Compact Anthology of World Literature
Laura Getty, North Georgia College & State University
Kyounghye Kwon, University of North Georgia
Pub Date: 2016
ISBN 13: 978-1-9407712-2-9
Publisher: University of North Georgia Press
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Conditions of Use
The text has an overall introduction which addresses both students as to why we study literature, and instructors as to options of how to approach read more
The text has an overall introduction which addresses both students as to why we study literature, and instructors as to options of how to approach teaching the works inside. Each reading has a useful introduction that gives a concise overview, which can effectively lead students to do more research on the history and context. The readings were deliberately chosen by the authors to be thematic and to allow comparisons, and this works well both as is, and as a springboard to adding other open source readings, including more contemporary ones. There are useful illustrations, both charts and images, which help students with context in a visual sense. There are also reading questions to invoke critical thinking and close reading. This text works alone or as a substantive base to add to. I'm already using this in a World Literature I course, supplemented with additions, and plan to expand and enhance how I use it next.
This text is primarily works of literature, which appear error-free, and the additional content is accurate and unbiased. The authors are not presenting this as the only way to anthologize and teach literature; they are presenting a model and an overview as a base to build on. There is a bibliography and appendix for more clarification of source materials and images.
Like most anthologies of literature, only the context and introductions might need to be changed, and not the works themselves. It is hard to imagine this going out-of-date. Any updates needed would be easy to make if necessary.
This text presents the ideas with a welcoming tone, devoid of excess jargon or "academese" and it is written to be readily accessible to a variety of students at different levels. It could use a glossary of terms.
I did not find any inconsistencies in the text in terms of its terminology or structure. It is consistently straightforward.
This text can be broken down into smaller sections, using fewer readings in each chapter or removing any introductory materials if necessary or desired. I can well imagine taking sections out of the chapters to use in a class with a different focus, like a survey of the humanities. The charts and images in particular could be useful in a number of contexts. Again, a glossary would be useful.
The text presents the works chosen chronologically, though there is no imperative that they be taught in that order. As this is an open text, editing, revising and reorganizing the material for different purposes is always an option.
I have generally found the text easy to navigate, and all the images and charts/maps display well in Adobe pdf reader. Double spacing the text would make it less dense. I am not sure how accessible or ADA compliant this text would be with a screen reader, particularly with this font. What would really improve this would be to have it in an electronic format that allowed navigation from the table of contents, from the text to a glossary, and annotation software within the text. (It may be possible to make this happen with compatible software, but I haven't explored this yet.
I found no glaring grammatical errors in the text.
I found nothing offensive or culturally inappropriate; in fact the text clarifies some the cultural differences that help make better sense of the readings, especially the ancient works. The book is written for a North American audience, but shows no exclusivity of cultures or races. The overall theme of heroes, and the emphasis on the epic, make it relevant to any cultural context.
I'm currently using this text to supplement a World LIterature survey course at a community college. I used the various versions of the Norton Anthology previously, and find that in many ways this works better for this 200 level course and students. I appreciate the ability to edit and supplement this to be exactly what I need for my course, and look forward to using it in other contexts, too, in my various humanities courses. Like all OER I use in my classes, students are grateful not to have to lug giant anthologies to school or home, and have access to the readings pulled directly into the LMS, all for free!
The book provides an impressive and truly global breadth of translations of major texts from what it calls "The Ancient World" and "The Middle Ages." read more
The book provides an impressive and truly global breadth of translations of major texts from what it calls "The Ancient World" and "The Middle Ages." The organization of the text leaves something to be desired: while the Table of Contents visible on the Open Text Library page says that the text contains four "chapters" of translations, upon opening the pdf and selecting the toggle side bar, the reader can see that the text is actually broken into two parts. Part One "The Ancient World" includes the four chapters, but there is also a Part Two entitled "The Middle Ages" that includes an additional five chapters of translations. There appears to be no index, and the side toggle bar is difficult to navigate.
