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 A&H 135 - Great Literary Works


This course presents a selection of major literary texts which can be considered essential for every student’s cultural capital: texts that for centuries have inspired Western culture, visual arts and theatre, and which reflect topics that preoccupy social sciences and philosophy.

The course is organised in the form of a chronological overview of literature ranging from the earliest monuments (the epic of Gilgamesh) to post-modernity. Within this framework students will get in touch with primary (literary) and secondary (critical, theoretical) texts debating what it means to be human, mortal, female, male, or child, and what it means to be responsible, free, to be a community- and family member, to be civilized or barbarian. What makes literature different from anecdote? Why is Tolstoy’s Ivan Ilyich a model of a contemporary Everyman? Why some children’s texts are indebted to philosophical tale?

Probing these and many other important questions, students will be invited to analyse literary representations of home, labour, leisure, duty, love, leadership, organized religion, and memory, and try to correlate these topics with various artistic forms used by writers. In this way the course is an encounter with diverse genres, from epic, romance, and philosophical tale, through fairy tale, short story, autobiography, to essay and novel.

With this broad approach to themes and forms in the Western literary heritage, the course (next to A&H 136) is an alternative introduction to literary studies, and of essential value to everyone interested in literary and cultural studies.​






Required for

This course is an alternative requirement for the following courses:

  • A&H 205 Classical Literature in Translation
  • A&H 237 Life and Travel Writing