Comparative Literature

Fundamental in my training in Comparative Literature was the idea that one had to be sufficiently familiar with all of the things one was comparing, so as not to distort any element of the object of study one was constructing and thus, posit something which could not be true.

The Ph.D. exam I have just written was for a reading list which did not follow this principle and was therefore incoherent. And it hit me: the debate on comparative work about “race” in Brazil I have been trying to unravel suffers from the same problem. People do not know enough about all the phenomena they are trying to compare, and they rely without realizing it upon outdated, caricatural views of some elements. So the scholars are in a circular war of shadows. This is the problem.


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