World Literature I

Master Syllabus

Course Description

A study of representative works of world literature from Antiquity, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance. The course emphasizes the study and consideration of the literary, cultural, and human significance of selected great works of the Western and non-Western literary traditions. An important goal of the class is to promote an understanding of the works in their cultural/historical contexts and of the enduring human values which unite the different literary traditions. The course's pedagogy gives special attention to critical thinking and writing within a framework of cultural diversity as well as comparative and interdisciplinary analysis.


Paul Davis, Gary Harrison et al., eds., The Bedford Anthology of World Literature, Package A (Volumes 1, 2, 3) (Bedford / St. Martins, 2003). ISBN 0?312?40480?8

Click here to access Dr. Fajardo-Acosta's World Literature Website

Summary of Policies and Procedures

All faculty and students must adhere to the policies and requirements outlined in this syllabus as well as all directives and guidelines issued by the World Literature Program. In addition to the texts specified in this syllabus, instructors may teach other works. While instructors are free to determine the use of class time in their sections, it is strongly recommended that at least one week of class be spent on each of the major required works. In addition to discussion of the readings, the semester schedule allows for time to be used in a variety of ways including examinations, in-class essays, discussion of optional and additional readings, catch-up time, development of particular works or backgrounds, student presentations, film/video screenings, etc. All students in this course are required to write a minimum of 20 to 25 pages in the form of analytical papers, in-class essays, reflective journals, essay exams, etc. Students must also take a final examination including an outcomes-assessment essay question. The outcomes-assessment essay must account for at least 30% of the final exam grade; the exam question should ask students to develop a thesis connected to the readings, themes, and ideas discussed through the term. In addition to the final exam and required writing, students' grades should also take into account performance in work such as other exams, quizzes, writing exercises, class participation, extra-credit work, and attendance to class and out-of-class events. Instructors should ask all students to attend during the semester at least two out-of-class events such as relevant lectures, poetry/fiction readings, film/videotape screenings, plays, exhibits, or live performances. Instructors are free to choose which out-of-class events to require from their students; the World Literature Program will recommend appropriate events each term. Instructors should provide make-up options for students unable to attend particular events. Instructors choosing to teach texts not included in the anthology are responsible for ordering their own texts and desk copies. In every case of such orders, inexpensive editions must be chosen. Texts ordered in addition to the anthology should not exceed two in number.

Reading Requirements

All sections of the course must teach all of the prescribed texts in their entirety. The texts listed below constitute the common core of the course and should therefore be taught with care and thoroughness. At least one week of classes should be devoted to the discussion of the longer works, together with their respective historical, literary, cultural, and intellectual backgrounds.

In making selections from the sections below, instructors must strive to create a balanced reading list featuring a range of genres (epic, lyric, drama, short narrative, novel, essay); works from all the major historical periods (Antiquity, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance); works by authors from diverse backgrounds, genders, and racial/ethnic origins; and coverage of as many different cultures and literary traditions as possible. Whenever possible, instructors should attempt to go beyond the minimum requirements by including additional readings in their syllabi.



I. All of the following:

  • The Epic of Gilgamesh
  • Homer, Odyssey
  • Sappho, poetry; or Marguerite de Navarre, Heptameron; or Marie de France, Lais; or Murasaki Shikibu, The Tale of Genji
  • Sophocles, Oedipus the King
  • Dante, Inferno
  • Boccaccio, Decameron; or Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales
  • William Shakespeare, Hamlet; or Macbeth; or Othello;or King Lear;or The Tempest (only the Tempest is included in the anthology)
  • Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote

II. Choose at least one of the following:

  • Sappho, poetry
  • Li Ch'ing-Chao, poetry and prose (not in the anthology)
  • Marie de France, Lais, poetic narratives (in prose translation)
  • Beatrice, Countess of Dia, poetry
  • Christine de Pizan, poetry
  • Murasaki Shikibu, The Tale of Genji, novel
  • Sei Shonagon, The Pillow Book, diary/notebook
  • Mirabai, poetry
  • Marguerite de Navarre, Heptameron, stories
  • Additional women writers featured in the anthology include: Anna Comnena, Joan of Arc, Wallada, Castelloza, Egeria, Margery Kempe, Gaspara Stampa, Louise Labé, Anne Bradstreet, and Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

III. Choose at least one of the following:

  • The Book of Songs, poetry
  • Confucius (Kongfuzi), Analects, didactic prose
  • T'ao Ch'ien (Tao Qian), poetry and prose
  • T'ang Poetry: Wang Wei, Li Po (Li Bai), and Tu Fu (Du Fu)
  • Li Ch'ing-Chao, poetry and prose (not in the anthology)
  • Murasaki Shikibu, The Tale of Genji, novel
  • Sei Shonagon, The Pillow Book, diary/notebook
  • The Manyoshu and The Kokinshu, poetry
  • The Tale of the Heike, prose narrative
  • Yoshida Kenko, Essays in Idleness, prose (not in the anthology)
  • Zeami Motokiyo, Noh plays
  • Additional readings/authors featured in the Bedford Anthology include: Laozi (Lao Tzu), Mencius (Mengzi), Zhuangzi (Chuang Tzu), Hayashi Razan (Doshun), Zhang Ting-Yu (Chang T'ing-ü), Zhu Xi (Chu Hsi), Li Zhi (Lhi Chi), Bo Juyi (Po Chü-i), Xuanzang (Hsuan Tsang), Kakinomoto Hitomaro, Yamanoue No Okura, Otomo Yakamochi, Shu Jing (Confucian Book of History)

IV. Choose at least one of the following:

  • Valmiki, The Ramayana, epic
  • The Mahabharata, epic
  • The Bhagavad-Gita, religious epic
  • Mirabai, poetry
  • Kalidasa, Sakuntala and the Ring of Recollection, play
  • Mystical Poetry of India (Basavanna, Mahadeviyakka, Vidyapati, Govindadasa, Chandidasa, see also Mirabai)
  • Additional readings/authors featured in the Bedford Anthology include: Buddhist Texts from the Majjhima Nikaya, Kautilya, Vedic Texts (Rig-Veda, Upanishads), Jainist Texts, Ashoka, Ashvaghosha, Nanak, Tamil Songs from the Tevaram, Jayadeva, Kabir

V. Choose at least one of the following:

  • Ancient Egyptian Poetry
  • The Koran, religious and didactic verse
  • The Thousand and One Nights, tales
  • The Mali Epic of Son-Jara, epic (see Sunjata in anthology)
  • Florentine Codex, Aztec oratorical poetry (see The Ancient Mexicans in anthology)
  • Cantares Mexicanos, Aztec songs and poetry (see The Ancient Mexicans in anthology)
  • Popol Vuh, Maya narratives (not in the anthology)
  • Additional readings/authors featured in the Bedford Anthology include: Muhammad Ibn Ishaq, Baha Ad-Din, Imru' Al-Qays, Abu Al-Qasem Ferdowsi, Farid Ud-Din Attar, Jalaloddin Rumi, Ibn Al-Athir, Usamah Ibn Munqidh, Ibn Hazm, Ibn Faraj, Ibn Zaydun, Wallada, Judah Ha Levi, Ibn Al-Labbana, Ibn Quzman, Ibn Jubayr, Ibn Battuta, Nizam Al-Mulk, Ibn Khaldun, Abu'l Fazl, Nzinga Mbemba, Evliya Çelebi, Ibn Sina (Avicenna), Abd Al-Qadir Bada'uni

VI. One text of the instructor's own choice

  • Antiquity to the Renaissance, Western or Non-Western. This text does not necessarily have to come from the Anthology or the listed options in this syllabus.