The Material Turn in Comparative Literature: An Introduction

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In the introduction to this special issue I investigate the feasibility of a material turn in comparative literature. I approach this turn in the sense of the Greek kronos: as a circular, not linear, movement. I propose that this material turn has materialized in the practice and criticism of artists’ books; the study of comparative textual media; research in avant-garde poetry; and a line of criticism incorporating memory studies and book as well as paper history. Through an intermedial analysis of Roland Barthes’s “The Death of the Author,” I show that the material turn in comparative literature emerges out of—rather than against—what is perceived to be its oppositional figure: poststructuralist thought and the linguistic turn. This insight urges us to reconsider the material turn not as a new development in the history of the humanities, but as a set of ongoing concerns, insights, and methods across time.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)247-263
Number of pages17
JournalComparative Literature
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018


  • materiality
  • intermediality
  • agency
  • affect
  • Roland Barthes


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