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Lessons To Be Learned

By Jürgen Wilzewski
Amerikastudien / American Studies


By SHIH Shu-mei
Sun Yat-sen Journal of Humanities

This essay is a modest proposal for relational comparison. It argues for comparison as relation, or doing comparative literature as relational studies. To set up the relational framework, I first draw insights from the integrative world history detailed by such scholars as Janet L. Abu-Lughod, John M. Hobson, and André Gunder Frank. I synthesize these findings with the theory of Relation developed by Édouard Glissant as a way to link geocultural and socioeconomic history not only to literature but also to poetics. The specific pivot traces what I call the “plantation arc,” stretching from the Caribbean to the American South and to Southeast Asia. I examine the interconnectedness of the literary works along the post-slavery plantation arc such as the plantation novels of William Faulkner set in the American South, Chang Kuei-hsing’s Monkey Cup set in the Borneo rainforest and the Caribbean of Patricia Powell, the Jamaica of post-abolition blacks, white coolie traders, Chinese coolies, and shopkeepers. The purpose here is two fold: first, to illustrate how doing relational studies with a keen world historical sense demands that world literature take its worldliness more seriously than thought possible; and second, to show how relational comparison opens up a new arena, perhaps even a new life, for comparative literature.

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This website provides scholars with a one-stop shop for the latest research published in American studies journals throughout the world. Organized by the International Initiative of the American Studies Association and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, this site is the outcome of a collaboration between numerous journal editors around the world.

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