Lesson 1: World Literature – An Introduction to the Introduction

 

 

What is World Literature?

 

 This is a very obvious question to start off with. Naturally, the course as a whole is meant to answer this question -- World Literature (hereinafter WL) is in some sense its contents, and the course is designed to acquaint you with those contents.


However, it is good to provide some basic concepts of WL so that you will understand why the course is organized the way it is, and in order to justify some of its activities and objectives.


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.
Another example of this is the Lotus Sutra from 1st c. India.  It was translated into several languages, including Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese, between the 3rd and 13th c, and later it went on to inspire Allen Ginsberg’s “Sunflower Sutra” in the mid-20th century. Clearly, the phenomenon of WL bears some relation to the broader issue of Globalization.  We will provide you with a working definition of Globalization in Lesson 2, but for now, Globalization refers to the ways in which forces like travel, migration, religious conversion, trade, war, colonization, and the general circulation of ideas increase connectivity and interdependence of regional cultures; they increase the interactions between groups of people that previously may have had little or no contact with each other.

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 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.

 
Simple as all this sounds, like most definitions it hides some complexities, only a few of which will be aired here. The first one is that it is not so easy to define what "literature" is, nor to determine where its boundaries lie. According to etymology, "literature" is anything that is written or printed, i.e. composed of letters. "Literacy," after all, simply means the ability to read material of any type. However, scholars with titles that include "Literature" tend to think of their object of study both more narrowly and (surprise!) more broadly than that. More narrowly, in that the written work we study is work of the imagination and not factual: poetry, stories, theatrical pieces are literature; newspapers, legal documents, and chemistry textbooks are not literature.


More broadly, in that works of the imagination can take forms other than writing. Looking back to preliteracy, we have what is called Orature, namely poetry, stories, theatrical pieces, songs, myths, and legends that were composed and transmitted orally before writing was ever introduced into a culture. We assume that the stories in Genesis, the first book of the Bible, were preserved in this fashion before being written down. You may have heard of the Greek bard Homer, who is reputed to have "composed" two lengthy epics orally, without writing anything down. Now let's fast-forward to our own day, which is described by some as an epoch of "secondary orality." Cinema, television, and popular music are three forms that are absorbed and at times memorized by audiences without their reading anything. Should they be included as literary forms too? What about role-playing video games such as Second Life or World of Warcraft? They definitely engage the imagination, have plot, characters, and other qualities that we associate with literature. Should they be included as well?


We won't be exploring these issues in depth in this course, because our basic information source is the printed Longman Anthology that does not contain screenplays or pop songs. Hence, for practical purposes and simply for the purposes of this course, we could formulate the following axiom: for a work to become part of world literature, is must be written down. (Actually it also needs to be translated, but we'll get to that point later.) Nevertheless, you should keep in mind that many of the texts we are reading (e.g., Homer) began as oral compositions, and that we will be exploring the role that modern technologies play in transmitting literary texts.




 
What about the "World" part of World Literature? Is it the same "world" as when my high school offered "world languages"?

 

This is the other complexity of our definition. It is relatively clear what English literature is, or German literature: it is literature composed in those languages. But clearly this does not apply to WL.


Let us introduce by way of explanation four major ways in which WL has been conceived since the term was first used in the late 18th century.

  1. WL as a comprehensive corpus of all literary texts in all languages of the world
  2. WL as an anthropological comparison of how different cultures develop literary forms
  3. WL as a hypercanon of "the best that has been thought and said" by selected writers of the world
  4. WL as the process of diffusion of texts around the globe through translation, adaptation, rewriting, etc.

 

Conceptually, #1 is probably the easiest to grasp: world literature is simply all of the world's literature. On the other hand, it is the most unwieldy to work with in practice. #2 should be thought of in opposition to #4: rather than thinking about how literary forms or ideas move from one culture to another, we instead look at cultures that have no contact, but notice that each has developed myths, or each has developed lyric poetry, etc. In actual fact, there are literary forms such as myth and lyric that seem to be universal, whereas others, such as the novel or tragedy, seem to have developed in a specific regions and been introduced elsewhere through processes of globalization. A "canon" is a group of approved or highly regarded, "must-read" texts. Any literary anthology, since it obviously must make selections, posits its own canon, but the idea of canon invoked in #3 is more that of a national literary canon, those texts that have proven enduring and have continued to "live" in the culture. The "hyper-" of "hypercanon" in #3 indicates that WL is composed of a canon of the best of various national canons, the best of the best. In fact, that is very much what the Longman Anthology consists of. #4 focuses on the fact that when literary forms or works "travel" from one part of the globe to another, they are inevitably changed -- and they also alter the receiving culture's literary canon. WL is that process of continual travel, rewriting, and mediation of literary texts across cultural boundaries.

Here's a thought-experiment for you. Take a look at the syllabus, and especially at the lesson plan for this version of CMLIT010. Then, using a simple ANGEL assessment, RANK the four conceptions of WL in order of their importance in determining course design and content. Which seems, based on the organization and activities of the course, to be most important, and which least? Tell us what you think here...
.

Our own ranking would be:
  1. (most important) anthropological comparison
  2. learning the hypercanon
  3. process of diffusion
  4. (least important) comprehensive corpus

If you had a different ranking that's OK, you may have used different clues than we did to come up with it. You may have stumbled over "anthropological comparison" because you signed up to study literature, not anthropology! The reason it ranks first is because the course material is divided by regions of the world, which indicates an anthropological concern with the expression of different cultures through their literatures.
You will have noticed that the course is divided into 6 units.  Each of these units focuses on a geographic area, exploring the bases of regional cultures and charting their increased hybridity. Our units of study are: First Civilizations, including Babylonia, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Israel, Greece, and Rome; India; China and Japan; Arabia and its influence on Spain, Africa, and the Americas.The literature we will read is strongly identified with the region of the world that it comes from, while at the same time holding enough interest for the rest of the world to have become part of WL.

The editors of your anthology also seemed to have #1 uppermost in their minds -- it is the basic idea behind many of the "Perspectives" sections, including the very first one, on creation myths. The first sentence of that section (p. 28) is a classic statement of the anthropological approach to WL: "Every culture tells tales of the origins of the world." Two literary forms are invoked here -- tales and (by implication) myths -- that carry a universal content (the origin of the world) that is strongly shaped by the values of the cultures that tell them.
 

The foundational nature of many of the texts on the syllabus, from the Analects of Confucius to the Qur'an, may have led you to select the hypercanon as the most important element of the course. That is very understandable, and we certainly hope you will come away from CMLIT010 with a command of a subset of the hypercanon of WL. But if that had been our first concern, we might have organized the course according to the ten best creative writers in world history, for example, which we did not do.


The third is the process of diffusion. If that had been our first concern, we might have begun the course with the history of writing technology, from cuneiform to the World Wide Web. We might also have a long theoretical discussion of translation, which is essential for diffusion of texts across the globe. Instead, we will examine these issues with selected texts.


