English 90wl. The Future of World Literature

Instructor: Martin Puchner
Tuesday, 12:45-2:45pm | Location: TBA
Course Website
Enrollment: Limited to 15

The course serves as an introduction to world literature and aims to ask big-picture questions: when and under what circumstances did written stories first emerge? How were they stored? And how will they be transmitted to the future?

The first part is exploratory and is based on working with the Norton Anthology of World Literature. We’ll read widely across 4000 years of literature, and, using the Norton introductions and headnotes for guidance, assemble the big picture of literary evolution. Topics of discussion will include the dynamics of writing technologies from Mesopotamian clay tablet to the internet; the emergence of new genres; the increasing differentiation of literature into religious, historical, political, and fictional stories; and the changing marketplace of world literature. Readings include the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Analects of Confucius, the Arabian Nights, The Tale of Genji, the Popol Vuh, and the Epic of Sunjata.

The second part is a laboratory. Working individually and in groups, we’ll devise strategies for preserving literature for the future. Which texts and types of literature should we select? How should we store them to assure their survival? And how can we communicate the significance of these texts to humans living in the distant future? This laboratory workshop will give us a chance to challenge existing canons and to envision the literature of the future. Readings and selections for the second part to be chosen by students.