World Literature Syllabus

In this syllabus, Craig Carey (University of Southern Mississippi) outlines a World Literature course headed by the central idea of connections. From the epic Gilgamesh to the film Rashomon, the novel The White Tiger, the graphic novel Persepolis, and more, Carey navigates various modes of understanding and expression across time, space, and medium. More information about the course is available on his website. 



O  U  R  S  E      Y  L  L  A  B  U   S

E N G     2  0 3 :     W  O  R  L  D       I  T  E  R  A  T  U  R   E


Professor Craig Carey                                                                                          



Time: Monday, Wednesday, Friday 10:00 – 10:50 AM

Course Website:



(Texts available at the University Bookstore and online. Please buy the editions indicated here.)

·       All assigned PDFs, articles, and videos listed on the course schedule.

·       The Epic of Gilgamesh (Stanford University), trans. Maureen Gallery Kovacs, 9780804717113

·       Adiga, Aravind.  The White Tiger: A Novel (Free Press), 978-1416562603

·       Satrapi, Marjane.  Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood (Pantheon), 978-0375714573

·       Sophocles, Antigone, Oedipus the King, and Electra (Oxford World’s Classics), 9780199537174



ENG 203. World Lit. 3 hrs. Acquaints students with significant figures and works of world literature.



“Only connect.” – E.M. Forster


We live in a world of fast and fleeting connections. Whether online or offline, we are flooded by images, texts, sounds, YouTube videos, status updates, Instagram photos, and other streams of information. Some believe that we are losing the capacity to focus and concentrate, others that we are developing new skills and capacities, adapting to digital media in ways that are rewiring how we connect, read, write, share, and even think. Either way, most agree the world is changing at a rate that often outpaces our ability to give it meaning


How can “world literature” help to us navigate this predicament? What can it do for our understanding of where we are, where we’ve been, and where we’re going? What does “world literature” actually mean? Are we talking about a specific canon of texts, or simply a perspective, a methodology, a way of reading literature that transcends national boundaries and opens new scales and modes of understanding? In this course, we’ll tackle these questions by reading a number of different texts and genres from the Western- European tradition and other cultural and historical traditions across the globe. We’ll compare different modes of expression (from inscriptions on ancient tablets to expressions in poetry, cinema, and theater), while paying particular attention to the role of genre, media, and narrative in defining humanity and the human condition. Course requirements include regular participation, a reading journal, a midterm, a poetry illustration project, and a final exam.



·       Students will use standard English grammar, punctuation, spelling, and usage.

·       Students will write a coherent analytical essay of a rhetorical situation or through written communication effectively analyze the components of an argument.

·       Students will evaluate major developments in world history, the historical roots of contemporary global cultures, or the literary, philosophical, or religious contributions of world cultures.

·       Students will comprehend and proficiently interpret text.

·       Students will become familiar with different genres and make connections within and across those genres of literature.

·       Students will synthesize, analyze, and interpret primary and secondary material, media, and other means of expression.

·       Students will recognize the influence of individual differences such as gender, ethnicity, race, geography, and class on the practice of reading and interpretation.

·       Students will analyze connections between specific texts and broader cultural and media contexts (both historical and contemporary)




















All students are expected to come to class prepared and on time, ready to participate in the daily class discussions. While I recognize and value different personalities, I expect every student to contribute to the overall quality of discussions, which means that you should come to class having thought about the readings and ready to offer your own reflections, comments, analysis, and/or questions. The quality of your contributions is as important as their quantity. This portion of your grade will also be influenced by group activities and in-class writing assignments. To be able to fully participate, students must have a paper copy of all the readings indicated on the syllabus.



Throughout the semester, you’re responsible for maintaining a reading journal in which you critically and creatively engage with the assigned readings. You are required to write 10 journal entries over the course of the term. You may not submit more than one entry per week.  I’ll be reading and grading your journal at two different points in the semester, both marked on the syllabus. By the first date (9/19), you need to have written at least 3 separate entries; by the second (12/01), you need to have all 10 finished. I suggest that you begin immediately and start writing one per week.


There are many different ways to approach these entries, but in general I’ll be looking for evidence of creative and critical thinking about the assigned texts. Full details about the assignment, including word count, logistics about formatting and grading, along with requirements and suggestions, can be found on the Reading Journal page available on the course website.



The midterm exam will be taken on Blackboard and consist mostly of multiple-choice questions taken from the course readings and lectures. Many of these questions will be generated by students during in- class group work. Details about the schedule for the midterm will be posted later.



Building on our discussions of poetry and the graphic novel, you will complete a project in which you will illustrate an international poem of your choice with images that you create or locate elsewhere. The assignment is particularly apt given that we are reading a graphic novel, which will prompt us to carefully consider how image and text work together to tell a story. Detailed instructions for this assignment are available in the Poetry Illustration Assignment. I am happy to provide assistance before the deadline.