Finally, it should be obvious that no three-credit course can make much headway with a comprehensive corpus of all the world's literary texts. We must be selective. However, there is one important comprhensive aspect to this course and to the anthology: we attempt to include something from all the world's continents.

 

For the Pennsylvania Department of Education, "World Language" is simply a different way of saying "second language" or "foreign language," and in practical terms it means any language other than English. The two WLs (World Literature and World Languages) share an idea of "world" as moving beyond the zone of familiarity of the English language. However, World Literature does not exclude English-language works, though it does de-center them in relation to a course in English or US literatures.

 



Now for the Boring Stuff: Course Expectations

 

This course has a few expectations.  The first of these is that you must read!  There are weekly quizzes you must take, weekly blog entries you must respond to, a U.S. epic we will be creating as a group, the transformation of a text from one literary form into another, and a mystery text analysis.


So, there are three basic elements that make up the course: 1) readings in WL (mostly from the anthology but a few posted separately on ANGEL); 2) lesson material, for example what you are reading now; and 3) exercises and activities, from the simple and ungraded to the complex worth a substantial portion of your grade.

 

You will develop the ability to analyze a work of literature based on the following components:

 

  1. geography and culture—where does a text originate? What cultural values does it represent?;
  2. form—how is this text written?  Is it verse? is it prose? is it drama?;
  3. theme—what are some of the themes in a text?  Do these themes repeat themselves within one culture?  Within other cultures?  Throughout time?;
  4. process of dissemination—how do these texts reach other geographic areas?  How do they affect other cultures?  How are they translated in order to be understood or adapted to another culture?

 

It should be apparent that most of these echo the different conceptions of WL. Specifically, the first, second, and third can all be related to the anthropological comparison of cultures.

 

Reading Preparation

 

To prepare for your readings, you must purchase the anthology required for this class.  It is the Longman Anthology of World Literature, Compact Edition, edited by David Damrosch.  You can find the complete information for this text on your syllabus.  To help you and give you some time to purchase your textbook, I have provided you with versions of the readings for the first week.  However, I would like to caution you that many of these versions have different translations from what is in the textbook and this may cause a little bit of confusion at first.  You will not be successful in this class if you do not read!

 

There are approximately 150-200 pages of reading to do per week.  This may seem like a lot, but it's actually only twenty to thirty pages per day.  Read daily and manage your time wisely!

 

Although there is no strict deadline for a specific reading, you must do the readings for a particular week within that week in order to keep up with the readings themselves and to be able to complete the assignments for that week.

 

As you’re reading, you should always be thinking of the four components I previously mentioned: geography, form, theme, and process of dissemination.  It’s a good idea to keep a record of those four components for everything you read.  The first three components will be more obvious at first, but as you read texts from other geographic areas, the process of dissemination will seem clearer.

 

Assignments

 

Now let’s talk about your assignments… We're just giving you a general overview here.  For specific information, please see your syllabus and complete instructions on ANGEL.

 

Quizzes

 

There are seven weekly quizzes.  For the first quiz, the questions are all about you, so that I can get to know you better and know your preferences.  This one will be due on Friday of the first week of classes.  The remaining five quizzes correspond to the readings for the previous week and will be due every Monday.  The quiz for the last section of the course, “The New World,” is extra-credit.  All quizzes are due by 11:59 p.m. and are worth a maximum of 5 points.

 

With the exception of the first quiz, which is composed only of short answer questions, all others will include multiple choice, true or false, and short answer questions.

 

The best way to prepare is to do all the readings!  The quizzes will be based on the readings; the lectures serve to emphasize the important points.

 

Blog Entries

 

Every week I will post a blog prompt and you will be required to post an approximately 200-word response to it.  All of the prompts will correspond to the readings for that particular week and are due on Fridays by 11:59 p.m..  The best way to prepare for these is to do your readings and pay attention to the discussion questions included in your lectures.

 

Debates

 

You will be required to participate in three debates through an online discussion forum. 

For this assignment you will be assigned a group (for/against/rebuttal) for each debate.

You will be required to write a 200-word argument either for, against, or as a rebuttal to a topic, responding to one another’s postings.

These debates are based on your readings and you will be required to use specific examples from the readings to support your responses.  You may use outside sources, including other texts you have read for this course, as evidence. 

 

Creation of a U.S. Epic

 

Throughout the course, we will be reading many epics from all over the world.  The purpose of this assignment will be to create a U.S. Epic, using the components of the epic, which I will provide you in Lesson 3.  Some of these elements include a hero, a nation, a poet, music, and war.  For this assignment, we are going to create a U.S. epic as a group, in which I will provide the beginning lines and you must continue the verses based on what the person before you has written.  òEach student will have to continue a passage recorded or posted to a VoiceThread by another student.  In the end, by the time the last person has added to the text, we should have created a U.S. epic that fulfills all of the necessary components.  The last day to either record or post your passage is Friday, June 24, the last day of classes for the session.

 

Transformation

 

For this assignment you will be required to transform a text or part of a text of your choice  (approximately 500 words) from one literary form into another and provide a brief explanation for your transformation.  By the time this assignment is due, you will have read at least one text in each of the major forms: prose, poetry, and drama.  You may choose to "rewrite" your text as script, video, or audio, whichever you feel more comfortable doing.  The grade for this assignment will count as your midterm grade!  This assignment is due Sunday, June 12 by 11:59 p.m.

 

Text Analysis

 

Your last assignment, which will count for your final grade, is a text analysis.  For this assignment you will be given a text you have not read and will be required to analyze it according to the four literary components we are focusing on: geography, form, theme, and process of dissemination. The focus here will be on your methodology and how well you use the texts you have read throughout the course to analyze the text you were given. 

 

Things to Remember

 

For complete information on the assignments I’ve presented you, please check your syllabus and instructions on ANGEL. 

 

Questions

 

If you have any questions about me, the course, or our assignments, please feel free to either post them here or email me (    ) or Skype me.

 

In the next lesson...

 

In the next lesson we will:

Look at ways in which we view the world

Look at ways in which Pre-Modern civilizations view the world

Provide you with a working definition of “Globalization


 

Lesson 2: Getting From Wherever You Were Before This Started to the World in One Easy Lesson

 

Goals for Today:

 

We have three main goals for this lesson, which are to discuss:

  1. How do you view ‘The World’?
  2. How did Pre-Modern Civilizations view "The World"?
  3. How does studying “World Literature” help us to better understand “The World"?


What is the "World"?

 

Let’s talk a bit more about what your image of “the world” is.  To help you think about “the world, ”I’m going to show you a series of maps and I want you to think about whether there is an analogy between creating a map and creating a work of literature.  Both mapping and writing are ways of expressing an understanding of the world; just as maps create visual representations of the world, literature creates mental representations of the world.  It’s important to note, however, that both mapping and writing are subjective—this means that they are created according to the point of view of their authors.

 

Our image

 

Since mapping and writing are subjective, our image of “the world” affects our idea of what “world literature” is.

 

You will see how each of the following maps depicts “the world” in a different way.

 

The image on the left is an image of planet Earth taken by a NASA satellite.  As you can see, the world here seems like one large mixed agglomeration.  There are no borders separating one area from another.  The lack of borders, and consequently of cultural divisions, creates an image of the world as a place with a shared human heritage in which we all come from one original culture.  Is this how you view the world?

 

The image on the right is a map of the world as divided by continents, more or less.  This subtle division, differentiated only by shades of blue, immediately leads our minds to create the divisions the previous image lacked.  When you think of “the world” do you immediately think of its cultural divisions?  Of its differences?

 

II

 

The map on the left here divides “the world” even further.  Not only are these divisions cultural, as in the previous map, but the creation of borders and separation of areas into nation-states, creates socio-political divisions as well.  In this image, the world is completely divided, each nation-state is its own place, and there does not seem to be any interconnection between them.  Each nation state has its own individual culture.  Do you view the world as series of separate nation-states?

 

The map on the right is a computer-generated modified map of the world.  Rather than defining each country by its size, this map defines each country by its wealth, this is why Latin America, Africa, and Russia seem so small in comparison to the United States, Europe, China, and Japan (yes, the purple area on the right is Japan).  Do you think of the world in terms of which nation-state or region exerts cultural dominance over others?

Or as a place with centers of cultural dominance, such as the United States, Europe and China?

 

III

 

Here, the map on the right shows the routes used during the African slave trade.  It may remind you of another map you may have seen—a map of airplane routes.  Although this map does not clearly show it, the whole process of the trade followed a mainly a triangular route between Africa, America, and Europe.  Slaves were sent to the Americas to cultivate raw materials and these raw materials were sent to Europe where they were transformed into products.  In fact, trade routes such as this one and the Asian Silk Road were very important to the formation of modern cultural relations, to the process of globalization, and led to the transculturation present in the Americas.  Trade is therefore a form of interconnectivity.  Do you view the world as an interconnected space where one nation-state cannot be completely separated from another?

 

The map on the right shows the cultures that had writing systems in the year 1 CE.  Do some of these surprise you?  Did you know there was writing in Central America at that time?

 

Discussion Question

 

The first set of maps shows you some of the ways in which people view the world.  How do you view the world?  Do you have your own vision/definition of what the world is?

 

Pre-Modern Views

 

If it’s possible that we can all have such discrepant views of “the World,” take a minute to think about how Pre-Modern cultures may have viewed “the World”.  What did “the World” consist of for these people?  What defined “the World” for them?  How would you expect their literature to reflect and shape this view? You should think about and look for the answers to these questions as you are doing your readings for this week. 

 

In the following slides you will see some of the ways in which this idea of “the World” has been represented historically and geographically; throughout time and space.

 

The Indic World

 

Here are some maps of the Indic World, the world comprising what is today known as the Indian sub-continent. 

 

On the left is a map of Jambudvipa.  Jambudvipa is the dvipa, the island, of the terrestrial world as envisioned by Hinduism and Buddhism—two Indian religions.  It is a representation of the place in which human beings live.

 

The map on the right is a map of Vedic India.  Vedic refers to the period in which the Vedas were written and the Vedas are the oldest works of Sanskrit literature and the oldest Hindu scriptures.  This map shows the major historic and cultural sites of that period.  The Vedic civilization was located in the north and northwest area of the indian sub-continent.

 

The Sinitic World

 

Here are some maps of the Sinitic World, the world comprising modern day China.

 

The map of the left is a classical Korean copy of a Chinese map of the world.  It includes Korea on the right, enlarged and not to scale; Japan in the lower right corner, also enlarged and not to scale; and Europe on the left.  It also includes a series of rivers, which are mapped decoratively: they loop and connect in impossible ways.

 

The map on the right shows China’s Han Empire (or Dynasty).  The lighter red/orange area is the area comprising the Han Empire.

 

Europe and the Middle East

 

These maps show that there have been significant changes to the ways in which we view Europe and the Mediterranean area as well.

 

The map on the left is Herodotus’ World Map.  It is difficult to read the script on the map but the upper part represents Europe and the bottom part represents Asia.  From this map, we can see that the Ancient Greeks thought African countries, such as Libya and Ethiopia, were a part of Asia.  This map even includes the Nile River.  Arabia is represented on the lower right, where the map curves in, and India is on the far right.

 

The map on the right is a modern map of what is known as the “Greater Mediterranean”.  It includes Northern Africa, Europe, and the Middle East.

 

The Colonial World

 

These are maps of the Colonial World.

 

The map on the upper right shows the major colonial empires in 1815.  The yellow are Spanish, the light green Portuguese, the green Russian, the red are British and French, and the purple are Dutch. 

 

The map on the lower left shows the major empires in 1914.  Just by looking at these maps, it is possible to see that some areas (such as Brazil and Central America), which were colonies in 1815, had declared independence by 1914.  This map also details the African colonies, which the first map does not.

 

Discussion Questions

 

Do you see any commonalities between the ways in which Pre-Modern civilizations viewed the world?  How has the way in which these civilizations viewed the world changed through time?  What are some of the factors that have caused these changes?

 

How are these Pre-Modern views of the world different from how we might view the world today?

 

A Working Definition of "Globalization"

 

Globalization is a process

--It is a process of interaction and integration among the people, companies, and governments of different nations,

--It is a process driven by international trade and investment and aided by information technology.

--It is a process that has effects on the environment, on culture, on political systems, on economic development and prosperity, and on human physical well-being in societies around the world.  (The Levin Institute – SUNY)

 

Because it is a process, it is constantly changing; constantly developing.

 

A History of Globalization

 

Although globalization has gained momentum since the second half of the 20th c., the process of globalization is not new.  Below are some its most significant developments:

--Pre-Historic Period: Hunters and gatherers came into contact with one another during the Great Migrations (10000-3500 BCE)

--Pre-Modern Period:  The invention of the wheel in South-West Asia (3000 BCE) and the invention of writing in China, Egypt, and Mesopotamia (3500-2000 BCE) permit larger groups of people to form and communicate with one another.

            --In this age of Empires, the Inca Empire was the only one to thrive without a writing system

 

--Early Modern Period: Europeans begin develop maritime technologies, discovering routes to India and the Americas (1400-1500 CE)

--Modern:

            --Colonialism (1500-1975 CE)

            --Slave trade fortifies interconnections particularly between Africa, the   Americas, and Europe (1500-1750 CE)

            --Industrial Revolution (1750-1900 CE)

            --Technological Innovations and Free Markets (1900 CE-present)


By hybridity I mean “the creation of new transcultural forms within the contact zone produced by colonization,” what happens when one culture comes into contact with another in a situation where one culture exerts dominance over another. 

 

The sources of hybridity found in the texts we will be reading include migration, invasion, conversion, pilgrimage, and social dissent from within.

 

Transculturation is a phenomenon that occurs when cultures merge and converge, creating a new culture by bringing elements from all of the cultures together. 

