What is World Literature? Teaching Multicultural Literature
The simplest way of thinking of WL is that it is literature that has a readership and an impact beyond its original language and cultural area. Examples include the Bible and the plays of William Shakespeare, both of which have been translated into more than 100 languages and are read or performed on every continent.
The first thing to consider is that WL is a category of literary production, publication, and circulation that has "legs." This means that it is a work of literature that is FIRST a touchstone of local culture; in other words, it becomes a standard for a local culture. It then becomes an influence on a regional culture, and later a part of the fabric of global community. It moves from local to regional to global.
In addition to having legs, World Literature is literature that gains in translation. This means that it may inspire new genres, enrich a local tongue’s vocabulary through the adaptation of new words, blend with regional concepts, or take on new meanings at different times and places. These are works that are able to adapt themselves to and acquire meaning in different cultures.
We need to study world literature because we are human. Our experiences as humans connect us to each other through the medium of literature. Because world literature allows us to inhabit different perspectives (What’s it like to be a teenage girl, a Jew, in Nazi Germany? How would you feel if you thought your father had been murdered but no one else believed that?), in different times and places, we learn to think about how other people see the world. We can learn to understand and persuade and accept and help these others more effectively and fully. World Literature allows us to visit places and times and encounter cultures that we would otherwise never experience.
Global Learning Matters
This course has a few expectations. The first and MOST important of these is that you must read! We will have almost daily quizzes, unit tests over the novels we read, write journal entries, engage in discussion, and complete projects on your reading.
You will learn to recognize many of the key themes in World Literature as we study works set in countries across the globe: Kaffir Boy (Africa), Balzaac & the Little Chinese Seamstress (China), Into Thin Air (Nepal), a self-selected global novel, and the movies Mao's Last Dancer (China) and Hotel Rwanda (Africa)
You will also develop the ability to analyze a work of literature based on the following components: