In his masterpiece Guan Zhui Bian 管锥编, Chinese scholar Qian Zhongshu 钱钟书 (1910-1998) quotes from more than two thousand Western sources and from even more Chinese ones. In this and in other comparative literature works that will be mentioned in this article, like Tan Yi Lu 谈艺录 or Qi Zhui Ji 七缀集, Qian Zhongshu writes about many different themes choosing a subject and demonstrating how different authors in different epochs have treated it and which is the logical pattern those authors adopted to bring out that idea and develop it. The particularity of this method is that Qian doesn’t explain in his own words what others have said, but prefers to use utterances and expressions directly extrapolated from the original texts. Which is the use of quotations in Qian Zhongshu’s works? Why is he constantly borrowing others’ words to develop and dissect a theme? Why is Qian’s comparative literature not comparative literature “in the usual sense of the term?” The present article will try to propose an answer to those questions and, through the analysis of the different usages of quotations in selected passages from Qian Zhongshu’s scholarly and creative works, will trace an outline of a method that might bring great advantages to the study of literature in a global context.
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