If reading literature in its original languages has always been the sine qua non of comparative literature, the discipline began to change when the answer to the above question was no longer restricted to European languages. In parallel motion, many efforts, several of which are comparative in nature, have been made since the early 1990s to reconfigure American studies beyond its established national-linguistic boundaries, either in relation to the American hemisphere or to various constructs of world literature. This essay reflects on those two mutually reinforcing processes by way of implicating Arabic studies, a field in which the question of which languages are relevant may seem as counterintuitive as in American studies. Given its (post)colonial contexts, comparative approaches to Arabic literature have tended to emphasize its relations with British and French literatures. These conventional answers to the question of which languages are relevant in the study of American and Arabic literatures have echoed geopolitical hierarchies and obscured important networks that do not always center on Europe and the United States, such as the South-South dimension of world literature, of which Arab-Latin American relations is but one example. The essay proposes a tertiary model that connects U.S. to Latin American and Arabic studies.
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Waïl S. Hassan; Which Languages?. Comparative Literature 1 March 2013; 65 (1): 5–14. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00104124-2019248
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