At the end of the semester, you’ll choose one of your reading journal entries to revise into a blog post for publication on the course website. We’ll talk about how to format a blog post, and you’ll get a chance to play around with online formatting. Your blog post must be at least 300 words, include a title, tags, and be properly formatted for online viewing. The assignment will be graded on a pass/fail basis. Details for how to log in and publish a blog post are provided on the Blog Post page.



Details about the final exam will be discussed in class. The format of the exam will consist primarily of matching, identification (i.e., terms, authors, and texts), multiple choice, and short answer. Keeping good notes throughout the term will be critical for doing well on the exam.



Course Schedule                                                                      *Need to print and bring a paper copy to class


Week 1 - Literature

08/20    Introduction to course and each other. What is “world” literature? What is “literature”?

08/22    Franz Kafka, “Before the Law” and “An Imperial Message”*


Week 2 - Storytelling

08/25    The Arabian Nights, pp. 5-44

08/27    The Arabian Nights, pp. 5-44. Last day to drop and receive a full tuition refund.

08/29   “Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp.” Also read, watch, listen, or study at least one adaptation of The Arabian Nights from the list of adaptations compiled here. Think about how the adaptation relates to the original text. What elements does it adapt or remix? How does it capture the spirit of The Arabian Nights? If you haven't already, make this your weekly journal entry.


Week 3 - Memory

09/01       No class - Labor Day Holiday

09/03       Don Delillo, “Videotape”*

09/05       Don Delillo, “Videotape”*


Week 4 - Inscriptions

09/08    The Epic of Gilgamesh, Tablet I-III

09/10    The Epic of Gilgamesh, Tablet IV-V

09/12    The Epic of Gilgamesh, Tablet VI-VII


Week 5 - Perspective

09/15    The Epic of Gilgamesh, Tablet VIII-X

09/17    The Epic of Gilgamesh, Tablet XI

09/19    Akutagawa Ryunosuke, “In a Bamboo Grove”* Reading Journals Due (3 entries)


Week 6 - Cinema

09/22    Akutagawa Ryunosuke, “Rashomon”*

09/24    In class film: Rashomon (dir. Akira Kurosawa)

09/26    In class film: Rashomon (dir. Akira Kurosawa)


Week 7 - The Novel

09/29    Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger, 1-95

10/01    Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger, 96-145

10/03    Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger, 146-189


Week 8 - Realism & Naturalism

10/06    Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger, 190-247. Participation Assessment Due

10/08    Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger, 248-276

10/10    Finish The White Tiger.  Midterm Exam


Week 9 - Poetry

10/13    The Experience of Censorship (packet).* Poems include “Some Advice to Those Who Will Serve Time in Prison” by Nazim Hikmet (Turkey), “The Silenced” by Nadia Anjuman (Afghanistan), and “Fragrant Hands” by Faiz Ahmed Faiz (Pakistan).

10/15    The Experience of Exile and/or Imprisonment (packet).* Poems include “Identity Card” by Mahmoud Darwish (exiled from Palestine); “Solitary Confinement" by Faiz Ahmad Faiz (Pakistan), and “Answers to an Interrogation” by Reza Baraheni (Iran)

10/17    Fall Break


Week 10 - The Graphic Novel

10/20    Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, pp. 1-61

10/22    Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, pp. 62-102

10/24    Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, pp. 103-153


Week 11 - Fairy Tales

10/27    Little Red Riding Hood* (versions by Perrault, Grimm, Calvino, Thurber, Mi, and Dahl)

10/29    Snow White* (Brothers Grimm version)

10/31    Continue fairy tale discussion.  Last day to withdraw from the class.


Week 12 - Writing Workshop

11/03     Writing Workshop

11/05     Writing Workshop

11/07     No class - Fall Break.  Poetry Illustration Assignment Due


Week 13 - Greek Drama

11/10     Sophocles, Electra

11/12     Sophocles, Electra

11/14     Sophocles, Electra


Week 14 - Magical Realism

11/17    Isabel Allende, “Two Words”*

11/19    Jorge Luis Borges, “The Garden of Forking Paths”*

11/21    Jorge Luis Borges, “The Garden of Forking Paths”*


Week 15 - The Blog Post

11/24    Writing Workshop.  Reading Journals Due (10 entries)

11/26    Thanksgiving Break

11/28    Thanksgiving Break


Week 16 - Modern Theater

12/01    Samuel Beckett, Krapp’s Last Tape

12/03    Final Exam Review.  Blog Post Due

12/05    Final Exam Review

Final Exam: Wed, Dec. 10th at 10:45am – 1:15pm



Introductory description: Katherine E. Bishop, Miyazaki International College, Japan

Course syllabus: ​Craig Carey, University of Southern Mississippi


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