David Damrosch's lengthy new study Comparing the Literatures is a useful, introductory survey aimed at students and faculty in comparative literature programs and “anyone interested in incorporating a comparative dimension into their work” (1). Broadly speaking, he seeks to respond to two interrelated questions: “How can we best address the many disparate literatures now at play in literary studies, and what do we really mean by ‘comparing’ them?” (1)

Comparing the Literatures begins with a dream about a moving van. It proceeds to unload box after box containing the accumulated materials of several centuries of comparative literary practice and theorization. Whereas moving boxes are typically labeled according to the rooms into which one anticipates unpacking the items, Damrosch here labels the chapters according to a loose schema of subject areas, with chapters on “Origins,” “Emigrations,” “Politics,” “Theories,” “Languages,” “Literatures,” “Worlds,” and “Comparisons.” He concludes with a section entitled “Rebirth of...

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