Reviewed by Albrecht Classen, Univ. Distinguished Prof., University of Arizona, on 2/9/2017.
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
Comprehensiveness rating: 4 read less
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.
Accuracy rating: 4
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.
Relevance/Longevity rating: 3
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.
Clarity rating: 4
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.
Consistency rating: 4
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.
Modularity rating: 2
Not at all; there are huge junks of text, and one cannot easily work through the sections to move on.
Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 5
The structure is well done, geographical and chronological order are good.
Interface rating: 1
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.
Grammatical Errors rating: 5
I did not observe any grammatical errors.
Cultural Relevance rating: 2
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.
Reviewed by Aimee Barrios, Instructor, Southeastern Louisiana University, on 6/21/2017.
The text covers an impressive range of materials, but the omission of Middle Eastern and African literature, especially The Arabian Nights, is
Comprehensiveness rating: 3 read less
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.
Accuracy rating: 5
No errors in content were noted, and the text seems unbiased.
Relevance/Longevity rating: 5
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.
Clarity rating: 4
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.
Consistency rating: 5
The text seems consistent in terminology, framework and formatting
Modularity rating: 4
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.
Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 4
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.
Interface rating: 4
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?
Grammatical Errors rating: 5
There were no obvious grammatical errors in this text.
Cultural Relevance rating: 4
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.