Seminar Year 2021-2022

Comparative Thinking

Two-part study (Winter-Spring 2022) of approaches and methods of comparison in literature, history, religion, science, and the arts, from the Ancient worlds to the contemporary period. Comparison can be understood as a predictable quest for analogies and similarities, to be discovered between phenomena that we consider, at the outset, as “comparable” on account of cultural diffusion, historical tradition or geographical contiguity, but this is not what we intend to do in this seminar. We take the disposition to think in comparison, and by comparison, as a fundamental way of looking at the world, through provocative contrasts, experimental connections and unexpected fluidities. From comparative history and anthropology to world literature and global history, how does comparison disrupt and transform modes of linear and teleological thinking? From synchronic transnational (spatial) and network paradigms of the world, is comparison viable transperiodically but not chronologically? That is, what is comparison in asynchronous, asymmetrical, and heterotopic situations, what are its conditions of possibility and, crucially today, its effects in the world?

The two-quarter seminar covered topics on color in History and Art History; Pan-Asianism in the Imperial Context; Comparative Literature and Extra-European Literary Histories; African and European philosophy: Diasporic Thought in a Comparative Context; Psychoanalysis and Feminism in Comparative Contexts; Global History of Literature; Literature as Comparative Literature; the study of the “classical” past in a comparative perspective;  the history of ideas, intellectual history and reception studies as forms of comparison; comparative thinking as a bridge between the Humanities and the Social sciences; Comparatism and Slavery: methods, definitions, issues; and others.

The 2021-2022 ECT seminar began a three-year series of urgent and compelling questions that have emerged both inside and outside of academia. Following up on the epistemic model of comparison, we plan to study the “Colonial Syntax: pre-post-neo-anti-de-colonial” and “The Ecologies of the World.” ECT will offer a multiplicity of insights from a range of scholars across continents and at different inflections of their career who are at the cutting edge of contemporary thinking across spaces and timelines.

Guest speakers for the 2021-22 seminar included:

  • Winter 2022: Étienne Anheim; Pierre Singaravélou; Adam Talib; Elissa Marder; and Alexander Beecroft.
  • Spring 2022: William Marx; Paulin Ismard; Jennifer Pitts; Claude Calame; and Chowra Makaremi.

The two-quarter seminar was offered in both Winter and Spring 2022 as the variable topics graduate course COM LIT 290, and taught respectively by Professors Zrinka Stahuljak and Giulia Sissa.

Click here to view lecture recordings from the 2021-2022 seminar series!