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What is World Literature?

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe introduced the concept of Weltliteraturworld literaturein 1827 to describe the growing availability of literary texts from other nations.
Karl Marx used the term in his Communist Manifesto in 1847 to describe the cosmopolitan character of bourgeois literary production.

I am more and more convinced that poetry is the universal possession of mankind, revealing itself everywhere and at all times in hundreds and hundreds of men I therefore like to look about me in foreign nations, and advise everyone to do the same. National literature is now a rather unmeaning term; the epoch of world literature is at hand, and everyone must strive to hasten its approach.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, speaking to his student, Johann Peter Eckermann, in 1827 (Germany)

A World Literature Timeline


[Beginnings to 100 A.D.] 1. Invention of Writing and Earliest Literature (3000 BC30 AD) 2. Ancient Greece and the Formation of the Western Mind (220 BC 200 AD) 3. Poetry and Thought in China (1700 BC 220 AD) 4. Indias Heroic Age (3000 BC200 AD) 5. The Roman Empire (753 BC64 AD)

1. Invention of Writing and Earliest Literature (3000 BC30 AD) Purpose: written documents political, legal, administrative Created by: the first advanced civilizations oldest writing: Pictographic 3300 2990 BC oldest extant (cattle, foodstuff, textile By 2800 BC, began to make marks on script Cuneiform cuneus L. a wedge Hieroglyphic and cuneiform to record more complicated information ex. Historical events

Gilgamesh
About 2000 BC Gilgamesh (the first great heroic narrative of world literature. Nearly vanished when it was not translated from cuneiform into the new alphabets that replaced them. Reintroduced: when it was discovered in 1872 (Utnapishtims Story of the Flood) Other tablets found throughout the Middle East in various cuneiform languages Concern of Gilgamesh: Gilgameshs friendship with Enkidu, his quest for worldly renown and immortality and his death.

Hebrews
not an imperial people; They left a religious literature (bet. 8th and 2nd centuries BC) Monotheistic - Idea of one God; resistance: humankind itself; blamed humanity for disorder to harmonious universe; free will 586 BC deported to Babylon; 539 BC return to Palestine Rebuilt the temple and created Pentateuch

Greeks
Polytheistic - resistance: gods often battle among themselves for control over humankind Their gods: an expression of the disorder of the world and its uncontrollable forces Morality is a human invention Mysterious power of fate: even Zeus must bow to it and he can be resisted by fellow Olympians Added signs for vowels first real alphabet

2. Ancient Greece and the Formation of the Western Mind (220 BC 200 AD)
Hellenic heritage unknown Minoan civilization (2nd millenium BC Crete) Named after Minos mythical king Myceneans Developed a wealthy and powerful civilization on mainland Greece Last century of the millennium palaces (burnt) together with the arts, skills and language vanished for the next century (Dark Age of Greece)

Dark Age
Knowledge in this age, became the raw material for Homers epic poems the Iliad and Odyssey Iliad and Odyssey development of Greek civilization; Torah Palestine

Homer
The basis for Homer's Iliad and Odyssey was an immense poetic reserve created by generations of singers who lived before him. he made use of an intricate system of metrical formulas, a repertoire of standard scenes, and a known outline of the story.

iliad
tells the story of the Achaeans and Trojans in war. Both gendersthe men who do battle and the women who depend on them are affected in this tale of war. Severely unsentimental, Homer's tale suggests that human beings must unreservedly deal with both destructive and creative impulses.

Odyssey
The Odyssey: deals with the peace that developed and places emphasis on the lives of the surviving heroes of the war. story of Odysseus on a quest to return to his homeland, Ithaca, and be reunited with his son and wife. Along the way, he has many adventures and must rely on his intellect, wit, and strength to free himself from perilous situations.

questions about the nature of aggression and violence are left unanswered, questions about human suffering and the waste generated by war are left unresolved.

8th and 7th centuries: Greeks adapted Phoenician writing system : adding signs for vowels consonantal alphabetic system 5th century: Athens and Sparta became enemies culminating in the Peloponnesian war: Athens left defeated Athens: developed democratic institutions (freedom of individuals and the demands of the state) Became empire at the time of Sophocles

Athens
Cities taxed and coerced Sophists professional teachers (educated in subjects such as government, ethics, literary criticism and astronomy. Sophist protagoras: Man is the measure of all things where secular and humanist spirit is best expressed

Philosophers Question Tradition


War caused Athenians to lose confidence in democratic government and they begin to question their values Greek Philosophers base their thinking on:
- The Universe is put in an orderly way and subject to unchanging laws - People can understand these laws through logic and reason

Sophists were people who questioned traditional ideas Protagoras: Questioned existence of Greek Gods and said there was no universal standard of truth
7/17/2012

Socrates
proposed dialectic rather than didactic (instructive)method of teaching unlike the sophists Exposed illogicality in old beliefs but did not provide new His ethics rested on intellectual basis - Said the unexamined life is not worth living Due to his insistence that it is the duty of each individual to think through to the truth resentment against Socrates built, culminating in a death for impiety.

Plato
Literary and philosophical contributions often explored ethical and political problems of his time featuring his teacher Socrates as speaker. Founder of academy Student of Socrates Wrote The Republic about an ideal society

Aristotle
Poetics first systematic work of Western literary criticism Invented scientific method and taught Alexander the Great Applied his beliefs in various fields

Classical Greek Literature


Greek comedy and tragedy developed out of choral performances in celebration of Dionysus, the god of wine and mystic ecstasy. Aeschylus plays reflect Athens heroic period Sophocles reflect a culture that was reevaluating critically its accepted standards and traditions Aritophanes combines poetry, obscenity and wit to satirize institutions and personalities of his time.

