World Literature Syllabus Essay Example


This short literature course is based on the masterpieces of world literature dating from antiquity to (roughly) the fourteenth century CE. It examines some of the most prominent pieces of this specific period, introducing ancient works written by different authors worldwide. As the masterpieces of world literature incorporate too many sources, this course discusses only a small part of them to provide the students with a basic understanding of how people preserved knowledge and created written stories at that time. The course offers a journey across languages and cultures to literary works and cultural artifacts.

Before diving into the world of world literature, students are suggested to get acquainted with the basics of literary theory first. Such a brief excursion would provide them with an understanding of what the concept implies and what constitutes the subject. Then, the students are introduced to the earliest writings worldwide, including cuneiform signs and manuscripts. After that, they get acquainted with some of the most famous masterpieces worldwide written between the tenth and fourteenth centuries. The course starts with the literary works of ancient Greeks. It further explores two literary works that constitute the cultural heritage of the Japanese and Chinese nations.

Next, the course introduces the students to a crucial part of Ethiopian literature and culture and a world-known collection of Arabic Middle Eastern folk tales. It ends with a close reading of Spanish stories with knights, written at the onset of the fourteenth century. The books selected are relevant in the context of this course because they demonstrate how literature developed in different countries and how literary works were distant from one another. By the end of the period, the students will be able to answer the following questions:

  1. What is the definition of world literature, and what are the primary controversies connected to the subject itself?
  2. What did cuneiform signs and clay tablets were created for?
  3. How did different cultures preserve knowledge and create written stories in the specified time?

Part Three: Reflection

While working on this syllabus, it was tough to pick a limited amount of literary works. The subject of world literature incorporates so many masterpieces written worldwide that characterize the cultures from different angles that one could spend years discovering them. In the context of this short course, it was necessary to pick only some of the most prominent ones to introduce the students to them. Additionally, it was required to determine some specific chapters, books, and pieces that would intrigue the learners the most. Since the students could not read all the texts in total length (some of them have more than 800 pages in a tome), I decided to assign only selected fragments. In such a manner, they could read the pieces required carefully, paying attention to the texts’ specificities and details.

I decided to include clay tablets for the world literature syllabus since they count as literary works. As the course traces the period from antiquity to (roughly) the fourteenth century CE, these pieces have dominant importance, representing the specificities of knowledge preservation. In my view, students must understand how world literature appeared and how it became the way we know it nowadays.

In such a context, both literary theory and clay tablets are equally important. They demonstrate the actual meaning, purposes, and progression of the topic itself. In addition to that, working with such primary sources develops the critical thinking of students, which is a necessary literary skill (Mixer). In general, as Celia Esplugas and Margarete Lundwehr state, “focusing skills,” “information gathering skills,” “remembering skills,” “organizing skills,” “analyzing skills,” “generating skills,” “integrating skills,” and “evaluating skills” are firmly tied with the reading process and “enable the student of literature not only to analyze but also to integrate knowledge by showing the interrelationship of various themes and motifs within the work” (Esplugas & Lundwehr 451). In such a manner, working with both primary sources and literary works is necessary to develop literacy skills that help students far beyond the literature classroom itself.

As for the pieces selected themselves, all of them contribute to the course objectives designed. They represent how different cultures developed literature apart from each other and how distant it was from the world literature we know nowadays. As was mentioned before, I expect the course to become a journey to the literary works of ancient times. Starting from clay tablets, it moves further towards ancient Greek texts and ends with masterpieces created at the onset of the fourteenth century.

I picked Homer’s “Illiad,” Homeric Hymns, Hesiod’s “Theogony and Works and Days,” and lyric poems of Archilochus and Solon for the first part because they represent Greeks’ attitude towards divine and specificities of their culture itself. All these works constitute the fundamental basis of Greek literature, representing it from different angles at a time. The second part of the course syllabus consists of Japanese and Chinese texts that also constitute a valuable part of the cultures. The literary works represent how literature developed in the other part of the world and how it differed from the one existing on the European continent.

Next, “Kebra Nagast” and “One Thousand and One Nights” represent specificities of Ethiopian and Arabic cultures, respectively. I picked these specific texts as they illustrate the local color and the extent to which the literature differed from one another. By the end of the course, I suggest students get acquainted with selections from “Amadís de Gaula.” A valuable Spanish piece of literature, it ends the period with chivalric romances about knight Amadís. In such a manner, the course syllabus introduces the various literary works created worldwide. It shows how literature developed in different parts of the world and how it differs from the texts written now.

Works Cited

Esplugas, Celia & Lundwehr, Margarete. “The Use of Critical Thinking Skills In Literary Analysis.” Foreign Language Annals, 29, No. 3, 1996, Accessed 21 Dec. 2021.

Maxcer, Miles. “Reading literature helps develop critical-thinking skills.” Idaho Ed News, 2015, Accessed 21 Dec. 2021.

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