In the ever-evolving realm of Comparative Literature, scholarship is dialogic: from intertextuality to the juxtaposition of seemingly-disparate works, from applying and challenging theory to actively engaging readers. As compelling participants in this continuing dialogue, the papers in our Fall 2019 issue critically engage with theory and literary form to address subjective and aesthetic experience. By examining the literary representation of characters’ morality, sensuality, or corporeality, as well as readers’ own experiences, these papers illuminate conversations within and beyond the literary text.
Attention to dialogue as a formal element and the project of bringing theorists and texts into critical conversation both figure prominently in Verónica Copello’s “Justice in Crime and Punishment: Aristotle, Bakhtin, and Dostoevsky in a Dialogic Penetration of the Ultimate Manifestation of Virtue.” In this essay, Copello draws upon Aristotle’s interpretation of justice in Book V of Nicomachean Ethics, as well as Bakhtin’s theories of dialogic penetration and unfinalizability in Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics, to perform a polyphonic reading of Crime and Punishment. In her thorough analysis, Copello addresses the limits and applications of Bakhtin’s aesthetic theory and demonstrates the value of complementing Christian moral readings of Crime and Punishment with a consideration of classical philosophical concepts. In a threefold maneuver, this paper reveals the centrality of dialogue in defining justice, illuminating characters’ values, and expanding literary interpretation.
While Copello’s essay examines the dialogic rendering of identity based on moral values, Sydney To’s “The Corpse and the Cannibal: The Abjection of the North Vietnamese Soldier in Duong Thu Huong’s Novel Without a Name and Bao Ninh’s The Sorrow of War” studies unstable constructions of national and soldierly identity during and after the Vietnam War. Considering the figure of the North Vietnamese soldier in Duong and Ninh’s novels, To applies Julia Kristeva’s concept of abjection to illuminate blurred borders between life and death, human and thing, self and other. With historical attentiveness, To critiques vital materialism’s universalization of the human subject and, through the motif of cannibalism, draws attention to the ways in which the violence of civil war penetrates the national body, the North Vietnamese army, the family unit, and the individual soldier.
In “Translation and the Aesthetic Experience of the Abhijñānaśākuntalam,” Pranati Parikh brings readers and translators into the textual dialogue. Throughout this case study of the Abhijñānaśākuntalam, a Sanskrit drama by Kālidāsa, Parikh calls upon Wolfgang Iser’s theory in The Reading Process to demonstrate that aesthetic experience of the text is continually constructed in the reader-text encounter and constituted by the reader’s expectations, imagination, and perspective. Applying Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s concept of “speaking” speech, Parikh identifies the reader and translator’s co-participation in the text as an act of ongoing renewal that transcends language.
On behalf of the CLUJ editorial team, I thank these scholars for so skillfully forming, analyzing, and relating these critical dialogues. It is an honor to showcase their work in this issue. I’m also immensely grateful to the CLUJ editors who have taken up the invigorating challenges of peer review and publication. Your dedication and insight enrich the journal and have made this issue possible. Finally, thank you, readers, for joining us in recognizing and responding to this incisive scholarship. We’re so pleased to share these conversations with you.
Until next time,