Transcending Old Boundaries into New Territories: Comparatistic Vistas
Authors: Maurizio VIRDIS
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Operational and pragmatic though it is, the concept of literature seems, more often than not, to escape definition. The canonical concept and idea of literature have been taken ―for granted‖ over from the eighteenth and
nineteenth centuries: a concept based essentially on the autonomy and on the ―self-centredness‖ of arts. A supreme ruler in the province of culture well into the twentieth century, literature has, alas, been ruthlessly overthrown by unscrupulous rivals such as the new media (cinema and television, in particular), as well as other forms of writing (journalism and non-fiction, for instance).
This is precisely how the imperious need arose to rethink the concept of literature, either by becoming aware of the situation itself, or by looking in premodern epochs for models, particularly in the Middle Ages, when literature was neither conceptualized nor ruling supreme, much rather in fierce competition with the prevailingly oral elaborate use of the word. It is only by looking back ―without anger‖ that we can ferret out intriguing similarities between the past and the present. And taking the reasoning a step further, it is only by raising comparative awareness that literature can regain strength and meaning, and even if it is no longer expected to rule supreme, we would be well advised, to my mind, to view the new media as firmly grounded in it.
To conclude, we must give credit where it is due and admit that, even if the avant-garde writings of the twentieth century have greatly contributed to our growing cognition and consciousness, the new media has emerged in the past
decades as a force to be reckoned with in a world where borders are being constantly blurred.