deadline for submissions: 
January 31, 2024
full name / name of organization: 
Centre for Comparative Literature, University of Hyderabad
contact email: 

“We all know that the word ‘method’ is eventually derived from the Greek ‘methodos’ which again is derived from ‘meta’ meaning ‘after’ and ‘hodos’ meaning ‘way’. If method is moving after a way, then it must have been arrived at after moving wayward for some time.”-Amiya Dev, “Comparative Literature from Below”, JJCL 29

Comparative literature is a way of reading literature. Literature is the object of study and the method is ‘comparative’. This begs questions like: what does a comparative reading entail? Why should we study literature comparatively? And most importantly, how do we do a comparative reading? These questions have been raised time and again at different locations, both by people within and outside the discipline and various answers have been offered. Historically, different ‘schools’ of comparative literature (the French school, the Russian school, the German school et al.) have conceptualized the method of comparison in different ways. If we look at comparative literature as a situated interpretive practice (as opposed to a theory or body of works), the question of (spatio-temporal and cultural) location becomes very important. Given our location in the plurilingual and pluricultural society of India, where living with plurality and difference is part of our quotidian reality, can we think of an Indian way of doing comparative literature founded upon plurality, relationality and an ethical engagement with difference? Given the nature of literature which is marked by the singularity of each ‘text’ and its irreducible difference from another of its kind, how do we conceptualize a comparative method that is sensitive to this fact? Our method should follow a “from below” (Amiya Dev) approach which modifies itself according to the literary data and does not tweak data to fit the method and creates an open and inclusive discourse. Such an approach makes comparative literature a willing and ethical engagement with alterity and difference aimed at understanding the Other. Our textual practices of reading, writing and interpretation are aimed at understanding the process of textualization, its production and reception, in order to access through literature what Simone de Beauvoir calls a “taste of another life”. These acts of conscious and reflective reading taking into account the ontological plurality, relationality and living with alterity which are conditions of our being, we believe, are fundamental to comparative literature as a practice across the world.

Apart from this, what else can we say, if anything, in general about our research method given that each literary text is singular and hence, each engagement with it is unique? What are the essential characteristics our method must have so that we don’t move too wayward and invite charges of dilettantism that is often levelled against our discipline? Given the history of the discipline which has been beset by a number of crises, even pronouncements of death, calls for dissolution into other disciplines which are often from the Anglo-Saxon academia, how should the comparative method be applied, especially in the Indian academia, to different areas of research and assert its vitality and relevance for a location like ours? What makes our practice different from that of other disciplines like English studies, cultural studies, translation studies, area studies etc.? What is the relationship of comparative practice with theory? How do we negotiate with categories that are often used for the study of literature such as those based on region (South Asia, the Global South, the ‘third world’, regional language literatures, the Commonwealth, the nation), history (the post-colonial, industrial modernity) or identity (based on caste, class, race, gender, sexuality, religion, and other theories of marginalization)? What are the ethics and aesthetics of our engagement with alterity and plurality? Can we interrogate received categories and ideas of comparison and construct a method for research that is suitable to study our lived realities? This conference is an attempt to bring fellow comparatists together to reflect on these questions and clarify for ourselves and “others” the relevance of comparative literature methodology for literary studies today, in India and elsewhere and share our insights and ideas from the point of view of our own practice of comparative literature. We invite papers that engage with, but not limited to, the following themes: ● Literary historiography, genology and thematology: Integrated approaches ● Comparative poetics: Sanskrit, Tamil, Greek, Perso-Arabic et al. ● Literature and other arts: relations and intermediality ● Reception aesthetics and reception history ● Organic plurality of Indian languages: implications for literary studies ● Literary movements and movements of literatures ● Otherness and difference: encounters, engagements and ethics ● Literary relations: interliterariness, contact and literary transactions ● India as a site for comparative literature ● Comicsand graphic narratives ● Spatiality, temporality, chronotope, heterotopia ● Affective and existential and experiential/phenomenological categories for literary studies ● Canons: making, unmaking and beyond ● Dismantling hierarchies in differences ● Aesthetics: poetics and politics ● Identity and difference: comparative perspectives vis-à-vis literature ● Disability as difference ● Discourses of identity and comparative literature: caste, class, race, religion, gender, sexuality, marginality ● Virtuality and literariness: new forms and modes of writing● Orality, oratures, oral and performance traditions ● Narratology, narrativization and narratives of the other/ othered narratives.

We expect the papers to deal with the practical aspects of Comparative Literature and demonstrate how the comparative approach shapes their actual practice of engaging with and reading literary and cultural texts, practices and phenomena. In other words, we expect to see the application of the comparative approach in reading of particular ‘texts’ in the papers and not just an exploration of theoretical ideas. Research scholars working in any discipline, particularly those working in literary studies in any language from a comparative perspective, are encouraged to send in their abstracts. Language of presentation will be English only due to logistical reasons. Abstracts of about 300 words with a title and 5-6 keywords may be uploaded to by 25th January 2024. RAW.Con or Researchers at Work Conference is an annual offline event organized by the students of the Centre for Comparative Literature (CCL) at the University of Hyderabad. The conference is open to students who have registered for Ph.D. or aspiring PhD scholars (a few slots are available for MA students). As per practice, some of the eminent scholars will also be invited as resource persons for the conference. Candidates whose abstracts have been selected will be informed by 10th February 2024. If your abstract is accepted after review, you will be required to email the full paper by 24th February 2024. Selected paper presenters will be provided bed and board, and often train fare as well, if the budget allows.