Abstract

This article begins with my experience of participating in the 2019 MLA Convention panel entitled “Transacting Comparative Studies with Other Disciplines and Units,” alongside an array of intersectional approaches to—and relationships with—the discipline's once-dominant comparative literature paradigm. The presence and prominence of such interventions both at MLA and in 2014–2015's ACLA Report on the State of the Discipline collectively suggest that comparative literature seems well past the point of concerning itself, as it still did just a decade before, with preserving seemingly quaint notions of DeManian “literariness.” These two events demonstrate what twenty-first-century comparatists have learned from the emergence of postcolonialisms, world literature, and other perceived intrusions across its intellectual borders. Over the past several decades, comparative literature programs have survived, if not thrived, by abandoning traditional national boundaries, embracing regional cultural and linguistic differences within nation-states, and advocating for the diversity of languages and literatures in the academy. This long-overdue process of shedding disciplinary boundaries has occurred less in the name of interdisciplinarity, or of diversity and inclusion, than of survival: It was the only way for comparative literature to remain viable as a department or program within today's neoliberal, enrollment-driven university. Seen in this context, the discipline's collective decision to participate in today's exponentially more diverse academy appears more pragmatic than visionary; a more interdisciplinary—and thus transactional—iteration of comparative literature may help it survive in an increasingly competitive academic marketplace.

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