Tuesday, 4 August 2009

English v Comp Lit

Re my last posting, on rhetorical and serious lit, or attitudes to lit: in the Canadian university where I worked for eleven years there was a department of English and a department of Comparative Literature. The English faculty (or most of the men at any rate -- there were hardly any women) were shabby looking, had scruffy beards and drove old wrecks of cars: you could see the Canadian heritage of Scottish Presbyterianism in their long-suffering faces, lined by years of dutiful service in the trenches of lit. Comp Lit wore expensive, beautifully tailored suits or canary waistcoasts and bow ties; their shoes and briefcases were of the best Italian leather, their conferences were in Rio and Lisbon and they drove sports cars. They favoured clever rhetoric, playful texts and playful theory. They were closed down, as I recall, for financial irregularities and abysmal student ratings.

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