World Literature 1

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Welcome to World Literature 1


World Literature 1 guides you through what are considered by many scholars to be the most important foundation literary texts for all human cultures. Once you have read and thought about all these texts, you will have learnt a lot about the way we tell stories and the themes (constant ideas) and images (imaginary pictures) that have influenced writing around the world.

The following course uses the Norton Anthology of World Literature. You can buy or borrow any edition of the book, and begin with volume 1.

Unit 1. The Beginning of Narrative: The Epic of Gilgamesh. Read the introduction to ancient literatures of the Middle East, and then tackle the Gilgamesh. It's probably easiest to read it chapter by chapter.

As you are reading, make notes to yourself about how the story works. Which characters and plot devices seem familiar to you from other stories? In particular you might compare the Gilgamesh to the plot and characters of STAR WARS and/or SPIDERMAN or BATMAN BEGINS. What characters and/or plot developments seem different?

Unit 1 a. The Old Testament. Compare the style of writing with the Gilgamesh. Eric Auerbach argues that the Old Testament is written in a short-hand kind of style, because it's addressed to an audience who already know the stories thoroughly and therefore they need brief "reminders", which the tellers of the stories can then expand upon in discussion.