Comparative Literature, World Literature and Ethical Literary Criticism. Literature’s “Infra-Other”

  • Jüri Talvet Tartu Ülikool, Kirjanduse osakond, Ülikooli 16–113, 51014 Tartu, EESTI / ESTONIA
Keywords: ethical literary criticism, interdisciplinary studies, moral dimension in literary research, Kristian Jaak Peterson, Jidi Majia, Juhan Liiv, literature’s “infra-other”


Relying on some of the ideas of Yuri M. Lotman on “semiosphere”, the dynamics and dialogue between “centres” and “peripheries”, as well as on my own ideas on cultural symbiosis expounded in my essay books A Call for Cultural Symbiosis. Meditations from U (Toronto, 2005) and Kümme kirja Montaigne’ile. “Ise ja “teine” (Ten Letters to Montaigne. ‘Self ” and ‘Other’, in Estonian: Tartu, 2014; in English, 2018) and inspired by the recent foundation in China of the International Association for Ethical Literary Criticism, I will try to meditate on the interrelation of Comparative Literature, World Literature and Ethical Literary Criticism both in theory and in the practice of teaching and researching literature at universities and high schools. The main purpose is to look at the ways how a “self”-centred practice of literary research and teaching (formalistic as well as sociological approaches, restricting World Literature to the Western mainstream, or just dealing with one’s own national literature, avoiding its comparative contextualization) could be gradually replaced by a symbioticdialogical treatment of literature, capable of providing our activity with a firm and solid ethical dimension, something that would definitely strengthen the position of humanities in the world academia.