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By Annie Davis

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Sample text

We see the same forces at work in academia, where budget pressures and the demand that research pay for itself deepen the differences between eHte institutions and those with a more pragmatically defined service mission. " Once the core of the university, the departments that teach language, literature, and culture are now seen as clogs on the budget since they demand a high investment in personnel and yield little (whether products or people) that is immediately marketable. Subcontracting, a remedy often adopted for the clerical and technicallabor pool, occurs where the university sees little point in long-term investment: hence the outsourced department, staffed by part-timers and non-tenure-track lecturers.

What most needs to be preserved, what is at stake when we debate whether comparative literature still has a role to play or can be allowed to vanish, its work on earth accomplished, is metadisciplinarity. not because it sounds prestigious or guarantees our uniqueness, but because it is the condition of our openness to new objects and forms of inquiry. The result of this short history of comparative literature's search for its appropriate object is to put us bacl<. in front of comparative projects.

It does not adequately mark the fact that literariness emerges j1-om contexts and methods of reading, rather than being a property of literature, and it suggests a category-slippage between a disciplinary product and a restricted class of objects. Sorne paradoxes follow from the elevation ofliterariness (or repurposed language) to the status of characteristic object of study for comparative literature. Many activities normally carried out in the field do not find themselves reflected in it. Histories of literature have long been written-even comparative and international ones 46-but a history of literariness is difficult to imagine.

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