Thursday, September 26, 2013

Comparative Literary Analysis

The purpose, as stated, is to compare and contrast the cinemas of Israel and Palestine so to better understand perhaps how to reach a mutual and lasting peace for both nations.  This blog is not intended to necessarily play into the political and sociological minefield that is the 'peace process'.  It will not offer diagnoses or solutions to the variety of ground-level issues that plague the discussion of quick resolution.  No, my own hope is to engage in a polite and refined discourse about cinema and how we as viewers can better grasp each other's humanity, therefore negating the major biases that prevent moderated discourse.
Of course, this was a field not pioneered but greatly improved by the writings of Edward W. Said, Professor of Comparative Literature at Columbia University in New York.  Said's writings and statements on his approach to literature, a theme quite separated from his advocacy of the Palestinian cause, carry a unique set of methodological approaches that bear certain relevance to these writings.  In what was his final addition to the ORIENTALISM, his 2003 preface, Said wrote:
Let me now speak about a different alternative model that has been extremely important to me in my work. As a humanist whose field is literature, I am old enough to have been trained forty years ago in the field of comparative literature, whose leading ideas go back to Germany in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Before that I must mention the supremely creative contribution of Giambattista Vico, the Neopolitan philosopher and philologist whose ideas anticipate and later infiltrate the line of German thinkers I am about to cite. They belong to the era of Herder and Wolf, later to be followed by Goethe, Humboldt, Dilthey, Nietzsche, Gadamer, and finally the great Twentieth Century Romance philologists Erich Auerbach, Leo Spitzer and Ernst Robert Curtius. To young people of the current generation the very idea of philology suggests something impossibly antiquarian and musty, but philology in fact is the most basic and creative of the interpretive arts. It is exemplified for me most admirably in Goethe's interest in Islam generally, and Hafiz in particular, a consuming passion which led to the composition of the West-Ostlicher Diwan, and it inflected Goethe's later ideas about Weitliteratur, the study of all the literatures of the world as a symphonic whole which could be apprehended theoretically as having preserved the individuality of each work without losing sight of the whole.
Film studies, emerging from the English departments of the 1960's, can absorb a tremendous level of insight from this set of criteria and thinkers.  Especially interesting is the fact that Zionism, as a political trend, emerges equally from this Romantic period, and so it can be understood through this spectrum, in an inter-textual manner.  It is my hope that the symphony of films created will perhaps offer deeper insights than previously contemplated.

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