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Associazione irlandese per la letteratura comparata 
Association irlandaise de littérature comparée
Asociación irlandesa de literatura comparada
Asociación irlandesa de literatura comparada
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About us... People, History...

The CLAI Executive Committee...

President: Brigitte Le Juez (Dublin City University) (brigitte.lejuez@dcu.ie);
Secretary: Victoria Rios-Castano (University of Ulster) (V.Rios-Castano@ulster.ac.uk);
Treasurer: Michael Kelly (University of Limerick) (michael.g.kelly@ul.ie)
Membership Officer: Gillian Thomson (St Patrick's College Drumcondra) (comparative.ireland@gmail.com)
Webmaster: Cormac Ó Cuilleanáin (Trinity College Dublin) (cocullnn@tcd.ie) in cooperation with:
Postgraduate Representative: Nina Shiel (Dublin City University) (nina.shiel3@mail.dcu.ie)

Ordinary members:
         Paolo Bartoloni (NUI Galway) (paolo.bartoloni@nuigalway.ie)
         Jean-Philippe Imbert (Dublin City University) (jean-philippe.imbert@dcu.ie)
         Marieke Krajenbrink (University of Limerick) (marieke.krajenbrink@ul.ie)
         Jenny Murray (University of Ulster)

Co-opted members:
        Daragh O'Connell (University College Cork) (Daragh.OConnell@ucc.ie)
        Felix Ó Murchada (NUI Galway) (felix.omurchadha@nuigalway.ie

The Annual General Meeting, November 2010

The Committee was elected at the Annual General Meeting at the University of Limerick in November 2010. For more news of the meeting, please click HERE.

The History of CLAI: the germ of an idea

The idea for a Comparative Literature Association came into being in Spring 2007, during a conversation between Brigitte Le Juez (then Head of SALIS at DCU), Mark Quinn (then researching in English at UCD) Diana Perez Garcia (who was at UCD & St Patrick's Drumcondra). Their discussions led to a planning meeting at Trinity College Dublin in November 2007, bringing together a cross-section of people and institutions active in the fields of comparative literature, intercultural research, translation studies, medieval studies and modern languages. After another year of preparaory work, the formal launch of CLAI took place at a reception at the Royal Irish Academy on 28 November 2008, followed by the first International Postgraduate Symposium at Dublin City University on 29 November. (The Proceedings of that Symposium have been published in PDF form on the web: please click here.

Making plans

Preparatory work for the November 2007 meeting was done by Brigitte Le Juez, Mark Quinn, Diana Perez Garcia and Cormac Ó Cuilleanáin (Italian, TCD). The meeting was also attended by a representative cross-section of researchers and teachers from a number of third-level institutions from Northern Ireland and the Republic:

Jean-Philippe Imbert, French, SALIS, DCU
Sam Slote, English, TCD
Ivana Milivojevic, currently at NUI Maynooth
Victoria Ríos Castaño, Spanish, SLL, University of Ulster (Magee campus)
Rania Kosmidou, researching film in the SLLF/HII at UCD
Jana Fischerova, researching Irish & Czech literature & censorship, UCD
Declan Kiberd, Anglo-Irish, UCD
Anne Fuchs, German, SLLF, UCD
Tony Coulson, German, SALIS, DCU
Caitriona Leahy, German, TCD
Marieke Krajenbrink, German, LCS, UL
Michael G. Kelly, French, LCS, UL
Barbara Geraghty, Japanese, LCS, UL
Bruce Swansey, Spanish, SALIS, DCU

Others who expressed an interest but were unable to attend included Philip Coleman (English, TCD), Phyllis Gaffney (French, UCD), Emer O'Beirne (French, UCD), and Sarah Smyth (Russian TCD). For a record of the meeting, click HERE.

History and Prehistory: What is Comparative Literature?

The emergence of Comparative Literature as an institutionalised discipline can be traced to Hutcheson Macaulay Posnett, a lawyer who became Professor of Classics and English Literature at the University of Auckland, in the late nineteenth century. In 1886, Posnett, who was incidentally born in Ireland, published a book entitled Comparative Literature , as part of Kegan Paul's "International Scientific Series". Posnett envisioned and promoted Comparative Literature as a social science, which might enable the recognition and exploration of social and cultural differences and how different social and cultural structures produce different literatures. While Posnett's book encouraged the establishment of chairs in Comparative Literature at leading universities, it is only latterly that comparative literature might be said to have entered mainstream Irish academic life, although many academics have been practising the discipline throughout their careers.

Comparative Literature, in its early stages, mostly examined the exchanges and the links between the dominant European literatures. Then, in the aftermath of World War I, literary studies became more committed to national cultures and occasionally civilizations, such as British, French and North-American cultures. Following World War II, Comparative Literature went on to devote itself to the history of international literary relations, although these relations remained closely aligned with the Western literary canon.

While Comparatists in the post-war period prided themselves in being able to speak several languages, there was a marked tendency to specialise in dominant European languages, which left Comparative Studies open to the accusation of maintaining a Eurocentric bias. Today these parameters have changed: the notion of a clearly defined and exclusive literary canon has been challenged and literature is less tightly bound to spatially-defined traditions. Now that we all live in a more global arena, and in an age of increasing cultural contact between different language cultures, the study of Comparative literature is more relevant than ever. This is particularly the case in 21 st -century Ireland, which has evolved into an ever more complex and diverse multicultural society.

Detractors of Comparative Literature have pointed out that the discipline doesn't have a clear-cut identity, that it doesn't offer precise, agreed methodological parameters. They have also stated that comparative principles are constantly shifting, and that comparatists spend more time discussing theory than literature itself.

The inability to provide an exact definition of Comparative Literature is however indicative of perhaps the greatest strength of the discipline: its openness to all disciplinary approaches and literary theories, regardless of cultural origin. It is worth noting that there have always been courses and modules that would qualify as being comparative within programmes offered by Irish universities. Any courses that discuss art and literature, that trace the influence of film within textual studies, or take post-colonialism as their central theme, encapsulate the comparative spirit. Such courses indicate that it no longer makes sense to isolate one art form from another or to limit literary studies to one national culture. All of which suggests that Comparative Literature is currently alive and well within Irish academia.

CLAI recognises that the strength of Comparative Literature resides in its openness and diversity and, for that reason, wishes to provide a broad forum to encourage cooperation amongst practitioners of the discipline. CLAI is an independent and inclusive association whose members endeavour to promote Comparative Literature within Irish universities and institutions. The Association held its first General Meeting at the end of October 2007. Further goals include organising an annual conference in the summer time and setting up an online peer-reviewed journal.

A background to Irish Comparative Literature programmes:

Most of the current Comparative Literature programmes offered by Irish universities are organised by schools and departments of languages. Not all programmes require knowledge of foreign languages. In the past, the difference between World Literature, which was read in translation, and Comparative Literature, where texts were read in the original language, justified the need for Comparative Literature departments to belong to language departments. Today, however, as most literary texts are studied in translation, while World Literature and Comparative Literature remain distinct and separate fields, they may be said to complement each other extensively.

Until recently, most language departments in Ireland could broadly be described as having retained a discrete and distinct autonomy, each focusing on their respective national literatures and cultures. The recent creation of Schools, encompassing and uniting diverse language departments, has provided a unique opportunity for both students and academics, from different languages and disciplines, to contribute to comparative programmes.