What is Global literature 255? I think that splitting up the reading list was an appropriate way to conduct the class. I think that one should represent and respect the cannon, in spite of if’s flaws and still welcome other types of literature from other voices and cultures. One of the greatest gifts that literature gives us is the ability to bridge gaps between different lands and different cultures. It also creates empathy, towards other cultures and peoples that some readers may never experience or meet in their daily lives.
With this being said, I would change the book selections on the reading list if I were to conduct a Global Literature class. I would indeed keep some of the works that you included; but I would add a lot of different books. In regards to the first half of the reading list, which were books that are considered “classics”, I would keep Heart of Darkness, and The Sun also Rises. The reason why I would keep both these novels is because they involve American, or Western characters in foreign lands. I think that works that involve Americans being in other lands should be included in this class because if done correctly, the readers can really learn and experience traveling to these lands. They can share the same experiences and adventures that the characters experience in new and different lands.
This is done extremely well in both The Sun Also Rises, and in Heart of Darkness. Hemingway, in his signature style, lets the readers experience Spain the way most people would only dream of. The reader feels that they are on the bus with Jake Cohen when he is traveling across the Spanish country side, drinking wine with the locals. The vivid description of the bull fights that Hemingway gives paints such a detailed description to his readers; “I told her about watching the bull, not the horse, when the bulls charged the picador…I had her watch how Romero took the bull away from the fallen horse with his cape, and how he held him with the cape and turned him, smoothly and suavely, never wasting the bull”(Hemingway 171). For someone who may never be able to experience a bull fight in person, reading Hemingway’s narrative serves as the next best thing.
The reader also gets a vivid portrayal of the African landscape in Heart of Darkness. Although this novel is filled with prejudice and stereotypes, it can also be celebrated for the dramatic depictions of the landscape as Marlow travels down the African river; “Trees, trees, millions of trees, massive, immense, running up high, and at their foot, hugging the bank against the steam, crept the little begrimed steamboat like a sluggish beetle crawling on the floor of a lofty portico. It made you feel very small, very lost, and yet it was not altogether depressing, that feeling…the reaches opened before us and closed behind, as if the forest had stepped leisurely across the water to bar the way to our return. We penetrated deeper and deeper into the heart of darkness” (Conrad 35). The vivid descriptions that Conrad uses throughout this novel give the reader the feeling that they are also traveling down an African river, into a wild jungle, into the unknown. For someone who has never travelled to a wilderness or down a river, they can see what it may be like. They can now somehow relate to Marlow’s experience and use this as a common point with others and other experiences that they will have in their lives.
Other works that I would add that follow the cannon would be “Roman Fever” by Edith Wharton, “Daisy Miller” by Henry James, and A Passage to India by E. M Forester. All of these particular works may not be on the canon, but their writers are. I think that these works would make a good addition to the reading list for Global Literature because they, like The Sun Also Rises, and Heart of Darkness, tell the narrative of American characters as outsiders. The protagonists of these stories have to experience life outside of the comforts of their American culture and in these works the reader gets to experience what it is like to live in a country and culture different from their own. I believe that works like this would be a great addition to the reading list for a global literature class.
Although I see the importance of studying works like Of Sound and of Fury, and “The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock”, I do not know if they fit into a Global Literature class. Of Sound and Fury takes place in the south and although it is one of my favorite works, and something that I enjoyed reading again this semester, it just does not fit into a Global Literature class. Again, with “The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock”, although it is a great piece of literary work that should if nothing else be respected and studied, it should not be a part of the Global Literature reading list. As a reader, I did not take away any new cultural knowledge from these works. Can I appreciate the use of symbols, imagery, language, and dialect of the works, Yes! But these are not necessary as important in a Global Literature class, as is the introduction of new worlds and new characters.
One may question why to include books from the canon at all. There are many arguments that the canon is outdated and that it is not representational of all cultures. This argument is true, but it does not take away from the timelessness and mastery of the works that are indeed included in the canon. These works should still be appreciated, respected, and taught. The canon does not need to be the sole source of literary works that one should read in a global literature class. The class should also introduce works that are not included on the canon; works that are perhaps too new or too foreign to fit the canon’s strict requirements. This is why I also believe that Global Literature 255 should include works that are not on the canon.
The only work that I would keep which we read from the second half of the semester is Persepolise, by Marjane Satrapi. This is because it is a great work of literature, which does not follow the standard form that most of us read in English class; it is a graphic novel. Another reason why I think this work should be taught and kept is because the main character tells us about her experience in another country. Before reading this work, I knew nothing of the Iran war, and after reading this book and discussing it in class I feel that I can sympathize with it’s characters. I too felt the anticipation and nervousness as Marjane had to sneak into her home and pour all her father’s wine down the toilet so that the government would not arrest her family. I too was sad when I learned of Marjane’s uncle who went to jail for being a Communist. I too felt for the mothers whose sons were manipulated into joining the army and giving up their lives to fight a war whose only interest is for the government and not the citizens. I too felt betrayed and confused as I listened to the radio announcements with Marjane and her family about the progress of the war when I knew that what the radio was reporting was pure fiction.
This is the only work that we read in the second half of the semester where the plot takes place outside the United States. Drown, Woman Warrior, and Dreams from my Father all take place in the United States. This class is a global literature class and I believe it is important to read works that do not take place within the confines of our country. Being exposed to different cultures outside of the United States is very important, and should be a main focus in a global literature class. Some really great works that I would have liked to have seen added to the list would be The Dubliners, by James Joyce, Dialogue of the Dogs, by Miguel Cervantes, and Time of the Doves by Merce Rodoreda. These are just some examples of works that I have fallen upon in other classes, such as a Spanish Literature class, which would fit perfectly into a Global Literature course. All of these works not only tell stories outside of the United States, but they all also act as windows to different cultures. In all three works, one can get an understanding of Dublin, Spain and Mexico. We see how the people in different cultures interact with one another and live their daily lives. Like Marjane, in Persepolise, we the readers experience the characters trials and tribulations along with them. In Dialogue of the Dogs, the main characters are two dogs, Scipil and Berganza. Due to the creative and different narrators of this short story, we, the readers, get a completely different view of Mexico and Mexican culture. It is works like this that I now only remember for years to come, but that I pass along to others. I take what I have gotten from works like this, works that are so different from my culture and my everyday life, and share it with others, make connections, and learn from. Even 1001 Arabian Nights would have made a lovely addition to the syllabus. To see some of the earliest works of literature and fantasy that we have from this area of the world would have made an interesting discussion point. Perhaps giving us something like that and then a more modern piece of literature from the same part of the world would have served a greater purpose then reading narratives from American immigrants.
To use a quote by a poet we did study in our class this semester, Yeats, “Education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire”. This is something that I believe is so true and one of the best way to educate is through literature. Reading texts that are outside our culture and about characters that travel to different worlds can be uses as a tool to help educate. Reading these texts can help show us how different we are from others and hopefully show how alike we are as well. This is why I believe that a Global Literature class should have many different texts for it’s reading list. Some books that come from the canon and others that does not. Some works which have American or Western characters and some that do not. I think it is important for a Global Literature class to introduce and show different countries and cultures in it’s texts and help us, the readers, make connections that may otherwise not be made. This is what I believe a Global Literature should do for us as students and us as readers.
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