Such a breadth of material is bound to feature errors and inaccuracies, and this text is no exception. For example, in the "Ancient World" section on Indian literature, features of Hinduism are misrepresented. The schematic of relationship of the early abstract divine principle of Brahman and its relationship to later anthropomorphic manifestations of the divine (Brahman, Vishnu, and Shiva) is not quite accurate. I suppose there are contemporary Hindus who would give this explanation as a way to retroactively explain the relationships between ideas about divinity that were developed at different historical moments, but this text's explanation unnecessarily collapses chronological development of these ideas in a way that does an injustice to their complex individual histories, and that does not allow the reader access to the religious worlds of the texts presented in this volume. Another example is the authors' collapse of the two distinct but intertwining categories of varna (class) and jati (caste) into one, which is inaccurate. In fact, author never defines the term "jati" or explain how it is distinct from varna. (An aside: The editors' areas of academic training and research ought to be included in the PDF text to enable the readers/students to judge the quality of the contents.)
Because of the breadth of the selection of translations, all of which had to be open-access, the editors largely rely on accurate but extremely dated translations. For example, in the case of the Asian texts, most of the translations are from Victorian-era Christian missionaries.
While sometimes inaccurate, the editors provide introductions to basic concepts needed to understand the cultural worlds of the translated texts provided in the book. Again, it seems a Herculean task for two academics to accurately provide contextual material for such a breadth of texts. Perhaps the addition of more editors, with training specific to these different regions and languages of the world, would improve the work.
Part of the challenge of dealing with texts in translation is the variety of transliteration systems used over time to render said texts into English. This volume does not standardize the transliteration systems used for each language featured; the result is a single person, such as the Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi for instance, will be spelled Zhuangzi in one paragraph, and Chuang Tzu in the next. For undergraduates who have a difficult time grasping non-English names and terminology, this added layer of complexity could potentially be very confusing.
The text is nicely broken down into small units. See comments above about the difficult navigability of the present electronic format.
The texts are grouped by chronology and cultural region, which is an easy-to-understand method of organization.
Please see comments above about the difficult and confusing interface for the text, which makes it difficult to move about within the PDF document.
Given the antiquity of some of the translations featured in this text, differing and/or arcane spelling and grammatical usages are found throughout the text.
A cursory glance over the translations of Asian texts provided by Victorian-era Christian missionaries did not reveal any culturally or religiously offensive language, but I would certainly scrutinize these translations much more carefully before assigning this book to a class.
Given the breadth of the project and the dearth of high quality open access translations of primary texts, the text represents an admirable collection of an impressive array of significant texts from different cultures and historical periods.
The Compact Anthology of World Literature is three volumes, totally nearly 2000 pages. In 12 chapters, it covers World Literature from Asia to Europe read more
The Compact Anthology of World Literature is three volumes, totally nearly 2000 pages. In 12 chapters, it covers World Literature from Asia to Europe and the Americas. It does not cover African literature. The bulk of the anthology centers on early western (Greek/Roman) and eastern (Indian/Chinese) civilizations with 800 pages focused on the early epics of Gilgamesh, the Bible, the Iliad, the Odyssey, Oedipus, the Analects, the Art of War, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Aeneid, among others. Later sections on Korea and Native American literature are comparatively short. The text also includes British texts which might not be included in a World Literature course focused on texts beyond American and British. Preference is given to full text works rather than excerpts. Coverage is thematic with the position of the hero as a primary focus.
Content is well-written and engaging. When possible, the editors have introduced sections with maps and other visuals. I did not find textual errors or biased interpretations of movements within world literature. The bulk of the text represents the literary works, rather than commentary of those works. Short frames introduce readings.
This text does not treat contemporary World Literature, so I do not imagine that it will require updating. It provides a clear foundation in the major ideas of Western and Eastern thought. Since the introductory material in each section is brief, any updates would be here, but not in the bulk of the anthology which represents the works, sometimes in translation.
