Hutcheson Macaulay Posnett, World Literature, and the Colonial Comparisons

In: Journal of World Literature


This article discusses the work of the early Irish comparatists Hutcheson Macaulay Posnett, who in 1886 published the first monograph in English in comparative literature. By bringing into discussion Posnett’s lesser-known journalistic publications on politics, the essay argues that his comparative project was importantly determined by the contemporary challenges of British imperial politics and by his own position in the British Empire. The article investigates several aspects of Posnett’s work in the context of British colonialism: his understanding of literature and literary criticism, his perception of the English and French systems of national literature, and his understanding of world literature and classical literature. Recognising the imperial and colonial context of Comparative Literature additionally highlights the development of literary comparisons, which have marked subsequent discussions in the discipline.

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