Comparative Criticism: Histories and Methods

An open meeting of the Oxford University Research Network New Grounds for Comparative Criticism (, held in collaboration with the British Comparative Literature Association and funded by The Oxford Research Centre for the Humanities, the John Fell Fund, and St Anne’s College.

The way we do comparative criticism affects the histories we tell of it; and the histories we tell affect our practice. Our conference explored this interaction. We resurrected moments from the history of comparative literature, tracing its relation to national and regional literatures, comparative philology and classical traditions. There was  discussion of the role played by institutions, including Oxford, in shaping the discipline. We considered the different forms that  comparative study assumes in different locations, and explored its connections to translation and area studies, and world literature. Attention was given to the interplay between the comparative criticism of written texts and that of film, music and visual art. We asked: is ‘comparative criticism’ a distinct formulation that might usefully join ‘comparative literature’, ‘world literature’ and the rest?


Comparative Criticism: Histories and Methods

Conference Programme

DAY 1 - Wednesday 25th September 2013

9.00- 9.45


9.45- 11.15

Literature and the World

Chair: Matthew Reynolds (opening remarks)

Keynote speaker: Ritchie Robertson "Weltliteratur before Goethe"

Respondent: Wen-Chin Ouyang

Sowon Park  "The Pan-Asian Empire and World Literature"




Comparative Philology

Chair: Nick Halmi

Michael Franklin  "William Jones and India"

Augus Nicholls "Max Mueller and the Comparative Method"

R.A. Judy "Barking Dogs and Thinking in Disorder, an Essay in a Philology of Exteriority"




Shaped by the Classics?

Chair: Stephen Harrison

Tania Demetriou  "The Non-Existent Classical Epyllion: Comparative Counter-Criticism? "

Helen Slaney "Classical Reception and the Comparatist as Dilettante"

Henriette Korthals Altes "When Dance meets Text: Pascal Quignard's Medea"

John McKeane "Sophocles, Hölderlin, Lacoue-Labarthe"

3.45-4.15 Break


Comparative Literature, Britain and Empire

Chair: Mohammed-Salah Omri

Keynote speaker: Joep Leerssen "Anglo-Saxon and Celtic Philologists: or, Comparative Literature between National Ethnicity and Global Empire"

Respondent: Ritchie Robertson  

5.30-5.45 Break


Reports from the field

Chair: Elinor Shaffer

Angus Nicholls  "On Chairing the Comparative Literature Department at Queen Mary College London"

Emily Finer " 'Can't we read Dickens in our Russian course?' The New Comparative Literature at St Andrew's"

Rebecca Jones and Marlies Prinzl "Comparative Literature in the United Kingdom since the Millennium"

The Oxford Graduate Discussion Group


Legenda Book Launch / Drinks Party


Conference Supper, St Anne's College

DAY 2 - Thursday 26th September 2013


Chair: Elinor Shaffer

Keynote speaker: Mihaly Szegedy-Maszak "The Relation of the Arts in Comparative Literary Study, or 'Inter-Arts'"

Respondent: Patrick McGuinness




Appropriations and Resistances

Chair:  R.A. Judy

Betiel Wasihun "Die Niebelungen: From Epic Poem to Modern Film Fritz Lang's Translated Betrayals"

Maha Adel Megeed "Conceptualizing Khayal in late 19th Century Writing"

Amar Guendouzi and Hamid Ameziane "Comparative Criticism, the African Novel, and African Popular Literature"




Particular histories

Chair: Ben Morgan

Johannes Kaminski "Reception of Goethe's Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre and the Chinese Text Dream of the Red Chamber"

Jeremy Adler "Goethe and Henry James"

Yen-Maï Tran-Gervat " Comparing histories of translation(s) (England, France, Spain)"


Tropes of Comparison

Chair : Shane Weller

Katrin Kohl "Metaphors of Comparative Literature"

Amy Li "Temporality in the Construction of Interpretive Contexts in Comparative Studies"

Carole Bourne-Taylor "Michel Deguy's Ethical Practice of Comparison"




Round table discussion

With Laura Marcus, Mohamed-Salah Omri, Terence Cave, Matthew Reynolds