Mission Statement

The Coordinating Committee for the Comparative History of Literatures in European Languages Series (CHLEL) was launched by the International Comparative Literature Association (ICLA) in 1967. Its purpose is to publish a series of comparative historical studies, each edited by an international team of scholars. This ongoing project is based on two fundamental premises. First of all, the writing of literary histories confined to specific nations, peoples, or languages must be complemented by the writing of literary history that coordinates related or comparable phenomena from an international point of view. Its work is multilinguistic and intercultural. Secondly, it is almost impossible for individual scholars to write such comprehensive histories, which implies we must now rely on structured teamwork drawing collaborators from different nations. The editorial Coordinating Committee that supervises this series consists of sixteen scholars from various countries (ICLA Coordinating Committee). The Committee serves as a review board that aims to foster the coherence as well as the innovativeness of each of the volumes produced. The publisher of these volumes is Benjamins (Amsterdam and Philadelphia).

1. Periods and stylistic currents. The first volumes in this series selected periods or currents in which the transformation of forms and ideas is lively and promotes an understanding of the historical process in literature. In this series we also publish volumes on epochs or currents that display a correlation of stylistic expression and where the fruitfulness of the international give and take (as opposed to the idea of national pre-eminence) can be demonstrated.

2. Geographical Volumes. This series includes volumes on the literature and the history of literary cultures in specific regions, where proximity has fostered shared historical experiences of conflict and cultural confluences. New volumes in this series focus on literatures in European languages in a transcultural, transnational or global perspective.

3. Topic-oriented volumes. This series includes volumes that rewrite literary history from the perspective of a certain topic. The focus is on topics that have a transnational and transhistorical character, meaning that the topic has an important international relevance for the shaping of literature in more than one historical period.

4. Problem-oriented volumes. This series consists of one-volume works that focus on the critical discussion of one or more problems related to literary historiography.

Within these principles, the scholars entrusted with each project are given the latitude needed to put together the best possible volumes. Writing comparative histories by way of international teamwork proved to be a revolutionary procedure in literary historiography. Few scholars can claim the ability to cover the entire range of literature relevant to the phenomena under study. Hence the need for partial syntheses as the basis upon which more truly international syntheses in turn are built. With the Committee’s help, each project designs the methodology  pertinent to its subject. The resulting volumes serve as a historical resource for students of literature from many periods and nations.

The research methods of these Comparative History volumes cross the entire range of methods in comparative literature today. The Committee in particular has welcomed innovative trends in literary and cultural studies, including New Criticism, structuralism, hermeneutics, deconstruction, reception theory, New Historicism, gender studies, post-colonial theories, and interart studies, according to the requirement of the individual topics. Comparative literary history has in part focused on epochs or currents that display a correlation of stylistic  expression and where the fruitfulness of the international give and take (as opposed to the idea of national pre-eminence) can be demonstrated. The comparative approach highlights formal as well as thematic analogies and contrasts, and inquires into the historical context as well  as crossdisciplinary (especially esthetic) connections.