The introductions to the readings are clear and written in lucid prose. The individual texts, however, may need supplementation. The texts stand alone without footnotes or additional explanation. Those would need to be provided by the classroom teacher. The introductions do provide a brief historical context for each work of literature.
The terminology is consistent throughout the text. The framework as relates to the introduction of each piece of literature could be more consistent. In some cases, maps and pictures provided a visual introduction to the period, ending with questions for consideration. In other cases, the introductions were text-only without additional questions for framing or consideration. Vocabulary introductions would also be helpful at the start of each new work of literature.
Modularity is not a strength of this text. It does contain large blocks of texts without subheadings because it contains long original works, which is not necessarily a negative. In a teacher wants to use full texts in the classroom without having to link the students to multiple open source locations, this anthology would work well. The text is not overly self-referential, again, because the focus is the texts which can stand alone. The anthology is, itself, divided into three volumes. Each volume contains chapter and then individual work divisions. Each table of contents is linked. Faculty should note the page numbers for the table of contents in each volume and send students there to link to other sections of each book.
The editors note that they are interested in presenting works of thematic focus in non-Western literature to supplement a student who has a fair understanding of American and British literature. The organization of the text is primarily chronological. The comparative work would need to take place in the classroom. The table of contents are laid out clearly and hyperlinked for navigation.
I see no interface issues. The text fonts are consistent and not distracting. Headers are used with consistency throughout the text. Images and charts are in high resolution and clear. I tried multiple browsers and settings, and the text adjusted appropriately. I opened the textbook on a smart phone and a tablet without issue.
I saw no grammatical errors in the introductions to the texts that I read. I also reviewed several of the readings, which were taken from open source documents available in other areas of the internet. I did not see any errors.
My only question in terms of cultural relevance would be the decision to avoid coverage of South America and Africa. I expected to see a note in the introduction to the anthology justifying this decision, but I did not. The chapters are on the Middle East, China, India, Rome, Europe, Japan, South Asia, Korea, and Native America. I would be interested in a revision that also treated South America, perhaps in conjunction with Native American literature, along with African literature and mythology.
This three volume text would be particularly useful in a course on the origins of Western culture and the canon, as well as a comparative course on early Eastern and Western literature in its infancy.
This is a huge subject indeed! The authors gamely attempt to cover literature from all different time periods and many parts of the world. I find read more
This is a huge subject indeed! The authors gamely attempt to cover literature from all different time periods and many parts of the world. I find much that will be useful to me in teaching classes in both Greco-Roman Mythology and World Mythology. The biggest obstacle to using this text is the lack of an effective index and glossary. As another reviewer has already pointed out, the organization is hard to understand. When you go to the website (http://open.umn.edu/opentextbooks/BookDetail.aspx?bookId=410), it does look as though the complete Table of Contents is what turns out to be only the Table of Contents for Part One: The Ancient World. Opening the (huge) PDF reveals Part Two: The Middle Ages, and Part Three: The Renaissance. Simply inserting the whole Table of Contents for all parts of the book would be an easy way to address this. Perhaps having a separate PDF for each section would be useful. Part Two: The Middle Ages, which features the same Introduction as Part One, deals with literature from some of the same parts of the world, but is arranged in a somewhat different sequence. Part Three: The Renaissance, has some interesting selections from Korea and also Native America. For my purposes, the latter subject seems to be rather short. One wonders how the selections were chosen. The Appendices, containing many links to original works, are a great feature.
In Part One, Chapter One: Middle East, Near East, Greece, there are two versions of Genesis and Exodus presented for comparison, which is great. However, the section is somewhat confusingly called, Hebrew Bible, “Genesis“and “Exodus” and yet the sources are The King James Bible and The American Standard Bible. Why not use the Torah for one of these comparisons? In Part Three (p.401), Chapter Twelve has an introduction to the topic of Native American literature that states, “With the exception of a few pictographic systems, literature was transmitted orally in the Americas prior to the European arrival.” It is not accurate to describe Mayan hieroglyphs or literacy in this way. As to the Incas, their manner of literacy is a matter of ongoing scholarly debate. The introductory comments to this section appear twice.
