j. hillis miller
PREFACE
As its title says, this book juxtaposes views of lit er a ture by two scholars
who live and work on dif er ent continents. Ranjan Ghosh teaches En glish
at the University of North Bengal, while J. Hillis Miller is an emeritus pro-
fessor of Comparative Lit er a ture and En glish at the University of California,
Irvine.
Our book, after an introduction by each author, is made up of ten inter-
woven chapters, paired in sequence, one by each of us on five topics: (1)
What Lit er a ture Is and Why It Still Matters Today; (2) Poetry as a Literary
Form; (3) The Prob lems of World Lit er a ture; (4) Teaching Lit er a ture; (5)
Ethics and Lit er a ture. Though each of us was free to write an essay of any
sort on each of these five topics, each chapter also includes dialogical com-
ments by its author on the matching essay by the other author. The ex-
plicit dialogical aspect of this book is crucial. It is a book that results from
several years of vigorous interaction on our topics, across continents.
The two authors by no means, however, straightforwardly represent
India or the United States. For one thing, literary study, literary theory,
and the teaching of lit er a ture are im mensely diverse in each country. Each
of us speaks conscientiously for himself, represents himself, not the coun-
try or university where he teaches. One of the strengths of this book will
be to introduce Western readers who may know little about it to the San-
skrit, Hindi, and Bengali concept of lit er a ture as Sahitya. Nevertheless,
many of Ghosh’s citations and references come from Western theories of
lit er a ture. His theory is the result of what he calls an (in)fusion from many
sources. Many of Ghosh’s examples of lit er a ture are also Western. Miller’s
commitments in literary study and teaching to rhetorical reading and to
the use of speech- act theory are by no means universally accepted in the
West. In the United States, any position on these issues is likely to be strongly
contested. Assumptions about literary study and the ways it matters are
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