I should like it to resemble some deep old desk, or capacious hold-all, in which one flings a mass of odds and ends without looking them through. (Virginia Woolf) We become ourselves through others, and the self is a porous thing, not a sealed container (Siri Hustvedt) En vez de mirarme en mi espejo quiero que mi espejo se mire en mí (Alejandra Pizarnik)
When I was listening to professor M this afternoon, I clearly understood all the different perspectives he was talking about. On the one hand, comparative literature in a restrictive and original way which would emphasise the study of influences and reception. In a broader sense, it would be an umbrella discipline under which the different literary theories such as Marxism, Feminism, Structuralism, Post-structuralism, Reception theories… could be studied from a comparative perspective. On the other hand, sociologists of culture such as Bourdieu and Even-Zohar do also offer attractive theories of polisystems where the study of literature does not seem to be limited to the study of authors, texts and the different contexts where these have been produced. Literature is understood as a whole, as a cultural system. To be honest, this afternoon I kind of agreed with all of them; I thought they all could be somehow justified.
After I left the class, the question arose again as expected and things were not so clear as they seemed to be while I was sourrounded by those four walls. Was I too tired today to come up with my own criterion? On the bus back home I had different names on my mind, all mixed up; I couldn’t concentrate on reading the newspaper which surely contained awful news and some superficial, happy ones. All those names spoke to me in their unique voices. They defended different aspects of literature. I was especially remembering Jakobson, Mukharovsky, Bakhtin, Jauss, Iser, Culler, Genette, Barthes, Adorno, Jameson, Kristeva, Cixous, Irigaray, Butler, Paul de Man, Deleuze, Derrida, Said…And Aristotle, Goethe, Guillén, Wellek, Bourdieu, Even-Zohar. How to combine all of them? How to take a bit of him, a bit of her and apply it wisely to my embryonic research? And then, add on top of them critical voices of creative writers or essayists such as Eliot, Woolf, Ortega y Gasset, Guillermo de Torre, María Zambrano, Susan Sontag,… And Freud, and Foucault…Ah! And my own soft intuitive voice.
Tonight I will again dive into “real literature” and I will try to forget all these threatening questions, or at least I will do my utmost to postpone it. Perhaps, the text itself, my personal reception, my thoughts and the intertextual connections will enlighten my decision of which methodology is most appropriate for me in order to deliver an interesting and original analysis of intimate texts written by authors from diverse geographies, times, cultures and languages.
Does this make any sense? Probably not. I’m tired.