According to a well-known narrative, the concept of Weltliteratur and its academic correlative, the discipline of comparative literature, originated in Germany and France in the early nineteenth century, influenced by the spread of scientism and nationalism. But there is another genesis story that begins in the late eighteenth century in Spain and Italy, countries with histories entangled with the Arab presence in Europe during the medieval period. Emphasizing the role of Arabic in the formation of European literatures, Juan Andrés wrote the first comparative history of “all literature,” before the concepts of Weltliteratur and comparative literature gained currency. The divergence of the two genesis stories is the result of competing geopolitical interests, which determine which literatures enter into the sphere of comparison, on what terms, within which paradigms, and under what ideological and discursive conditions.

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