 

An example of this is the religious syncretism present in Latin America where some people practice the religion of the colonizer (in this case, mainly Catholicism) and their native (indigenous or African) religion.  Another example is music.  Brazilian samba and American jazz are adaptations of African musical practices.  What happens in these cases is that cultural elements from the colonizer and from the native land come together creating a new cultural element specific to that place.

 


Discussion Questions

 

--I’ve provided you a working definition of “Globalization”.  Do you agree with this definition?  Is there anything you might add to it?


--What connections can you make between “Globalization” and “World Literature”?

 

For next time...

 

For the next lesson, I’d like you to think of a few things:

 

•Keep in mind the relationship between “World Literature” and Globalization

 

•As you’re reading, think about the definition of “World Literature” presented here as well as the four components of literature I’ve mentioned: geography, form, theme, and process

 

•READ: “A Babylonian Theogony” (29-30), the Enuma Elish (44-54) and The Epic of Gilgamesh (71-113) in your textbook, and the Early Egyptian Poetry available on Angel

 

•Make sure you complete Quiz 1 by 11:59 p.m. Friday.  This quiz is not based on readings—it is based on you!

 

Lesson 3

 

Hello and welcome to Comparative Literature 010: World Literatures!

 

This is Lesson 3 - Epic Beginnings

 

Our goals for today are:

 

--To provide you with a definition of "the Epic"

--To provide you with some cultural background of the texts in this section

--Discuss:

 

            1.“A Babylonian Theogony”

            2.Enuma Elish

            3.The Epic of Gilgamesh

            4.The Leiden Hymns

            5.The Egyptian Love Songs

 

What is an Epic?

 

Let's start by discussing what is an epic since many of the text you will be reading for this week are epics.

 

But before I give you the definition of an epic and its characteristics, take a minute to think about your own definition of an epic:

            --What is an epic to you?

            --Can you name an epic?

 

II

 

In short, an Epic is:

--“A long narrative poem on a great and serious subject, related in an elevated style, and centered on a heroic or quasi-divine figure on whose actions depends the fate of a tribe, a nation, or the human race. The traditional epics were shaped by a literary artist from historical and legendary materials which had developed in the oral traditions of his nation during a period of expansion and warfare” (Sandra Effinger)

--Examples: Homer’s The Odyssey and The Iliad, Virgil’s The Aeneid, Beowulf, John Milton’s Paradise Lost, El Cid, and many others.

 

As you can see by the definition I've given, it is not easy to describe an epic.  It depends on several factors.

 

III

 

In the next two slides, I'm going to break down the definition of epic into individual characteristics to help you understand it better.

 

An epic is...

 

n  It is a long narrative about a serious or worthy traditional subject.

o   This subject may be particular to a specific region, such as a war or a climate change

o   Or this subject may be common to different groups of people in different areas of the world: such as the creation of the world or the relationship between gods and humans.

n  Its diction is elevated in style.  It employs a formal, dignified, objective tone, and many figures of speech.

n  The narrative focuses on the exploits of a hero or demigod who represents the cultural values of a race, nation, or religious group.

o   Odysseus in Homer's The Odyssey; Aeneas in Virgil's The Aeneid

n  The hero's success or failure will determine the fate of that people or nation.

n  The action takes place in a vast setting, and covers a wide geographic area.  The setting is frequently some time in the remote past.

n  The action contains superhuman feats of strength or military prowess.

n  Gods or supernatural beings frequently take part in the action to affect the outcome.

o   Ex. Ishtar in The Epic of Gilgamesh

n  The poem begins with the invocation of a muse to inspire the poet, a prayer to an appropriate supernatural being.  The speaker asks that this being provide him the suitable emotion, creativity, or words to finish the poem.

n  The narrative starts in medias res, in the middle of the action.  Subsequently, the earlier events leading up to the start of the poem will be recounted in the characters' narratives or in flashbacks.

n  The epic contains long catalogs of heroes or important characters, focusing on highborn kings and great warriors rather than peasants and commoners.

n  The epic employs extended similes (called epic similes) at appropriate spots of the story, and a traditional scene of extended description in which the hero arms himself.

 

As you will see, most traditional epics will include most of these characteristics.  Keep them in mind because we will need them to create our own U.S. epic in a couple of weeks.

 

The Fertile Crescent

 

The Fertile Crescent is an area in Western Asia or the Middle East, where the land is fertile in comparison to the land in other parts of that region.  It is nested between the Syrian Desert to the south and the Anatolian highlands to the north.  Additionally, the Mediterranean Sea lies to the west and the Persian Gulf to the east.

 

The region is often considered the "cradle of civilization" because it is where the earliest civilizations arose and also where writing and the wheel first developed.  As I mentioned in Lesson 2, the invention of writing and the wheel were extremely important to the development of the globalization process because they served as tools to bring disparate civilizations together.

 

Looking at this map, can you name some of the modern nations in the region?

 

II

 

Some of the modern nations in this region include Israel, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, & Syria.

 

As I've mentioned, this area saw the rise of the earliest cultures of writings, because of this, most of the texts we are reading in this section come from this region.

 

This area is where Babylonia and Mesopotamia were located.  Babylonia was the name of this entire area, it was called the Babylonian Empire, and of a specific civilization that lived in this region.  Babylon was the name of its capital.  Mesopotamia was the name of an area within the Babylonian Empire.  The word Mesopotamia is a Greek word for "between 2 rivers" (the Tigris & the Euphrates). 

 

Now let's go to our texts...

 

The first text I asked you to read was "A Babylonian Theogony." 

 

A "theogony" is an account of the origin and genealogy of the gods. 

            They typically begin with a supreme god or pair of gods who then produce other generations of gods.    

            They typically end with the creation of humans.

            They are usually told from the perspective of a specific location.  In the case of the text you read, it includes the creation of the city of Dunnu.  In fact, this text is also know as "A Dunnu Theogony."

 

II

 

This text presents you a world that is very different from what we know because it treats taboo subjects, such as incest and murder, in a very nonchalant way; as if these subjects were routine.  It shows the beginning of the world as being very violent; a place where one's individual desires supersede everything else.  The fragmentation of the text is representative of the parts that are missing from it and these are a clue to how old this text really is.  A very interesting component of this text is that although it seems so cosmic and untouchable, it is full of realistic, human, details:  the first gods dig into the earth with a plough to create water, as if they were farmers digging a well.  One of gods' first acts is to create a city, "Dunnu of the twin towers," to be the capital, the place where the gods reside.  This may remind you a bit of the history of globalization because it shows the importance of settling for a culture to flourish.

 

III

 

If you take a closer look at the beginning lines, they may seem familiar to you (or not), but they will definitely seem familiar to you once you have finished this course.

 

IV

 

The text shows a repetition of the cycle of incest and murder that generated the world beginning with:

 

[Earth] cast her eyes on Amakandu, her son,

“Come, let me make love to you,” she said to him.

Amakandu married Earth, his mother, and

Hain, his [father], he killed.

 

 

These gods have very human characteristics and personality traits--they are not all good or all evil, but they are very selfish, lustful, jealous, and power hungry. 