The works included are going to live forever. Quite a number of them already have. The relevance is beyond question.
A glossary would be useful. Although it is not the authors’ job to convert the selected works into modern English, much of what appears here would be difficult for lower-level undergraduate students to comprehend fully without substantial assistance.
Not sure what to say here. Consistent in terms of temporal sequence? Or is the intention to be consistent in terms of geographical/cultural areas?
There is much that is really useful here, but I had to work to find it. I do find that individual sections can be utilized in a ‘stand-alone’ fashion.
I am not sure that I understand the organization of the text. It would seem that the authors intended a chronological sequence, given the titles of Parts One, Two, and Three. But in Part One, the versions of Genesis and Exodus do not come from the Torah, which predates the sources utilized, and the Gilgamesh story should properly start the section as it predates the biblical material. In general, I remain very curious as to how the selections were chosen.
The images are great, and provide a much needed visual break from rather long chunks of text. The obvious comment is that more would be better.
The text seems to be free of grammatical errors.
The book is culturally relevant. Many readers have favorite geographical or cultural areas, as do I. So, fairly or not, I would prefer more attention to be given to the literature of the Americas, more specifically to that of Mesoamerica and the Maya culture which has been literate for a very long time. Especially since the authors mention the Popol Vuh in the introduction to Part Three. In the same introduction, the authors reference an African work, the Epic of Sundiata/ Sonjara, although it is not included either. Where are the Russians? I am least familiar with the literature from Korea, India, and Persia, and believe that the inclusion of works from these areas of the world is a valuable contribution.
Creating an anthology of this kind is an enormous undertaking!
The Compact Anthology of World Literature is about as comprehensive as Norton’s comparable “shorter edition” anthologies which I’ve used, to good read more
The Compact Anthology of World Literature is about as comprehensive as Norton’s comparable “shorter edition” anthologies which I’ve used, to good effect, the past five years.
The book is accurate and error-free from what I can make out though I haven’t read each and every page. The content does “read” as evenhanded as far as the provenance of the various translations. Editors Kyounghye Kwon and Laura Getty do a fine job in introducing each reading or set of readings with concise and unbiased headnotes.
Ah, here, we run into preferences, and so you may want to supplement here and there with your favorite works if you don’t care for the “public domain” version. I’m no fan, for example, of Samuel Butler’s rendering of The Odyssey, but, then again, I’d say the same for Stanley Lombardo’s version in the current Norton World Literature anthology. I’m much more inclined to use Robert Fagles’ or, especially, Robert Fitzgerald’s translation; compare the following: “Tell me, O Muse, of that ingenius hero who travelled far and wide after he had sacked the famous town of Troy”—Butler “Speak, Memory— / Of the cunning hero, / The wanderer, blown off course time and again / After he plundered Troy’s sacred heights”—Lombardo “Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns . . . / driven time and again off course, once he had plundered / the hallowed heights of Troy”—Fagles “Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story / of that man skilled in all ways of contending, / the wanderer, harried for years on end, / after he plundered the stronghold on the proud height of Troy”—Fitzgerald Again, it's a matter of personal preference.
The text is written lucidly, and, when necessary, explanatory bits are used here and there—see, for instance, the section on China on page 1334 which pithily introduces the Tang and other dynasties but doesn’t overdo it.
The framework is very much like what you’d expect in a Prentice Hall or Norton anthology, replete with headnotes before each reading or set of readings.
I like the layout here insofar as my college, like many, is on the quarter system. Most textbooks, as instructors know, are designed for the semester system. Parts I, II, and II of the Compact Anthology of World Literature, in fact, is about as comprehensive as Norton’s comparable “shorter edition” text, volumes I and II, and is even better in its organization vis-à-vis those colleges and universities on the quarter system.
