Dr. J.B. Schriever, the Europe-educated and European-looking professor who can speak French, German, Spanish, English, Filipino, and Batangas Tagalog (&c.) interchangeably, says it’s a methodology.
That affirms Damrosch’s claim that Comparative Literature is a mode of reading. So it’s not really an area of studies but a system of approaches to world literature.
But what is world literature? Oh, God, it took us a semester and a box of Dr Schriever’s rather expensive, shipped books to answer that.
Casanova said “world literature” is politically defined. The collection of texts to be canonized as such depends on the geo-political roots of the work, so that includes the nationality of the writer, the economics and politics of publishing (or literary relations), and the writing tradition the work of art is coming from.
And of course, there’s another criterion: the aesthetics or the inherent beauty of the text based on formal elements and subliminal effect to the reader.
So not anything literary can be called “world literature” as much as not anyone pretty is “Ms Universe” because there’s so much politics and standards of beauty to be met and legalized; yes, there’s an intensive and exhaustive process of legalizing a text to be called “World Lit” and the literary critics are part of the board of judges.
This is the evaluative part of Comp Lit.
The other parts of CL is concerned with the discovery, collection, and description of literature, from folk to contemporary. That’s the superhuman task of literary historians.
Another part of this program, the heaviest one, is literary theory, which deals with organized bodies of thought that has been so structured and prognostic that they have been awarded the crown “theory” which serves as the guideline of literary critics in judging works so that critics stand on the shoulders of giants when they impart critiques, and not just some subjective, obviously biased, and purely hypothetical commentary of literature.