World Literature I: Beginnings to 1650
Laura Getty, North Georgia College & State University
Kyounghye Kwon, University of North Georgia
Pub Date: 2015
ISBN 13: 978-1-9407713-2-8
Publisher: University of North Georgia Press
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Creating a text such as this one could be daunting. The text is already separated into three pdf’s, so including more texts could become unwieldy at read more
Creating a text such as this one could be daunting. The text is already separated into three pdf’s, so including more texts could become unwieldy at some point. Including more introductory notes on form might be helpful. Those already provided are strongly composed and quite helpful. For instance, the introduction to Homer provides great background information on the consistent appreciation for Homer’s writing talents. However, the note, if longer, could address the beauty of the original poems, especially since the translations of The Iliad and The Odyssey are in a prose-like form. At the same time, thought, the poetic translation of The Aeneid, which is included, does provide counterpoint lessons not only on approaches to epic storytelling but also on approaches to translation work itself. Also, perhaps including more Dante and even just a few samples of Boethius and Petrarch could enliven the European portion of the second book, particularly inasmuch as they could further exemplify the shift from medieval European to the Renaissance European cultural mindsets. The pictures accompanying the Canterbury Tales are great; including some introductory notes on illuminated manuscripts and the craft of writing could enliven that portion of the text while also positioning a great comparison with how that craft developed and evolved in other key cultures featured in the text. The third book ably crosses the Atlantic, with the inclusion of various Native American pieces. They deliver wonderful examples for demonstrating both a contrast of cultural perspectives as well as a commentary on the universal human experience. Including some Francis Bacon in the third book could prove a meaningful addition, as well, especially given the rise of the essay. Otherwise, including samples of South America and Africa could further strengthen the text’s comprehensives while also offering professors opportunities for still more comparisons of mythologies. –But again, as the books are already lengthy, decisions about what to include must certainly be difficult.
Translations comprise the bulk of the textbook. The translators include both recent quality translations as well as those long-revered (such as Samuel Butler). Editorial acumen seems exhaustive and precise.
Both the texts themselves and the introductory sections are relevant, particularly for a world literature or an ancient literature course. The editors’ notes are clear and gently illuminate the timeless relevance of the text’s contents. The works included in this book are timeless classics that comment on universal literary themes. In addition, the works provide great grounding for students who need to develop their ability to recognize Classical allusions in other literary works.
The translations and unit introductions are clear. The text also includes some helpful tools to help students in better understanding the works of literature and the cultures of the authors and original readers/listeners. For instance, the introduction to The Aeneid includes a helpful chart that helps students to understand the comparisons of the Greek versus the Roman forms of the ancient gods.
The three books demonstrate an effort to balance both the cultures and the genres represented in the given time period.
The text is clearly delineated in the table of contents, allowing professors to use the text either in a cultural approach, an historical approach, a thematic approach, and/or a form or genre approach.
The introduction itself read, “A word to the instructor: The texts have been chosen with the idea that they can be compared and contrasted, using common themes.” The text does follow through on this claim, and it complements my plan for an ancient literature course that I am designing. The flow is logical, and the text is organized in a manner that allows professors to assign readings in any way that seems more appropriate for the given course.
The interface is user friendly. The unit introductions generally include engaging images and photographs. They enliven the screen, which is especially helpful as this book is quite sizeable. (Some free online sources do not seem to include many or any images, so the inclusion here is a visual treat for the professor and could help to improve the readability for students who might other wise experience some screen fatigue.) Using the command-F or the control-F short cut, depending on your computer type, is a helpful tool for navigating large texts such as these.
The grammar use, overall, is both strong and graceful. The text’s tone is sometimes conversational; however, since some students might consider these works daunting, the conversational tone, combined with the occasional vivid images, might put such students at greater ease.
The text seems to navigate aspects of cultural difference with much ease. –Given the nature of this book’s content, that is important. In fact, some of the introductory notes provide suggestions for assignments and activities that will help students to consider cultural and historical differences, in an objective manner, while studying these texts. However, placing the two versions of the Bible before Gilgamesh could appear as a hierarchical decision to some readers who might date Gilgamesh earlier and thus place it earlier in the anthology.
The appendices include very helpful links to the original texts. I found the text helpful and plan include it in an undergraduate ancient literature course that I will be teaching in a few months. Overall, the text provides a comprehensive and thought-provoking anthology of many of the world's greatest texts.
The text covers an impressive range of materials, but the omission of Middle Eastern and African literature, especially The Arabian Nights, is read more
The text covers an impressive range of materials, but the omission of Middle Eastern and African literature, especially The Arabian Nights, is glaring. The index is effective, but the commentary and annotation are weak. More textual support (guided discussion questions, etc.) would be helpful.
No errors in content were noted, and the text seems unbiased.
The content is very relevant. The author did a good job of choosing texts that are seminal and clearly influential. The thematic overview is also helpful.
The writing level is actually quite accessible which is helpful for non-majors who might be required to take a World Lit course. More context would be useful.
The text seems consistent in terminology, framework and formatting
The divisions in the text work well, but the excerpts are too long. For example, including two versions of the bible without annotation is not very useful. Breaking up long sections of text with comprehension questions would be helpful to reluctant readers.
