Essay: Comparison between French school and American school

It is fact that there are some essential differences between French theory and American thinking in Comparative Literature. We note that the credit for the development of American thinking in Comparative Literature goes to some great American writers. We study American theories in the light of the conditions have been declared by French School in this concept to analyze the differences between them.

French School in Comparative Literature

Comparative Literature studies places of meeting among the literatures in their different languages and links in their present or past. The boundaries among different literatures are their languages, which separate each other. Therefore, the languages of the literatures are important to Comparative Literature in the study of the mutual impact and influence amongst them. Comparative Literature is essential to the history of literature and criticism in their contemporary meaning, because it discloses the trends of artistic and intellectual sources for the National Literature. The comparisons among the authors from different literatures have no historical links can not be counted from Comparative Literature.

American thinking in Comparative Literature

“Since the Americans entered the world of Comparative Literature they had shown hesitated seriously to be bound to the hard conditions of French school, they loved always to expand the section of Comparative Literature for the entrance of various global artistic and literary trends in this zone”.
“This ascent growing in Comparative Studies in America, probably is due to a hidden desire of the scholars in American universities to open the American windows for the product of global literatures or probably this literary turning point combined with other signs to form a harbinger of the American era.” The credit in the development of American theory in Comparative Literature goes particularly to Ren? Wellek and Henry. H. H. Remak. Let’s study the views of each in Comparative Literature.

However, we note that the French school does not support the expansion in the section of Comparative Literature to introduce some issues not related to this topics, because there is a difference between those studies in General Literature on the one hand and the studies of National Literature and Comparative Literature on the other hand. The nature of the studies in the General Literature is not to care about national borders of the literatures and not be limited into two or three literatures, but its research deals with each literary movement of all literatures, which have developed that movement, striking a blind eye to all that is called local or specially related to a particular National Literature, ignoring everything related a place or a certain National Literature except what has an echo in the World Literatures and what has its influence in guiding the intellectual currents outside the boundaries of the National Literature.

Hence it is clear that these studies generally do not depend on the summarized and shortened studies of the National Literature, but it has its own tendency, which is not bounded to the linguistic and racial partitions, do not consider except explaining the facts and factors that control the evolution of ideas and movements in the literature, being as a general human product. On this base the goal of General Literature is: “to know the common intellectual and artistic conditions to be identified and be studied in its various forms and pictures in the sorts of literatures that can be compared to each other, so there will be a general history of literature for the ancient Greek and Romanian nations, another one for the eastern Muslim and the third one for the modern Arabic literature, desiring to determine the moments of separation and imaging the vital intellectual, moral and artistic pulses, which are translated by the tongue of Literature.”

Now we can explain the differences between French and American scholars briefly: The first condition of the French school for the comparative study is that it must be among the works written in different languages; if this condition is not found the study will be out of the circle of Comparative Literature. The second condition is the link of the writer to another writer or the literature to another literature, if the history did not prove that one of them followed the idea of the other one in any aspect of communication, this kind of study will not be included in Comparative Literature. It is not necessary to be a personal link between two writers, but it will be enough to prove that the idea moved from an environment to another environment and spread out in the new one when it was received by the writers through the simulation after they became affected by it.

We must not forget that the languages, in which literatures are drafted, are local or regional originally, establish responding the needs of regions and its issues. The differentness of languages is an essential condition of Comparative Literature at the French school. Wellek protested to establish limits for Comparative Literature and called strongly to open up even removed Comparative Literature almost, as attributed every thing to its area. The development that had occurred to explain the literary texts was based on consideration of the historical facts and its emergence was clear in the truthful and careful analysis of the literary texts. Making Comparative Literature out of the historical links between the influential and affected literature to take the literary aesthetic taste of all the nations a standard for Comparative Literature is exceeded for the real concept of Comparative Literature, because the literature is a name of the dissimilarities.

The literature is one of the fine arts, emanates its components from the heritage, values, ethics, religion, customs and traditions and so on, so it does not cut off its connection from its past, as literature is the name of a “Continuous Past “, but the sciences derive their theories from the new mental theories. The mind changes its intellectual course during its mental conclusions after a while. Scientific theories can fall any moment and be replaced by a new one unrelated to the previous one. It is true that literature or the art is benefited by scientific experiments, but we must make a distinction between the literature and Science. The expansion of literary circle and science, and its link to the humanity should be accepted, but this wideness should not be to remove the identity of literature and art, especially for some certain political purposes. It seems that Remak does not differentiate between the subjects of “Comparative Literature” and “literary criticism”. So he does not consider ‘the influencing and being influenced by another one” the basis for the Comparative study. The geographical definition of the term Comparative Literature in the literary sense is very clear and concrete, but the format quality of the literature according to the American concept raises some serious questions about the demarcation of Comparative Literature.

In the end we support French School saying: “It is well known that the image of the nations – as it is reflected in the mirror of their literatures – has a profound impact on their relations to each other, and also has an impact on the minds of the leaders of the nation’s politicians and intellectuals in the formation of public opinion may result in a particular orientation in its relations with another. All of these are aspects of literary activity in the international areas. Comparative Literature interested to disclose these aspects from the historical side, to explain its various aspects over the generations. Thus the Comparative Literature paves a way for every nation to know its position amongst other nations and to see its literary image in the mirror of other literatures of the other nations. Thus they will be allowed to know themselves truthfully and try to correct their situation or defend themselves. Thus they will get an opportunity for the right understanding and sincere cooperation among themselves.’

I think that these words are very clear to know what is the real function of Comparative Literature in French theory and how useful for all of the nations to recognize each other. Therefore we think that these words should be supported by all researchers.

Source: Essay UK -

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