Program in Comparative Literature

Eleventh Annual

Rethinking Comparison: Relationality, Intertextuality, Materiality
26 - 28 September 2014
University of Texas at Austin
Keynote Address by Professor Natalie Melas, Cornell University
Conference Website:

Édouard Glissant theorizes relation as a way of rethinking contact between cultures and languages in a global context.  He coined the term tout-monde – in English, whole world – to conceptualize the condition of existing in a world characterized by the simultaneous presence of all cultures.  Through tout-monde, Glissant destabilizes notions of distinct languages, cultures, and identities.  His concept of relation opens up these categories to a principle of continuous transformation.  Engaging Glissant’s ideas, Natalie Melas asks how relation can be used to reexamine comparative studies.  In her book All the Difference in the World, she writes that the concept of relation shifts our focus “from ‘what do you compare?’ to ‘on what grounds do you compare?’”  She seeks a method that recognizes the impossibility of fixed sites of comparison and that consciously avoids the “normalizing and generalizing” tendency that comparative work always risks enacting.  

The 11th Annual Graduate Conference in Comparative Literature invites papers and panels that reflect on these questions and explore contemporary comparative practices. We seek contributions that problematize the grounds of comparison and introduce strategies and concepts to grapple with the complexity of studying cultural objects.  We welcome engagements that interrogate Comparative Literature’s status as a discipline and as a set of practices dealing with questions of translationality, untranslatability, world literature, and telepoesis. We encourage research that examines intertextuality as a tout-monde of texts wherein “discrete” texts signify meaning always in relation to a world of prior and future texts.  We invite work that considers the materiality of texts from the perspective of the encounters and relations that shape their physical existence.  Finally, we encourage projects that investigate how comparative practice makes it possible to work across disciplinary boundaries. For example, how does the concepttout-monde enable us to reframe inquiries that investigate the intersection of the modern and the medieval while pushing us to rethink these categorizations? 

We encourage contributions that address literary, visual, and/or oral texts.  Possible topics include (but are not limited to):

● State of the field 

● What is Comparative Literature?

● Comparing across time, space, and place 

● Comparative Literature and Area Studies

● Poetics as transformation 

● Generic interrelatedness/boundaries

● Language as Creolization or a mixing of languages 

● Identity as rhizomatic, performed, and shaped in relation 

● Representation as relationality and/or referentiality 

● Affects of Comparison

● Cultural production within markets of consumption 

● Global/local relations in cultural products 

● Reading as translation 

For additional information about the conference, please contact the organizers Raelene Wyse and Jamila Davey at