 

Although this cycle of incest and murder may seem repulsive to us, it has an interesting effect:  it creates a sort of order out of chaos by providing us with a sequence of events.  This is a theme we will see in several of the texts to follow.

 

[As a side note, if you've ever read or heard of Sophocles' play Oedipus the King or Freud's "Oedipus Complex," this theme of marrying one's mother and killing one's father repeats itself quite frequently in literature.]

 

 

Enuma Elish

 

Our second reading is Enuma Elish.  It is named after its opening words, "enuma elish," and it was used during rituals.  The version we have was probably composed or written down sometime during the 12th C BCE; however, the myth itself is probably even older, from approximately the 18th C BCE.  Like "A Babylonian Theogony," the Enuma Elish has many missing lines due to the damage done to the tables on which it was written.  It remained lost for centuries only to be found in a king's ruined library near Nineveh in 1875.

 

The Enuma Elish gives us a more complete, elaborate, account of the struggles between the first generations of gods and goddesses, including some of the elements found in "A Babylonian Theogony" such as incest and murder.  In this text, the gods present traits that are even more human, as can be seen by the poets descriptions of their thoughts, feelings, and actions. 

 

It also presents us a few firsts (at least as far as we know): the first dialogues between characters and the first epic hero, Marduk.

 

II

 

Basic Plot/Main Characters of this story

 

--It is a creation myth--recounts the struggle between order and chaos.  It is basically a myth of the cycle of seasons.   

 

--All of the gods represent aspects of the physical world.

            --Apsu is the god of fresh water and represents male fertility.  He is         orderly and calm.

            --Tiamat, Apsu's wife, is the goddess of salt water, of the sea, and            represents female fertility.  She is chaotic and threatening.  Tiamat gives        birth to Anshar and Kishar, gods who represent the boundary between          the earth and the sky (the horizon).  Anshar and Kishar give birth to         Anu, the god of the sky, and Anu, gives birth to Ea, the wisest of the            gods. 

            --These offspring of the gods are very ill-behaved, causing commotion    where ever they go. Apsu gets fed up with this and decides to destroy         them.

            --Ea learns of Apsu's plan, kills him, and marries Apsu's wife, Damkina.  They give birth to Marduk.

            --Marduk is the god of spring--he is both sunlight and lighting.  He is     also the patron god of the city of Babylon.

           

--The action of the story begins when Tiamat vows for revenge for the death of her husband.

 

DQs

 

How would you characterize the relation between humans and gods in the Enuma Elish?

 

You can find one answer to this question on page 52, lines 1-10

 

Between gods and gods?

 

You can find one answer to this question on pages 45-46, lines 10-52

 

Why does Marduk create human beings?

 

You can find one answer to this question on pages 53-54, lines 55-100

 

Can you provide any additional examples?

 

 

Opening Lines

 

On this slide you can see what is written on the first tablet in Akkadian and its transcription (what the symbols on the left would sound like).  Here you can see how the title of this myth derives from the first two words.

 

II

 

Here you have two translations of the transcription into English.

 

What do these translations reveal about the Babylonian world?

 

Do you see any significant differences between them?

 

Ritual

 

In the introduction to this text, I mentioned that the Enuma Elish was used during rituals.  The quote you see here helps to explain this and it helps to explain why Marduk is the god of spring. 

 

The Epic of Gilgamesh

 

This is one of the earliest know works of literature.  The version we are reading was also found in a king's library at Nineveh like the Enuma Elish.  Historians believe the story was probably based on the life of a real king.  This explains some of its earlier titles "He Who Saw the Deep" and "Surpassing All Other Kings."  It is a text written on clay tablets, which again accounts for its fragmentation and missing parts.  And its repetitions, reminiscent of chants, are due to its origins as an oral story.  However, in this epic, the repetitions also have an important role:  they show that Gilgamesh is less in control of his life, of his fate as he thinks he is.  You can find an example of this in Tablet 1 when Gilgamesh repeats word for word what the trapper's father predicts he will say.

 

Basic Plot

 

The main characters are:

Gilgamesh - he is the king of the city of Uruk; he is considered the strongest man alive; he is very arrogant and selfish, and doesn't treat his people well at all.  He oppresses the people of Uruk so badly that they ask the sky god Anu for help.  Gilgamesh has several dreams that foreshadow what is to come, including one about his encounter with Enkidu.

 

Enkidu - Gilgamesh’s counterpart; Anu makes him of clay and water in response to the people's pleas for his help.  Enkidu is half man, half wild animal; untamed.   

 

Aruru - is the goddess of creation who constantly interferes with Gilgamesh's doings. 

 

Humbaba - is a monster created by Enlil, the god of wind and storm.

 

Ishtar - is the goddess of love.  She desires Gilgamesh but he ignores her advances.  She becomes enraged and sends the Bull of Heaven to Uruk to attack Gilgamesh and destroy the city.

 

Utnapishtim - is the Mesopotamian flood hero; he survived the "Great Flood" and as such has become the "keeper of immortality".

 

II

 

This epic is basically divided into 4 parts:

 

--The first introduces you to Gilgamesh, presents the creation of Enkidu, and shows the development of Gilgamesh and Enkidu's relationship

 

--In the second part, Gilgamesh and Enkidu battle Humbaba

 

--In the third, Gilgamesh and Enkidu battle the Bull of Heaven.  When they kill it, Ishtar becomes enraged and demands Enkidu lose his life as revenge.

 

--In the fourth, Gilgamesh is devastated by Enkidu's death and begins his quest for immortality.  This is the part in which he meets Utnapishtim.

 

III

 

There are certain themes in this myth that you have already seen in "A Babylonian Theogony" and Enuma Elish too.  These included:

 

--The conflict between civilized and wild; order and chaos

--The relationship between gods and gods, and gods and humans.  This relationship is very fragile:  the slightest disagreements can cause gods to turn against one another or against humans who do not obey their wishes.  Similarly, humans can choose to worship one god over another at whim.

 

There are also some themes that are particular to Gilgamesh that you will also find in later epics.  These include:

 

--The quest for immortality.  Humans attempting to deal with the question of death, and reach godly status through immortality.  Gods infuriate by human impertinence.

--Dreams as predictions of the future/foreshadowing events to come.

 

Can you think of any other prominent themes in this epic?

 

DQ

 

Is Gilgamesh human?

 

You can find some passages on the following pages that will help you arrive at an answer to this question.

 

If your answer is yes, what passages support your response?

 

If your answer is no, what passages support your response?

 

DQ

 

Consider the last tablet – and especially the final stanza (p. 113) – of the poem very closely.

 

Does the poem end in an affirmation of human culture, or in despair? Explain.

   

You can find some passages on the following pages that will help you arrive at an answer to this question.

 

The story ends where it begins, with Gilgamesh admiring the greatness of his city.  And at the base of its gates, at the foundation of the city walls, there is a stone on which Gilgamesh's accounts are written.

 

* One last interesting fact about this story is that it is the first account (as far as we know) in which a snake appears as an enemy, as an obstacle to the achievement of a purpose.

