Deconstruction arguably marked the last time that comparative literature was truly confident as a discipline; with a clear sight of its philological inheritance and posthumanist telos. Post-2000 comp lit, by comparison, has been plagued by insecurity over what it is and what it is not. At the present pass, even the discipline's recognized opportunity—which lies in its being well positioned institutionally to develop a worldly critical praxis responsive to the politics of the aesthetic—is experienced as a special burden; for no discipline wants to be responsible to “allness” (that is to say, to teaching all the world's languages and literatures) under the Malthusian market conditions that govern an enrollment-driven modern education. While there may be no ready solutions to the problems posed by the planetary imperative, one place to look for them is in the substantive discussions of translation and technics that lent self-assurance to literary education in the 1970s and 1980s. In the memos, letters, seminar notes, and texts written in this period, what emerges is a “right to translate” as the covenant of a deconstructive comparative literature.
Drawing on the transcript of Derrida's 1979 seminar “The Concept of Comparative Literature and the Theoretical Problems of Translation,” this essay explores topics for a new comparative literature: the theology of translation, translation and pedagogy, the right to untranslatability, and comparative literature as such as a translation problem.