The topics in the Kwon and Getty’s text are arranged comparably to the coherent, distinct approach in similar anthologies.
The text is definitely free of display issues—I found it very coherent and easy to navigate as would, I suspect any student would do who perused it.
I saw no grammatical errors within the text.
Again, this is a matter of preference. I once picked up Maynard Mack’s original 1956 Norton Anthology of World Literature in City Lights Bookstore, and it read pretty much like a collection of western, not “world,” literature, so that anthology has come a long way in terms of inclusivity—and the OER version, as I say, is very comparable in its offerings.
I plan to use this excellent OER version of world literature and am grateful for its affordability (i.e., it’s free!). My students will love it.
The text covers all areas and ideas--especially focusing on some of the lesser-represented literature from non-Anglo locales. The index is confusing read more
The text covers all areas and ideas--especially focusing on some of the lesser-represented literature from non-Anglo locales. The index is confusing because on the Open Textbook webpage, it indicates that this text is just the four chapters of Middle East, Near East, Greece; China; India; and Rome. However, the PDF file includes TWO volumes of this text and includes other literature. This was quite confusing at first. There is no glossary of terms.
Introductions to the content indicate editing and/or source. Topics are treated without bias. When appropriate, pictures, charts, maps and graphs are included to add to background knowledge of the topic.
Because this book focuses on the theme of heroes and heroism, as well as the Epic, the longevity of the book is great in the world of academia. The literature used could be modified in multiple ways because the focus is on the timelessness of themes instead of specific works.
The organization of the text is laborious--both for student and instructor. The texts are included in their entirety with no breaks for questions, clarifications, etc. This makes the educator using this text responsible for breaking up the texts into digestible chunks, and, for struggling readers, include explanations and definitions, etc. for difficult language or vocabulary.
It is consistent in its sparseness of any in-text helps or questions.
The text could be easily broken up by sections, chapters, etc. I would anticipate including questions or writing prompts to be included when I use this text so that the students wouldn't feel overwhelmed with the volume of reading before analyzing, etc.
The topics are logically ordered, but presentation on the page is sometimes overwhelming with single-spacing and few graphics, photos, etc.
Except for having the PDF include BOTH volumes, navigation is smooth.
Very few grammatical errors; most would not be noticeable at all.
I appreciated the inclusion of non-Anglo texts. Most anthologies consider Greek, European and possibly Chinese texts as "classical". This has much more depth of culture by including text from India as well. In most anthologies I've used, this is sorely lacking.
I would be very interested in using sections of this text for a high school-level World Literature course. It would need to include more assistance for students than it contains, but the content is a comprehensive starting point.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Middle East, Near East, Greece
- Hebrew Bible, “Genesis” and “Exodus”
- The Epic of Gilgamesh
- The Iliad and The Odyssey
- Oedipus the King
Chapter 2: China
- The Analects
- The Art of War
- The Book of Songs
- The Mother of Mencius
- The Zhuangzi
Chapter 3: India
- The Bhagavad Gita
- The Mahabharata
- The Râmâyana
Chapter 4: Rome
- The Aeneid
About the Book
The introductions in this anthology are meant to be just that: a basic overview of what students need to know before they begin reading, with topics that students can research further. An open access literature textbook cannot be a history book at the same time, but history is the great companion of literature: The more history students know, the easier it is for them to interpret literature.
In an electronic age, with this text available to anyone with computer access around the world, it has never been more necessary to recognize and understand differences among nationalities and cultures. The literature in this anthology is foundational, in the sense that these works influenced the authors who followed them.
A word to the instructor: The texts have been chosen with the idea that they can be compared and contrasted, using common themes. Rather than numerous (and therefore often random) choices of texts from various periods, these selected works are meant to make both teaching and learning easier. While cultural expectations are not universal, many of the themes found in these works are.
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.