What you'll learn

  • The history of world literature

  • How literary works and books are transformed by cultural transmission

  • How to critically analyze literary works

  • The significance of major technological advances in writing

Course description

This literature course explores how great writers refract their world and how their works are transformed when they intervene in our global cultural landscape today.

No national literature has ever grown up in isolation from the cultures around it; from the earliest periods, great works of literature have probed the tensions, conflicts, and connections among neighboring cultures and often more distant regions as well.

Focusing mainly on works of literature that take the experience of the broader world as their theme, this course will explore the varied artistic modes in which great writers have situated themselves in the world, helping us to understand the deep roots of today's intertwined global cultures.

Course Outline


The Epic of Gilgamesh

Homer, The Odyssey

The 1001 Nights

Voltaire, Candide

Orhan Pamuk, My Name is Red

Wole Soyinka, Death and the King's Horseman

Lu Xun, Diary of a Madman

Eileen Chang

Murasaki Shikibu, The Tale of Genji

Jorge Luis Borges, Ficciones

Salman Rushdie and Jhumpa Lahiri

The Lusiads


Ernest Bernbaum Professor of Literature, Harvard University
Byron and Anita Wien Professor of Drama and of English and Comparative Literature, Harvard University

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