Chinese civilization first developed in the Yellow River basin. Shang dynasty : First dynasty 1700 BC - Chinese writing based on characters - misruled and caused hardship to people Chou conquered the Shang Over the centuries, the idea of heaven changed: sometimes it was an anthropomorphic (the attribution of a human form to nonhuman things) deity, a natural and moral force, or a collection of ancestral spirits.

3. Poetry and Thought in Early China (1700 BC220 AD)

The Book of Documents a collection of statements and proclamations from the early Chou period The Classic of Poetry (lyric poetry) collection that stands at the beginning of the Chinese literary tradition - Chou aristocracy - heterogeneous text that includes many types of songs, ranging from hymns, temple songs and hunting songs to love and marriage songs. - eventually became part of the canon of Confucian classics

Analects by Confucius fusion of ethical thought and idealized Chou traditions associated with Confucius

Spring and Autumn Annals Period


Known as the Warring States domains were gradually evolving into centralized states during a period of political and intellectual upheaval. The Chuang Tzu political mediations in a multiple of forms, ranging from jokes and parables to complex philosophical arguments; The way is often immoral

Historical Records by Ssu-ma Chiien recording the lives of ruling families and dynasties in a comprehensive history of China Emperor Wus reign. Ssu-ma Chiens work reflected on the causes and effects of injustice on individuals.

Rule of Chin Shih-huang


Draconian (unjustly harsh) ruler Known for unifying the currency and the script, burning books that he deemed objectionable. The Legalists who believed that subjects of the state should adhere completely to the laws and policies, were exempted from Ch'in's book burning.

4. Indias Heroic Age (3000 BC200 AD)


Sanskrit language of literature, administration and intellectual endeavor (1500 BC) Hindu culture Sanskrit; Buddhists and Jains Pali and Prakrit dialects; South India Tamil Interchange between south and north led to the development of Tamil and Sanskrit literatures

Mughals dynasty (12th century) introduced Islam, Arabic and Persian literature to Indian literature and civilization British colonization (17th century) positioned English in Indian letters Vedas first known writing originating from the Aryans

Vedas - the primary scriptures of Hinduism and consist of four books of sacred hymns that are typically chanted by priests at ceremonies marking rites of passage. - considered divine revelations and are often recited in the form of mantras, or sacred utterances.

The Upanishads or Mystic Doctrines are mystical and philosophical meditations by thinkers wishing to gain ultimate wisdom. - offer a different worldview - de-emphasize the role of the ritualistic present in the Vedas - argue that the soul is a manifestation of a single divine essence;

Release comes from understanding the basic unity between the self and the universe
Upanishads - the only escape from the perpetual cycle of life and death is to identify with the pure self, thereby surpassing the limitations of the human mind.

Ramayana and Mahabharata - express the core values of Hinduism - Mythic in tone but believed that the poems are based on actual historical events in north India. Referred to as itihasa, or historical narrative (lay the foundation for Aryan rule in the Ganges River Valley.)

the Mahabharata focuses on a civil war between battling Aryans - compiled by Vyasa Ramayana describes the adventures in exile of Prince Rama of Kosala. - by Valmiki

The stories have been retold in all of the major Indian languages and have inspired works of art and literature in India as well as in parts of Southeast Asianotably Java, Thailand, and Malaysia. Both epic poems emphasize dharmathe guiding principle of good human conduct and the force that holds the social, moral, and cosmic fabric of the universe together

Dharma - refers to sacred duties and righteous conduct, and is related to three other spheres that collectively govern an ideal life. - artha (wealth, profit, and political power); - kama (love, sensuality); - sudras (laborers) are bound by a specific set of duties, or dharma, but only Brahmans, ksatriyas, and vaisyas can work toward moksha.

Bhagavad gita - Krishna


brahmanas (the intellectual, priestly class) determined by his birth ksatriyas (the martial class, the kings, rulers, leaders, military men) vaisvyas (the productive class, principally the farmers who produce and distribute the food and also the businessmen) Sudras (the worker class who have no ability to support themselves independently like the other three classes so they need to serve the other three higher classes for their livelihood).

many Hindu texts reflect ongoing power negotiations among the brahman, ksatriya, and vaishya classes the social position of Hindus is determined at birth, making for a markedly rigid and stratified society, A woman's dharma is related to her position as a wife, and she is thus given little space to define her own identity.

karma - The belief that all beings are responsible for their own actions and their own suffering - the theory that suggests that all actions (good or bad) have consequences. - In Hindu thought, the doer must bear the burden of these actions, and the soul is thus trapped in a perpetual cycle of life and death. - Buddhist thought rejects this idea, focusing instead on the ways that creatures can be freed from the cycle of suffering.

Jataka - a popular Buddhist tale collection, suggests that by detaching oneself from desire and focusing on the well-being of others, all persons can embark on the path toward enlightenment, thereby becoming a bodhisattva.

Hindus also believe in a triad of gods Brahma, the creator; Vishnu, the preserver; Shiva the destroyerwho are responsible for the lives of all creatures on a cosmic scale. It is believed that worshiping Shiva or Vishnu eventually helps creatures escape from the cycle of karmic rebirth.

The heroic age of Indian literature encompasses a wide range of writings. Ancient Tamil poetry valorizes love and war; Arjuna and Rama appear heroic to many because they balance the violence of warrior ways with compassion and self-restraint; Buddha's teachings of self-perfection elevated him to status as a superhuman hero-king. --- In all, the idea that moral and spiritual conquest is superior to conquest by the sword is an enduring motif of the time and one that was publicly endorsed by Emperor Ashoka.