|"Heroes" of European literature|
I have mentioned elsewhere that Strich generally does not cite his sources. It is only in the 1957 edition of Goethe and World Literature that he includes a true bibliography. I have gone through many of the studies contained there and have begun to get a feeling for why he embarked on a field that, until Goethe and World Literature, was not a scholarly field as such. In other words, Strich inaugurated the modern study of the subject.
I have discovered in the articles by the early comparatists statements that Strich takes up, if not word for word, certainly concept for concept. Yet, one hesitates to call this plagiarism, as is shown, for instance, in an article by Joseph Texte (on whom I have also posted). According to Texte, in "The Comparative History of Literature" (translated from Revue de philologie francaise et de la litterature ), the requirement for literary production historically (let us say up to the mid-18th century) was precisely based on imitation of ancient literature. In turn, criticism likewise modeled itself on the relationship between work and its source. Thus, literature was plagiaristic, and criticism documented this reliance on models.
The "modern period," as Texte writes, presents a different story; modern writers are indeed more "scrupulous." Yet, "in imitating more freely, they do not imitate less; moreover, how can one determine their originality if one does not begin by comparing them with their contemporaries, with those by whom every writer, no matter how independent ... is influenced?" Texte is arguing for the relevance of the new field of comparative literature, one of the aims of which is the discovery of such "intellectual relationships." He mentions Taine and his "followers" who would remove the aesthetic element from literary study, by extricating "the personal from each work and the original from each literature."
Picture source: Europe Is Not Dead