In the 2011 issue of Portals we are thrilled to bring you three articles that provocatively respond to the question “What is Comparative Literature?”
This year’s issue explores themes of narrative voice, the problems and politics of translation, character analysis, and the construction of memory and identity through comparative readings of texts in French, Japanese, Spanish, and English. We are excited to offer readers a reflection into the world of Comparative Literature through these truly comparative projects.
In “The Choice of Identity,” Thomas McCabe explores the connections between identity and homeland. This essay urges the reconsideration of reading, and watching, as an experimental act. McCabe explores the unraveling of identity in his essay, a move which Ben Van Overmeire complements in his article “The First Tasting of a Narcosis: Translating and Interpreting Jacques Derrida’s Cosmopolites de tous les pays, encore un effort!” Van Overmeire destabilizes, questions, and undoes the idea of canonization while at the same time engaging in the role of translation, a debate central to the discipline of comparative literature. Van Overmeire offers a close look into the effect of interpretation that is inextricably linked to translation, and the act of reading. Van Overmeire thus pushes McCabe’s emphasis on reading as an experimental act further. Finally, Chris Perry considers the construction of memory in her essay “The Construction of Amnesia: Remembering to forget in My Ántonia and The Death of Artemio Cruz.” Where McCabe underlines the construction of identity, Perry considers memory, an integral companion to identity. Perry’s essay examines the seemingly formless nature of memory as treated in her texts in order to uncover the hidden infrastructure of memory and craft so meticulously constructed by the authors. Perry looks to the connections between memory and identity on both the individual and collective levels, which further deepens the analysis found in McCabe and Van Overmeire.
Each of these essays epitomizes a comparative literature project, which is to say that each paper locates a unique theme through the comparative reading of different texts from different linguistic traditions, and highlights the fascinating way in which different perspectives and readings in comparative literature complement each other through moments of connection and disconnection.
We are proud to bring you Portals 2011.
J. Indigo Eriksen and Shanna Mendez,