Academic journal article The Comparatist

Celebrations, Clusters, and Comparative Literature

Academic journal article The Comparatist

Celebrations, Clusters, and Comparative Literature

Article excerpt

In this issue of The Comparatist, I decided that we might try something different. I have had the occasion, as I grow older and my colleagues grow even older, to participate in various Festschriften offered in their honor. This is a charming custom, where colleagues join together to celebrate the career of one of their own. It is a custom that does not occur often enough in the States. On too many occasions, a scholar's retirement is feted in the seminar room after hours with some punch and cookies or worse, with a dinner of glorified cafeteria food where administrators make lame jokes. When I first learned that Michael Palencia-Roth had retired after many years at the University of Illinois, I thought it reasonable to use my editorial discretion to collect a number of articles in honor of his work. Prof. Palencia-Roth is an eminent comparatist and a valiant soldier in our field. His work, both scholarly and pedagogically, exemplifies the best of our discipline. The Board of the Southern Comparative Literature Association supported my decision to frame this issue as a Festschrift to him. This year, Palencia-Roth took part in a keynote forum at our annual meeting at Auburn University, announcing this volume.

The Board of the SCLA recognizes the unique position of its journal, the only regional American journal of Comparative Literature with a national, and even international, readership. I appreciate their encouragement as we venture forth with such alternative clusters of articles. Working with this perspective has brought forth unexpected connections: for example, David Damrosch's article in this issue anticipates next year's cluster on the relationship between comparative literature and world literature (this future cluster stems from an ACLA panel I organized devoted to this topic) while simultaneously recalling a cluster presented last year (the ICLA panel on the state of the discipline, which also took place at the ACLA). In coming years, we are also planning guest-edited topics and clusters that are comparative in scope culled from the SCLA annual meeting.

Michael Palencia-Roth, the Emeritus Trowbridge Scholar in Literary Studies and Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Illinois, was born and raised in Colombia. He taught at Illinois for thirty years, where he directed the program in Comparative and World Literature for six years (1988-94). He has published books and monographs on Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Thomas Mann, James Joyce, the conquest period in Latin America, the Holocaust, Comparative Literature as a discipline, and comparative civilizational analysis. His approximately 80 other publications include major encyclopedia articles on Latin American authors, as well as essays on Germanic subjects, English literature, the Spanish colonization of the New World, and theoretical issues in cross-cultural analysis. Palencia-Roth's role as a teacher, mentor, and administrator bears particular note. He has molded a generation of comparatists, instilling in them a sense of what it means to work together both professionally and collegially. It is, therefore, both his scholarship and his work as a citizen in the profession that the SCLA honors in these pages. A number of scholars have written articles devoted to topics that Palencia-Roth has touched upon in his work. We begin this issue with an interview with Professor Palencia-Roth in which he discusses his peregrinations within Comparative Literature. He examines the nature of the discipline and the changes he has seen in it since his days at Harvard as a graduate student. He also offers a prognosis for its future, noting the possibilities and pitfalls that might occasion the transformation of Comparative Literature into World Literature. Palencia-Roth's concerns (and celebration of Comparative Literature's potential) nicely establish a framework that the essays in his honor will engage, beginning with David Damrosch's comments on the American institutionalization of World Literature. …

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