The ordering was a little confusing at parts. For example, the Hebrew text is presented before Gilgamesh which is confusing since Gilgamesh predates it by so many years. Annotation between selections to transition and draw comparisons would be useful.
The text was easy to navigate; the visuals were helpful and easy to enlarge on a screen. I found it frustrating to navigate within long selections, however. A sidebar with hyperlinks would help a lot. Also, is it possible to embed video ciips in the text to break up the reading and reenforce comprehension?
There were no obvious grammatical errors in this text.
There were no selections by women writers and no African texts. A pre-colonial text, like the Epic of Son Sara, would provide a good perspective.
The scope of this textbook is huge, trying to cover the early history of literature in Europe, the Middle East, India, Japan, and China, extending read more
The scope of this textbook is huge, trying to cover the early history of literature in Europe, the Middle East, India, Japan, and China, extending from the ancient period to the end of the fifteenth century. The authors have made a selection that presents, indeed, some of the most important texts composed in those areas and periods. So we find the Old Testament, the epic of Gilgamesh, The Tale of Genji, and others. No one can be an expert and we constantly face huge challenges when we cross cultural borders. This textbook takes students to many different worlds, and at the end of the course they will probably be well informed about the truly major texts produced then and there. I wonder, however, whether those huge reading sections are the best in conveying to students the complexity and richness of the material. While scrolling through the book, I got rather irritated about the vastness of the material, considering that so many cultures and periods need to be considered. Does it make sense to ask students to read such long sections? I am afraid that they will not do that anyway, esp. not with an online textbook. We can applaud the authors to be so ambitious, but it would have been much more useful if there had been small pieces along with a thorough group of guiding questions. There are brief introductions, but they often do not say very much. Wherever I felt more like an expert, I was rather disappointed about the low quality of those remarks. But altogether, the selection is pretty comprehensive in what the editors intend. But many other texts could have been utilized, especially those written by women, which are not presented here. A discussion about this would have been helpful.
Since the intros. are fairly short and general, there is not much to be worried about. The students get basic facts, but mostly they are left wondering what the texts might be about and why they are supposed to read them. There are virtually no efforts to didacticize them.
The entire concept of world literature is a good one, but it comes with a lot of problems because the essential idea is to compare those texts with each other. But the cultural and historical background is so vastly different. I am afraid that students will get bored very quickly, esp. because they will not be able to recognize the significance of the texts. They are all certainly relevant, but how would the beginner know this? Basically, it might be much cheaper and easier to ask students to purchase individual textbooks or to read the texts online in other databases.
Overall, well done, very clear structure, clear introductions. However, it is very difficult to scroll through this book, there are no hyperlinks, one cannot jump from one text to the other, apart from doing a global search. Using this book on my laptop was very difficult and uncomfortable; easier on the PC. The authors write in a very clear, accessible English.
This is the kind of textbook that were produced over the last decades, and the intros. and other accompanying texts are clear and understandable. There is no particular jargon, so this is good for freshmen students.
Not at all; there are huge junks of text, and one cannot easily work through the sections to move on.
The structure is well done, geographical and chronological order are good.
The interface is practically not existent. Why is this even an online book? Nothing of the powers of the hyperlink system is utilized. The images and maps are nice, but I feel frustrated that the image on the cover, the Ebstorf World Map, is not even identified. This goes back to the same issues; this is a textbook with no pedagogical strategies and hardly any didacticizing efforts, apart from a few very general questions.
I did not observe any grammatical errors.
The issue of cultural relevance is hardly mentioned, and the readers will not easily understand why this text selection has been made. The instructor will have to work very hard on his/her own to utilize those texts in the classroom and to build connections between the Western and the Eastern sections.
Table of Contents
Middle East, Near East, Greece
- Hebrew Bible, “Genesis” and “Exodus”
- The Epic of Gilgamesh
- The Iliad and The Odyssey
- Oedipus the king
- The Apology of Socrates
- The Analects
- The Art of War
- The Book of Songs
- The Mother of Mencius
- The Zhuangzi
- The Bhagavad Gita
- The Mahabharata
- The Ramayana
- The Aeneid
About the Book
This peer-reviewed World Literature I anthology includes introductory text and images before each series of readings. Sections of the text are divided by time period in three parts: the Ancient World, Middle Ages, and Renaissance, and then divided into chapters by location.
About the Contributors
Laura Getty is an English professor at North Georgia College & State University in Dahlonega, GA.
Kyounghye Kwon is an assistant professor in the English department at the University of North Georgia. She received her doctoral degree in English and her certificate in Theatre and Performance from The Ohio State University. Her teaching and research areas include world literature, postcolonial studies, Asian/Asian American studies, gender studies, and performance studies. Her current research focuses on how Korean traditional puppet theatre preserves, alters, and adapts Korea's pre-colonial/indigenous memory in its performance repertoires for contemporary audiences, with particular attention to indigenous memory, gender, and the changing nature of the audience. She is co-editor of Compact Anthology of World Literature (UNGP, 2015), an open access textbook funded by a Complete College Georgia Grant. Her articles and reviews have appeared in Asian Theatre Journal, Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism, Theatre Survey, Theatre Journal, Pinter Et Cetera, and Text & Presentation.