Building a Profession

Autobiographical Perspectives on the History of Comparative Literature in the United States

Edited by Lionel Gossman & Mihai I. Spariosu

Subjects: Critical Theory
Series: SUNY series, The Margins of Literature
Paperback : 9780791418000, 234 pages, March 1994
Hardcover : 9780791417997, 234 pages, March 1994

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Table of contents


1. Memories of the Profession
Rene Wellek

2. Comparative Literature at Harvard
Harry Levin

3. Experiences and Experiments
Victor Lange

4. Versions of a Discipline
Thomas M. Greene

5. Am I  a Comparatist?
Thomas G. Rosenmeyer

6. Reminiscences of an Academic Maverick
W. Wolfgang Holdheim

7. How and Why I Became a Comparatist
Anna Balakian

8. Comparative Literature, Modern Thought and Literature
Albert J. Guerard

9. Comparative Literature, CL, and I
Thomas R. Hart

10. Born to Compare
Lilian Furst

11. On Writing to Be A Comparatist
Marjorie Perloff

12. Self-Portrait in the Unembellished Mode
Herbert Lindenberger

13. Home Truths and Institutional Falsehoods
Gerald Gillespie

14. Remembering Paul de Man: An Epoch in the History of Comparative Literature
Stanley Corngold

15. Out of a Gothic North
Lionel Gossman

16. Exile, Play, and Intellectual Autobiography
Mihai I. Spariosu

List of Contributions



At a time when the study of literature and the literary canon itself are once again the focus of intense debate, Building a Profession offers a retrospective on the early days of Comparative Literature in the United States and on its role in defining literary scholarship in the heady decades following the end of the second World War. Composed of autobiographical sketches by a number of eminent comparatists, chiefly of the generation that has either recently retired or is approaching retirement, it anchors the intellectual and scholarly aspirations of the post-War period, through the personal narratives of those who shared in them and promoted them, in the experience of war, uprooting, racial and religious intolerance or persecution, and a deep longing for peaceful exchange and international understanding. It is both a contribution to the history of literary study in the United States and a record of changes that have taken place in the culture of this country since World War II.

Lionel Gossman is Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures at Princeton University. Mihai I. Spariosu is Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Georgia, Athens.


"The reading of this book has allowed me to see how complex, varied, and rich an array of personalities there are in American academia. I venture to say that this might turn into a historic document about the institution of teaching in American universities in recent times. "—Giuseppe F. Mazzota, Yale University