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The concept of Romania, considered by Curtius to be the only context permitting a true comparative literature, is basically a product of the Romantic movement's national and historical consciousness, its search for indigenous roots. It is an inadequate context for the study of modern literatures, and also the wrong kind of context because it emphasizes study of origins and derivations. Any context that defines literature by a place, by geographical or linguistic units, probably fosters bad pedagogy, criticism, and literary history. It makes us teach literature as an institution and as information, and leads us to neglect the human function of literature. While we should renovate literary history (for literary utopianism only reinforces the autotelic status of much literary study), we should direct our attention to the structures of literature as a whole, of consciousness and the imagination, and place man's fiction-making within the range of his other image-making activities. The teaching of literature-a peculiar activity whose very possibility is open to question-should be centrally concerned with the question, what is literature? Studies should be organized to direct attention to the elementary functions of the fiction-maker.
PMLA © 1972 Modern Language Association