 

The Leiden Hymns

 

The Leiden Hymns are a cycle or collection of Ancient Egyptian poetry that appeared on papyrus circa 1238 BCE but it may have existed orally even before that.  In these poems the poet evokes the image of the sun god--whose name may be Horus, Amun, or Amun-Re--as the father of all other gods.  The poet uses several metaphors to evoke Amun, who appears as many incarnations:  he is the source of the Nile River, the inseminator of the Earth, who gives life to everything, and the generator of Day and Night.

 

II

 

In the poems you read, you can see the elements I just mentioned.

 

--In the first one, the sun god is Horus--he is represented as having a hawk on his head.  In this poem he is the creator of Day and Night, the creator of time.  This poem reveres Horus for these creations and ends by thanking him for a new day.

 

--In the second one, the sun god is Amun--he is represented as wearing a tall, feathered crown.  In this poem he is the creator of life itself--of Being.  He is also the beginning of everything, self-created.

 

--Think about how the sun god as creator compares to the texts you've previously read for this week.  Can you name some similarities?  Can you name some differences?

 

The Egyptian Love Songs

 

The Egyptian Love Songs are also a cycle of poems.  They appeared on papyrus, smoothed limestone, and pottery, and have been put into a collection because they are from approximately the same period (between 1300 and 1100 BCE).

 

The moods and attitudes vary from chaste and idyllic to passionately erotic.  They include both male and female voices, providing readers with both views of love.  One of the most interesting aspects of these poems is that they show how little love and courtship have changed since then.

 

II

 

--The first poem is given to you in a male voice.  It is erotic.  The narrator worships his beloved, comparing her to the sun, which is the ultimate compliment.  He praises features of his beloved's body with intricate details.  It is a poem of longing--the narrator claims that the man worthy of having this women would be the best of men.

 

--The second poem is given to you in a female voice.  It is also erotic but in this case the narrator is offering her body to her beloved.  She is very seductive, providing her beloved with visual details of her body.  She offers herself as a gift to him.

 

--Keep these poems in mind as you read the next set of love poems:  Song of Songs, Sappho, and Catullus, and look for similarities and differences between how all of these cultures express love.

 

For next time...

 

--Our next lesson will be on the Judaic Beginnings.  For this, please read Genesis and "Song of Songs"

 

Here are some things to think about as you continue reading:

 

How does the Book of Genesis envision the beginning of the world and the creation of humankind? What fundamental force(s) give(s) rise to our world and our social reality?

 

How do The Leiden Hymns and The Egyptian Love Songs compare to the “Song of Songs”?  What similarities do find between them?  What differences do you find between them?  What do you think accounts for these similarities and differences?

  

 

Lesson 4

 

Hello and Welcome to Comparative Literature 010:  World Literatures!

 

This is Lesson 4:  Judaic Beginnings

 

Goals

 

We have two goals for this lesson:

--to discuss the Book of Genesis

--to discuss the "Song of Songs"

 

The Book of Genesis and the "Song of Songs" are parts of the Old Testament of the Bible.

 

The Ancient

 

I have mentioned that groups of people began to develop individual cultures once they settled in a geographic area after the Great Migrations of the Pre-Historic period.  This was also the first step toward the process of Globalization. 

 

The Jews were an exception to this, however.  They were a nomadic, herding culture that lived mainly it the Near East. 

 

They traveled through the territories in and around the Fertile Crescent--mainly east of Egypt and west of Babylon, with the Syrian Desert to the south and the Anatolian highlands to the north.

 

Because of the number of different groups of people that lived within this area and all of the different cultures that developed there, this patch of land was crisscrossed with trade routes, along which traveled not only goods but also stories.

 

According to traditional accounts, Hebrew-speaking 'Israelites' settled at the eastern edge of the Mediterranean around 1450 BCE.

 

And after thousands of years of migrations after that, these accounts are the basis of the modern state of Israel.

 

On the right of slide, there is a map of the area.  This map is called "The World as Known to the Hebrews."  The reason the map has this name is because the areas on the map have the names of the three sons of Noah.  At the top is the land of Japheth, the middle is the land of Shem, and at the bottom is the land of Ham.

 

According to the Bible, to the Book of Genesis in particular, the population of the Earth was completely destroyed during the Great Flood because of the wickedness and disobedience of its people.  Noah and his family were the only eight people who survived to continue the human race.  As such, all humans are descendants of Noah, with each of his sons corresponding to a specific race. 

 

The Hebrew Bible

 

The Hebrew Bible (called the Tanakh) began in oral tradition as recited stories passed from one generation to another.

 

The written canon, which is what we know today, began to be composed between the year 200 BCE and 200 after the CE.

 

It has three main sections:

--The first section, The Torah (which means "the Instruction") corresponds to the first five books of the Bible.  It provides the laws and social norms of classical Jewish culture.  The Book of Genesis belongs to this section.

 

--The second section, The Nevi'im, is the book of Prophets.  It provides a record of the various prophets' attempts to bring Jews back into line with their laws and cultural commitments.  It includes the books of Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Ezekiel.

 

--The third section, is the Ketuvim, which means "the Writings," includes books of history (like Chronicles), books of wisdom (such as Proverbs), and poetry (such as the Psalms and the Song of Songs).

 

DQ

 

Take a minute to think about the ways in which the Book of Genesis envisions the beginning of the world and the creation of humankind.

 

Based on this, what fundamental forces give rise to our world and our social reality?

 

II

 

Listed on this slide are some passages that will help you to answer the discussion questions I've posted.

 

DQ

 

Now that you've read the Book of Genesis, take a minute to think back of the Enuma Elish.

 

--What are the major alterations that Genesis makes to the Enuma Elish creation story?

 

--What sort of world-view do these alterations suggest that ancient Hebrew culture maintained?

 

II

 

Here you will find some passages that will help you answer these questions.

 

World Creation: A Comparison

 

Here are some comparisons between the Enuma Elish and Genesis:

 

In the Enuma Elish, as in "A Babylonian Theogony," one god may have more prominence over another, however, the universe is ruled by many gods and goddesses.  Each aspect of the universe has a god or goddess that presides over it.  In the book of Genesis, the universe is ruled by one supreme god who presides over everything.

 

---

 

In the EE, celestial bodies, such as the sun and the moon are gods; in fact, they are very important gods.  In G, the sun and the moon are only celestial bodies--they are not worshipped in any way nor do they interact or have significant effects over people.

---

 

In the EE, Apuk and Tiamat are the gods of the waters, while the waters are inanimate objects in G.

 

---

 

In the EE, the gods are fickle, causing the Great Flood because they are bored and annoyed by how loud humans are being.  In G, God causes the Great Flood because he is angry about how wickedly humans have behaved.

 

---

 

In the EE, Babylon is a city, built by a hero figure, Marduk, as a feat of human triumph.  Babylon is symbolic as it inaugurates the foundation of human culture.  In G, the Tower of Babylon is built as an impious act of defiance toward god, an act of overweening human pride, and as such destroyed by god.

