Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Fritz Strich at the MLA

Dividing up the world
I am flying to Chicago tomorrow (ugh!) for the MLA convention. I suppose my opinion of the generality of the convention will not surprise anyone reading this post. I had agreed to be on a panel on world literature early last year. When I received the convention program in the fall, however, I was shocked at the mediocrity of the panels. I haven't been a member of the MLA for over a decade, but when I would attend conventions previously there were always a number of panels I looked forward to attending, often conflicting time-wise with other panels. I will of course go to hear Birgit Tautz and John Noyes (who, by the way, is chairing the world literature panel in which I am presenting), but there is very little serious 18th-century presence, German or otherwise. Again, readers will surely know what I mean.

Kvetching aside, Fritz Strich is going to make his Chicago debut. Anyone who does research on world literature invariably comes across his name. The status of his 1946 study Goethe und die Weltliteratur is always invoked. John Pizer writes, for instance, that it is "still the most important monograph on the subject."  Yet if you look at historical overviews of world literature, especially recent ones, you will find him overlooked and, indeed, dismissed. This dismissal stems from what is considered the Eurocentric bias of his interpretation of world literature.

Well, I am going to take that issue head-on. Stay tuned.

Picture credit: The Disorder of Things

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