Comparison As Poetry: Reading Euripides' Bacchae and The Zhuangzi

This essay has two major parts. First, a comparison between poetry and comparative work itself. Second, a comparison of the Zhuangzi and Euripides’ Bacchae. Comparison is like a poem in that both are imaginative constructions that rely on the creativity of the comparatist or poet. Comparison and poetry take features of the world and alter them in such a way as to suggest an alternative. The Zhuangzi and the Bacchae, via the theme of forgetting, do the same thing—unsettle our fixed suppositions or knowledge. The argument that a comparative work is like a poem thus relies on the comparison of Zhuangzi and Euripides as an illustration. Both the Zhuangzi and the Bacchae invite a relinquishing of fixed knowledge, and depict a human nature that is tenuous and given to change. This article suggests that a similar experience characterizes the practice of comparison, and that such an experience is something we often see in poetry.


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