 

---

 

Lastly, the EE was written in verse and has a specific purpose.  It comes out of and is used in regular rituals.  In contrast, the Book of G was written in prose.  It comes out of and is passed down orally among the nomadic tribes.

 

Song of Songs

 

Is it love song, scripture, or both?

 

SS

 

Before we talk about it, I’d like you to take a minute to listen to Chapter 1 of the Song of Songs.

 

SS

 

Include URL

 

SS - C1

 

Here is a transcription of Song of Songs - Ch. 1, which is also known as Solomon's Song of Songs.  The transcription allows you to see that there are different speaking parts to this song: the beloved, the lover, the chorus, and the duo (which is a part in which the beloved and the lover speak together).

 

I would like to point out how different the beloved and the lover's descriptions of one another are.  The beloved is clearly a woman.  She speaks of feelings: love, joy, gladness, and anger.  She wants her lover's touch, his smell, his companionship.  Contrastingly, the lover is clearly a man.  His descriptions of the beloved are visual: he compares her to a mare and focuses on physical details such as her cheeks and neck. 

 

DQ

 

Thinking about these songs, what is the nature of love in them?

 

How does the nature of erotic love compare to the nature of spiritual love?

 

II

 

Here are some passages to consider that will help you answer these questions.

 

SS

 

Now let's go back to the question I posed when we first started discussing the SS.  Is it love song, is it scripture, or is it both?

 

--It almost certainly originates as individual songs passed down through oral tradition and later edited into a specific order.  It was probably organized in this way around the 3rd C BCE.

 

--It is strongly reminiscent of wedding songs (and the older fertility myths from which they originate), which were sung throughout the Mesopotamian region.  In these original songs, the female lover is often identified with Ishtar (the goddess of love) and the male lover is often identified with her consort, Tammuz.

 

--When these songs are adapted to the Hebrew tradition, they are reworked and read allegorically, as depicting the love of God for Israel.

 

For the next lesson...

 

Please read Books 1, 18 and 22 of Homer's The Iliad and the collection of Sappho's poems.

 

Here are some things to think about as you're reading the next set of texts:

 

1)Based on your reading of The Iliad, what seem to be some of the major cultural components of a classical Greek world view? That is, what are the major forces, and the key ideas, that govern social reality?

 

2)In what ways does Achilles’ relationship to Patroklos in the Iliad echo the relationship between Gilgamesh and Enkidu in The Epic of Gilgamesh?

 

3)Consider Sappho’s poems alongside the Song of Songs. What is her understanding of the nature of love? How does it compare to that of the Song of Songs?

  

 

Lesson 5: The Greek Hero, The Greek Lover

 

Our goals for this lesson are to discuss Books 1, 18, and 22 of Homer's The Iliad, Sappho's poems, and to provide you with a definition of Lyric Poetry.  As we're talking about Homer, make sure you are thinking of characteristics of the epic.

 

Homer

 

The dates you will see and hear for Homer are approximate dates.  They refer to when the epics were composed because we do not know for sure when Homer lived.

 

Homer

 

The "homeros" in Greek means hostage.  Although the authorship of epics such as The Iliad and The Odyssey is attributed to a man named Homer, we know very little about him.

 

Scholars now believe that these works were not written by a single person and that they are the end product of centuries of oral tradition and collective composition. 

 

The stories were originally performed and adjusted by singers known as rhapsodes.

 

Both works attributed to "Homer" are epics and they are know for beginning "in media res" (in the middle of the action), and for recapping the back-story through digressions and flashbacks.  (These two characteristics are important characteristics of the epic as I described in a previous lesson).

 

Homeric Greece

 

In this map, you can see Homer's Greece.  Both of his epics are accounts of the Trojan War, in which Greece, mainly the Spartans, fought against Troy, when Paris of Troy kidnapped Helen of Sparta, who was married to Greece's king Menelaos.  The battle that ensued ended in the destruction of Troy.  The Iliad recounts the story of Achilles, a Greek warrior, and his quarrel with Agamemnon, Menelaos' brother, and The Odyssey recounts Odysseus journey home after the war.

 

 

The Iliad

 

Take a minute to think about the following:

 

What is the relationship between these four characters?

 

Characters:

n  As I've mentioned, Agamemnon, was king Menelaus' brother – recognized as the most powerful of the Greek leaders

n  Achilles – hero of the epic, head of an army serving under Agamemnon

n  Patroklus – Achilles’ closest companion

n  Hektor – Troy’s main hero

 

If we assume that these are the four main characters in this epic, what are some of the key plot developments?

 

n  Trojans have stolen Helen, wife of the Greek Menelaus, and taken her to Troy. Greeks have banded together to attack Troy and get her back.]

n  As part of the fighting, Agamemnon has taken the daughter of a priest of Apollo and refused to ransom her back

n  The Greeks make him give her back; Ag takes Achilles’ woman/booty in her stead, causing a lasting rift b/t the two

n  Achilles invokes the gods: the Greeks will be beaten down by the Trojans until Ag relents and honors Ach

n  Patroklos, eager to fight, borrows Ach’s armor and is killed by Hektor

n  Ach re-enters fighting to avenge Patroklos

 

 

The Iliad

 

Now take a few minutes to watch this video and answer the questions that follow:

--Why does the film state that Achilles would not be a good soldier today?

--Whose side would you take: Achilles' or Hektor's?

 

DQ

 

n  Based on your reading of the Iliad, what seem to be some of the major cultural components of a classical Greek world view?

 

n  That is, what are the major forces, and the key ideas, that govern social reality?

 

II

 

The three major forces at play in the Classical Greek world are:

 

Agon - the predominant tendency to organize social interaction into a contest between two combatants who fight over a single prize, with only one of them leaving as a victor

 

Kleos - glory won through the completion (and sometimes even the attempt) of great deeds, including victory in battle

 

Hubris - over-weening pride in one’s own abilities, a belief in one’s invulnerability; generally foreshadows that character’s downfall (i.e. tempts the gods to punish that character)

 

Here are some passages to consider that will show you how these forces function within the epic.

 

DQ

 

In what ways does Achilles’ relationship to Patroklos in the Iliad echo the relationship between Gilgamesh and Enkidu in The Epic of Gilgamesh?

 

II

 

Here are some passages that will help you answer this question.

 

Closeness of relationship:

P 155, l 78-82

Reminder of mortality:

P 154, l 17-38

Resultant listlessness/ sense of losing self and direction:

P 155, l 101-110

Length of association:

P 160, l 333-343

In general, the sense that Patroklos is the one being who (even in death) can tame (or, at least, direct effectively) his friend’s destructive anger.

 

Sappho

 

Sappho lived during the early 7th C BCE.  In contrast to Homer, she really existed and is a definite historical figure.  She created her poems approximately 100 years after Homer's epics were consolidated.  During her lifetime, she was recognized as a "Tenth Muse" (goddess of art) for her role in establishing the lyric form of poetry. 

