Cultures, Texts and Intertext
This course suggests a comparative approach to literary and cultural studies. Our starting point will be a reflection on culture and how it can be understood in terms of community and text; on interpretation, implication, and distance in our realization of the world; on travel and our perceptions of others.
What Do We Study
A significant aspect of a culture’s understanding of itself is the recording of its history and traditions; in other words, what is to be remembered and transmitted. In our increasingly hybrid cultures, different —and sometimes conflicting— records coexist. A reflection on our understanding of memory is a central aspect of this course, focused on the study of literary representations of the victims of violence in 20th century European history (of National Socialism, Stalinism, the Spanish Civil War, dictatorship and exile).
Which is the Line of Thought
The general objective of the course is to learn about a myriad of approaches to cultural and intercultural studies, and to acquire the fundamental skills to analyze them.
The questions we will try to answer, and which articulate the theoretical framework, are the following:
- Which is the purpose of a narration, of a memoir? The different motives of narration; literature and testimony.
- How can the limits of what can be said be expanded to narrate traumatic experiences that exist beyond the use of language? The use of literary tradition.
- How do we articulate the relationship between individual memory and historical memory; between memory, testimony and forgetting; between writing and survival; writing and the construction of an identity?
We will also study a second important aspect of cultural memory in the construction of a tradition: The reception of foreign literatures and artistic forms, and their integration into one's own cultural horizon. The questions to be posed in this case would be:
- How to read; what is the relationship between reading and appropriation?
- How has an author been read in different cultures or periods?
- How has a text been translated, interpreted, adapted along the way?
The case example we focus on is the reception of Northern European literature in Catalan Modernism.
Theoretical and Practical Approaches
Among the possible authors to be addressed in the first block of questions are Imre Kertész, Charlotte Salomon, Varlam Shalamov, Herta Mülle and Max Aub, among others.
Our approach to the reflection on the recording of violence follows the train of thought of Paul Ricoeur and his work La memoria, la historia, el olvido (Trotta, 2000), Susan Sontag and Ante el dolor de los demás (Alfaguara, 2003), together with two works by Judith Butler: Vida precaria. El poder del duelo y la violencia (Paidos, 2004) and Marcos de guerra. Las vidas lloradas (Paidós, 2010). Reception studies follow the line of Hans Robert Jauss and are based on hermeneutics, while the conception of comparative literature that underlies the approach of this course is indebted to the work of Erich Auerbach and of Claudio Guillén.