maintain the investigation of literariness as a standard of the discipline but that is conditioned culturally. In the second part of his paper, Virk discusses the notion of "comparative cultural studies" -- a notion proposed, among others, notably by Canadian comparatist Steven Totosy de Zepetnek -- and puts forward the argument that the drawing of cultural studies to comparative literature would evoke fatal consequences for comparative literature as a discipline. While it is clear that under the current circumstances comparative literature is in need to function pragmatically, in the last instance comparative literature would self-destruct by a striving for social relevance and institutional assertions for survival. Virk concludes by drawing attention to the possibilities of the further development of comparative literature as an independent discipline for the future.

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