Teaching World Literature
This seminar will address both theoretical and practical issues pertinent to efforts to expand the curricular and institutional from single language and cultural grounds to conceptions of literary study that are at once more explicitly global, and particularly addressed to the kinds of departmental and disciplinary changes necessary to avoid merely reconfiguring existing departmental models to take on broader 'content'.
The fundamental premise is that the humanities in general and literary study in particular have operated for at least a century on conceptions of the 'literary' and the humanities that are drastically too narrow. In three particular domains, we will examine assumptions that have quite generally been accepted as axiomatic, but which are on close inspection barely plausible, in intellectual history, in conceptions of 'period' and 'culture', and in reading practices that are saturated with conceptions seriously challenged by the very works that are taken as objects of reading and scholarship.
The first section of the seminar will address the presumed distinction between the Enlightenment and Romanticism, as instead a sustained (and still continuing) intellectual, cultural, and political project, profoundly connected to conceptions of literacy and reading, civil society, and normative judgment in fields generally separated but intrinsically linked, such as jurisprudence, theology, and anthropology. Texts will include selections from Jonathan Edwards, John Locke, David Hume, Spinoza, Rousseau, and Kant.
The second section will address conceptions of writing and authorship, including religious texts and traditions, the development of genres of composition (poetry, oratory, narrative) relative to sometimes very different conceptions of a 'good' society, the idea of freedom and constraints on its actual deployment. Texts will include the Bible, the Qur'an, The Analects of Confucius, texts of Taoism (including Laotzu and Chuangtzu), the Book of Songs, and selected Tang and Song poems, Edwards' The Nature of True Virtue, Rousseau's Testament of the Savoyard Priest from Emile, and Kant's Critique of the Power of Judgment.
The concluding section will be addressed to the development of exemplary reading lists that explicitly cross linguistic and cultural boundaries, in the effort to consider the critical requirements of putting such otherwise heterogenous materials into a coherent pedagogical context.
The readings will be split between a course reader and online texts, to keep the costs manageable.