 

Sappho became known for her sensual verse, evoking what the Greek called "pothos": a great yearning, a recollecting of scenes of pleasure, festival, or the arrival of the immortal goddess(es) among mortals, particularly other women.

 

DQ

 

Consider Sappho's poem on the left, and compare it to the Song of Songs.

 

--What is her understanding of the nature of love?

--How does it compare to the Song of Songs?

 

Lyric Poem

 

As I mentioned, Sappho was revered for her role in establishing lyric poetry, but what is lyric poetry?

 

Lyric Poetry: a short poem with one speaker (not necessarily the poet) who expresses thought and feeling. Though it is sometimes used only for a brief poem about feeling (like the sonnet), it is more often applied to a poem expressing the complex evolution of thoughts and feeling, such as the elegy, the dramatic monologue, and the ode. The emotion is or seems personal.  In classical Greece, the lyric was a poem written to be sung, accompanied by a lyre.  This is an important detail because some form of the lyric, of poetry written to be sung, can be found in almost every culture that we know of.

 

If you go back to the poem on the previous page, you can see how Sappho's speaker evokes strong emotions throughout the entire poem.  These emotions are expressed through the speaker's sensations, everything is about sight, hearing, smell, touch... 

 

For the next lesson,

 

Please read Books 1 and 6 of Virgil's Aeneid and Catullus' poems.

 

Things to think about:

 

1) Based on your reading of the Aeneid, what seem to be some of the major cultural components of a classical Roman world view?  That is, what are the major forces, and the key ideas, that govern social reality?

 

2)Aeneas is the hero of the epic that bears his name. What, according to the poem, makes him heroic? How does his heroism compare to that of Achilles?

 

3) Your textbook suggests that Catullus’ poems “take us inside the mind of a young man-about-town in first-century Rome” (804). Assuming this is true, what are the concerns, passions, and interests of such a young man?

 

Lesson 6

 

Hello and Welcome to Comparative Literature 010: World Literatures

 

This is Lesson 6:  The Roman Hero, The Roman Lover

 

Our goals for today are to discuss Virgil's The Aeneid and the poems of Catullus.

 

Virgil

 

In contrast to Homer, whom we discussed in the last lesson, Virgil was an actual historical figure who lived between the years 70 and 19 BCE.  He was born the son of a wealthy Roman landowner and had access to a good education, which was reserved to only a few privileged people.  His family wanted him to pursue a career in law, and although he considered it, he turned to poetry instead. 

 

In his early 30s he won some recognition for his lyric and pastoral poetry, and with this he became a regular figure within the Roman political circles.  His popularity continues to grow and soon he becomes a direct advisor to Octavian, who became the first Roman Emperor (Caesar Augustus) in 27 BCE.

 

According to Roman tradition, Octavian (now Emperor Augustus), commissioned Virgil to compose The Aeneid as an epic recounting the founding of Rome.

 

The Aeneid

 

Much like Homer's epics, The Aeneid has a key plot and several supporting side plots.  However, the main plot of The Aeneid is that Aeneas flees Troy when the Greeks destroy it during the Trojan War.  He feels lost and completely defeated, and leads his fleet across the Mediterranean in search of a new homeland. 

 

During his voyage, the goddess Juno sends a storm down to thwart Aeneas journey because she knows that Aeneas' descendants will later destroy her beloved city of Carthage.  The storm takes Aeneas to Carthage where he tells the story of Troy's defeat.  While he's there, Aeneas and Dido, the Queen of Carthage, fall in love, but he leaves her to continue his quest for a homeland and she commits suicide in despair.

 

Aeneas arrives in Latium, a city in Western Italy, and there he begins his journey into the underworld, where he meets his father and receives instructions regarding how he will establish the city of Rome.  When he returns to the world above, he tries to marry the daughter of Latium's ruler in order to avoid war.  But, again Juno ruins his plans.  In response, Aeneas fights and defeats the resident Latins, and establishes Rome on their ashes.

 

The map of the left shows Aeneas' journey, starting in Troy and ending in Latium.

 

DQ

 

Aeneas is the hero of the epic that bears his name:

 

--What, according to the poem, makes him heroic?

--How does his heroism compare to that of Achilles?

 

II

 

Here are some passages to consider that will help you answer the discussion questions.

 

Opening Lines

 

If you take a look at these opening lines from The Iliad and The Aeneid, they will provide you with some clues regarding the nature of the hero.

 

Some of the elements that make these men heroes are their solitude, their perseverance and obstinance in achieving their goal (their "devotion to their mission" as stated in The Aeneid), and their ability to enrage gods and survive their wrath.

 

DQ

 

--Based on your reading of The Aeneid, what seem to be some of the major cultural components of a classical Roman world-view?

 

--That is, what are the major forces, and key ideas that govern social reality?

 

II

 

The two major forces at play in The Aeneid are:

 

--The first is furor, which is mindless passion or anger, as exemplified by Juno.  She hates Aeneas because his descendants will one day destroy her beloved city of Carthage.

 

--The second is pietas, which is a self-less sense of duty toward four groups:  the gods, one's homeland, one's followers, and one's family--especially one's father.

 

Here you will also find some passages to consider when answering these questions.

 

Catullus

 

Catullus lived between 84-54 BCE.  Much like Virgil, he was born into a prominent landowning family in Verona.  As a young man, he moved to Rome, the capital of the Empire, where his poetry soon became recognized for its beautiful, and often satirical or biting, verse.

 

Although his poems became widely popular, they were also deemed amoral for their sexual content.

 

Catullus is often credited for reviving Sappho's lyric style, and adapting it to the point-of-view of a headstrong young Roman, instead of that of a woman.

 

Although Catullus died before the age of thirty, he left us a great legacy of poems.

 

DQ

 

--Your textbook suggests that Catullus' poems "take us inside the mind of a young man-about-town in first century Rome."

 

--Assuming this is true, what are the concerns, passions, and interests of such a young man?

 

II

 

As I mentioned, C is responsible for reviving S poetry.  Here you have Catullus' poem 51: An imitation of Sappho: to Lesbia on the left and Sappho's poem 31 "He looks to me to be in heaven" on the right.  (SN: The translation you see here of the Sappho poem is different from the translation in your anthology.)  Lesbia was the name he gave to his lover Clodia who was a married woman.

 

Take a minute to read these two poems.  Some scholars believe Catullus' is a direct translation of Sappho's--do you agree?

 

For the next lesson...

 

Please read "Hymns from the Rig Veda" and "The Discourse on 'What is Primary'"

 

Things to think about...

 

1.How does the Rig Veda envision the beginning of the world and the creation of humankind? What fundamental force(s) give(s) rise to our world and our social reality?

 

2.How does “The Discourse on What is Primary” envision the beginning of our world and the creation of humankind? (Is ‘creation’ the right word?) What fundamental force(s) give(s) rise to our world and our social reality?

 

3.Though stemming from the same geographical area and the same basic culture, the Veda and the “Discourse” offer competing world views. What aspects of the Vedas’ world view does the “Discourse” challenge? Point out and discuss 2 or 3 bones of contention.