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Concept of Influence a Symposium

Concept of Influence a Symposium

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The Concept of Influence in Comparative Literature: A SymposiumAuthor(s): A. Owen Aldridge, Anna Balakian, Claudio Guillén, Wolfgang Bernard FleischmannSource:
Comparative Literature Studies,
, Special Advance Number (1963), pp. 143-152Published by: Penn State University PressStable URL:
Accessed: 18/06/2010 06:58
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ASYMPOSIUM
The
Concept
of
Influence
in
Comparative
Literature
/. A.OWENA LDR I DGEessence ofliterarycriticismiscomparisonwhetherwithinasinglena-tional literatureor inaperspectiveembracingseveral.In thesamewaythattherenever was agoodwarorabadpeace,allmethodsofcomparisonaregoodevennotingtypographicalcharacteristics.Totakeanactualillustration,it is validliterarycriticism to note thatLaurenceSterne and Machado deAssisdeliberatelyeftblank whitepagesasahoax on theirreaders.It isequallyvalidtopointoutthatMachadode Assis mentions Sterne inhispreface,indicatingthathealso wasaware ofthesimilarity.WhencriticspointoutMachado'sindebtednesstoLaRochefoucauld,HugoandSchopenhauer, theyarenotingresemblancesatleastequallyimportantwith the blankpagesmerelyless obvious.Comparison maybe usedtoindicateaffinity,traditionor influence.Affinityconsistsinresemblancesinstyle,structure,moodor idea betweentwo workswhichhave no othernecessaryconnection.Asanexample,the RussiannovelOblomovmaybecomparedtoHamlet becauseeach work is a characterstudyofindecisionandprocrastination.Traditionorconventionconsists inre-semblancesbetweenworkswhichformpartof alargegroupof similarworksheldtogetherbyacommonhistorical,chronologicalorformalbond.HereOblomovmaybecomparedto anumberofnineteenth-centuryRussiannovelswhichpresentaprevailingtypeinRussianhistory,theindolentman.Finally,influencerepresentsa direct effectupononeliterarywork causedbyaprecedingone.TopressOblomovintoserviceoncemore,whenPeggy GuggenheiminhermemoirsreferstoSamuelBeckettunder theappelationofOblomov,sherevealsadirectinfluenceofGoncharov'snovel.Thevogueofseekinginfluenceinliterarycriticismhassometimesbeenattributedtothenineteenth-centuryemphasisuponscientificmethod-to an
143
 
144COMPARATIVELITERATURESTUDIES
analogybetweenNaturwissenschajtandLiteraturwissenschaft.nEnglishlitera-ture at leastthemethodwentback wellintotheeighteenthcentury,and sincenearlyall oftheeminentcriticswereministersandtheologians,Iwould assumethatthe methodisanoutgrowthof textual criticism oftheBible,whereseekingparallelsbetween the Oldand New Testaments was standardprocedure.Themethod was stimulated moreoverbythecloserelationshipbetweenpoetryandthe Latinclassics,thepoetsthemselvesfrequentlyprinting parallelpassagesorpointingoutresemblancesinfootnotes.T. S. Eliot'snotes in TheWasteLandbelongtothistradition. In theAugustanage,huntingforparallel pas-sageswasalmostaparlor game.Thethreeprimarycriticaltechniquesofthe neo-classicalperiodwere(i)applyingtherules;(2) pointingoutbeautiesandfaults;and(3) indicatingparallelpassagesand other resemblances.Therelianceuponruleshas fadedoutofcriticism,but theseekingofinfluencesremains.Inasense,the beautiesandfaultsmethod wasaforerunner of modernestheticcriticismoresthétiquecomparée.The mostpenetratingstudyof asingleEnglishauthorintheeighteenthcenturywasJosephWarton'stwovolumeEssayontheWritingsandGeniusofPope.Hismethedisessentiallythesame asthatofR.D.Havens'modernstudy,TheInfluence ofMilton inEnglishPoetry.Thestudyof influenceis,ofcourse,muchbroaderthanmerely isolatingparallel passagesorsources.Allsourcesareinfluences,but notallinfluencesaresources.I woulddefinean influenceassomethingwhichexistsintheworkofoneauthorwhich couldnothave existedhadhenot read theworkofapreviousauthor.Whenthe resemblances between the twoauthors are clearenoughtobediscerned,theliteraryhistorianhaslegitimatematerialforhisuse.Influenceis notsomethingwhichreveals itself in asingle,concretemanner,but itmust besoughtinmanydifferent manifestations.Amajorreasonforourinterestininfluenceisthatithelps explainwhyawriterexpressesathoughtor asentimentinthewayhe does. It has sometimesbeenheldthatwhen welookforliteraryconnections"la créationartistiqueseréduitàunprocessus mécanique,oulesconceptsdecauseetd'effetsontnaïvementremplacésparceuxde'sources'etd' 'influences.'"*Yetthediscoveryofasource isnotmerelyanendinitself.Understandingasource showstheprocessofcompositionandilluminatesthe mindofthe author.Wemayanalyzeahighlypoetic passageinShakespeare,forexample,andelucidatethe estheticvalueswhich wefindinitbut we cannotbesure thatShakespearewentthroughthesameestheticor emotionalprocessincreatingtheworkwhichweexperienceininterpretingit.But ifweknow,to bespecific,thatcertainpassagesinTheTempestare aparaphraseofMontaigne,thenweknow thatShakespearecameintocontactwiththeFrenchessayistand wasfavorablyimpressedwithwhatheread.We knowsomethingconcreteaboutShakespeare'smindandhisprocessofcomposition.Guillen has usedpreciselythis contributionofinfluencestudies as anargumentagainstthem that influenceshowscreativeprocess,but hasnovalue incom-paringoneliteraryworktoanother. "Todacriticadeinfluencias tiende aser

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