The Contribution of Comparative Literature to the Humanities: Open Endings in the Picaresque

By Luigi Gussago.

Published by The International Journal of Literary Humanities

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Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: August 26, 2015 $US5.00

This paper advocates the importance of comparative literature not only as an area of exotic intersection between distant national cultures and languages, but also as a stimulating vantage point in the revision of stereotypes and top-down evaluations. After describing the mainstream approaches to literary comparisons – influence and imitation, reception and survival, thematology, etc. – I will apply a comparative method to one of the most imperishable forms of story-telling in a European context: the picaresque novel. Originating in late-Renaissance Spain as a polemical response to the conformism imposed by the Catholic Counter-Reformation, this kind of narrative centred on a rogue’s farcical adventures has crossed frontiers and divides incessantly, from Britain to Germany, Italy, Russia and France, to name but a few, becoming the unreliable messenger of Enlightened modernity and its inevitable quandaries. In more recent history, the pícaros have joined the voices of Post-War disillusionment and the outcry announcing the end of all ideologies, in keeping with their usual understatement and unyielding self-indulgence. In this perspective, the analysis of the typical open-ended structure of a tale of roguery will help explain the essence of the picaresque anti-epos and fully justify a wide-ranging use of a comparative slant in the humanities.

Keywords: Comparative, Literature, Picaresque

The International Journal of Literary Humanities, Volume 13, Issue 4, December 2015, pp.25-37. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: August 26, 2015 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 435.493KB)).

Dr Luigi Gussago

PhD Graduate, Italian Department, School of Languages, Histories, and Cultures, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia