Comparative Literature

A Comparative Study of Literary Works to Movies and Play: A Summary Review*


The study of literature has been explored significantly recently. The exploration is largely focused on literary criticism analysis. The analysis has been expanded not only for the literary works itself but also for the theory used. For the literary works, the expansion is found on the form on the forms of analysis. The forms of the analysis means the way how the analysis is done. In a general scope, the analysis is basically done only in one genre of literary works. The genre then is analyzed and become large in forms. During the development of literary analysis, there is another form appear. It is comparative literature. The form of this analysis is comparing two literary works that are in the same level. The level meant is not only on the structure of the works but also an issue or a general issue of the two literary works as they remain the same.

The Comparative Literature

Comparative means measured or judged by comparing (Hornby, 1995:231). Meanwhile, Barnet (2003:364) states that to compare is to note similarities. The scope of this comparative literature, as its’ name, is then defined as to note similarities. Literature is writings that are valued as works of arts, especially fiction, drama, and poetry (Hornby, 1995:687). Between these two definitions, we can conclude what comparative literature is. Endraswara (2003:128) states sastra bandingan adalah sebuah studi teks ‘across cultural’. Meanwhile, Benedecto Creso suggests that comparative literature is a study which forms are exploration of changing (vicissitude), alternation (replacement), development, and the differences among two or more than two literary works. Moreover, Najma has quoted from Guillen (1993:3) in his book ‘The Challenge of Comparative Literature’ states that the study of comparative literature is a branch of literary investigation that involves the systematic study of supernatural assemblages. In addition, the characteristics of comparative literature is described by Saman. Saman (1986:5) states that sastera bandingan sepatutnya bersifat sejagat, menyeluruh, dan meninggalkana premis kepentingan sesuatu kaum atau negara. It means that comparative literature has a universal point of view and put outside the need of a particular republic or a state. Based on the definitions quoted above, we can conclude that comparative literature is a study of two or more than two literary works by focusing on the exploration of changing, alternation, development and differences that involves the systemathic study of supernatural assemblages across cultural point of view. In this paper, the explanation about comparative literature is focused on the comparative point of view between literary works to movies, and literary works to drama (play).

Literary Works and Movies

Particularly, between literary works and movies has broad differences. The differences is not only in the forms but also in the way how the message delivered to the audience. In some case, people tends to say that movies can be screened from a literary work. For instance, one novel can be viewed again in the form of movie when its’ movie has been published. Nevertheless, they have a very basic similarity so that they can be compared. As I have quoted in section 2, the genres of literary works are divided into fiction, drama and poetry. These genres can be seen from its’ structure if they are being compared to a movie. Suppose that we stand in the fiction. Fiction can be divided into novel, short stories and prose. We can take an example of a novel, it is ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Charlotte Bronte (1847). There is a movie production of the novel. The movie is great but in some part of the movie remains a different feedback from audiences. In the comparative literature, one can view the author if the objects studied are different but the same author. In this case, the same author and the same works but different in forms. One is a novel and the other one is a movie. Movie is a film (Hornby, 1995:761). Basically, between a novel and a movie has the same structure. There are characters, setting, plot, theme, and so on. Each part of this structure can be compared. For example, the theme of Wuthering Heightscan be ‘a divorce’, because Scarlett as a main figure had three times married. The character (Scarlett) can be compared from what is described in the novel to the movie. Is there any similarities? There is not all part of the novel that can be produced in the form of a movie. The movie is a vivid picture of characters in the novel. Since comparative literature is a readers or audience’s respond, we can respond to the similarities whether the main characters described in the novel to the movie is the same or in particular is different. The core point of this comparison is trying to find the similarities between the two – the novel and the movie. Wuthering Heights by Charlotte Bronte (1847) has some differences in some parts while it also has similarities. As Barnet has stated, one can study about Wuthering Heights in these two forms in a comparative way. Then, it comes to be a comparative literature.

Literary Works and Drama (Play)

Another interesting form of comparative literature is between literary works and drama. (People often call it as a ‘play’). Drama is the art of writing and performing (Hornby, 1995:351). In the previous part, we take an example Wuthering Heights. In this case, the example is Othello by William Shakespeare (1604). Basically, all parts of a play (drama) is the same as a literary work has. Nevertheless, both are still able to be compared. The comparison can be from the characters view or the setting. Each of readers has their own view about a particular character. It is also occur to the setting. Even though drama is only a play production, it does not mean that it is an exactly the same view between the script to the production. Waluyo (2001:3) states that if the stage and the script are compared, the stage is more dominant than the script. This is where the comparative literature takes place. Meanwhile, Reaske (1966:17) states that the process of defining the play is tremendously aided by reference to the kind of play and the conventions of that kind of play. Othello by William Shakespeare has a dominant part in its’ rather than in its’ script or written. This is why the comparative literature takes it as its’ task. It tries to compare the two forms by focusing on its’ structures. As Reaske states, the kind and the conventions of a play are also influencing the comparative literature studies. They will build a new scope in doing the comparison. After all things above has been reached, then the comparative literature phase can be fulfilled.


The conclusion is that comparative literature is comparing the two or more than two kinds of literary works but still in the same condition. In this case, the comparisons are between literary works to drama (play) and movies. Between literary works to movies and drama are basically the same even they have the different form. Wuthering Heights by Charlotte Bronte is one of objects that can be compared. It is a comparison between a literary works – novel – to a movie. Meanwhile, ‘Othello’ by William Shakespeare is the example of comparison between literary works – written form – to a play (drama). So, we can say that the comparison is one of great jobs in doing literary studies. Trying to find the similarities is the task of comparative literature for these sorts of analyses.


Barnet, Sylvan, et. al. A Short Guide to Writing about Literature. New York; Longman. 2003.

Endrawasara, Suwardi. Metodologi Penelitian Sastra. Yogyakarta; Pustaka Widyatama. 2003.

Hornby, A S. Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English. Oxford; Oxford University Press. 1995.

Najma, Eva. “Naturalism in Crane’s Maggie: A Girl of the Streets and Alisyahbana’s Anak Perawan di Sarang Penyamun.” Journal of American Studies. Vol. 6. No. 2. Mei 1999.

Ratna, Nyoman Kutha. Teori, Metode dan Teknik Penelitian Sastra. Yogyakarta; Pustaka Pelajar. 2004.

Reaske, Christopher Russell. Analyze Drama. United States of America; Monarch Press. 1966.

Saman, Sahlan Mohd. Sastera Bandingan; Konsep. Teori dan Amalan. Selangor; Fajar Bakti Sdn. Bhd. 1986.

Waluyo, Herman J. Drama: Teori dan Pengajarannya. Yogyakarta; Hanidhita Graha Widia. 2001.

*This article was published in the following website:
comparative-literature#, on September 16, 2008. It was written by Syayid Sandi Sukandi. Unfortunately, the link to the above url had been deactivated by Google. This article is republished in this personal blog for the purpose of Google Scholar citation under the name of Syayid Sandi Sukandi. The same article had been cited in an article that was published in the following url: Sukandi, Syayid Sandi (Sept 16, 2008). For your information, the above article has not been grammatically revised due to the importance of displaying the actual content.

Author: Syayid

Syayid Sandi Sukandi is a person who is just like you. He loves to meet new people. He likes to learn new things and opens his horizon to understand how this world works. He is happy to help you when he can. His personal blog is Sparkling Silent Silhouette ( He can be contacted at e-mails: or He has a YouTube channel @Mr.Syayid's Corner. He is active on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You may follow and subscribe to his creativity and works there. Enjoy different perspective and insightful ideas!

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