UNLV English 232: World Literature II

Course Description

English 232 is a Second-Year Seminar (SYS) course that explores issues relevant to contemporary global society through the reading of world literature from the mid-seventeenth century to the present day. Students will study current issues within their larger contexts by examining the aspects of literature, history, politics, economics, philosophy, and scientific discovery that shaped them. The course reinforces the University Undergraduate Learning Outcomes (UULOs) introduced in the First-Year Seminar (FYS).

Course Objectives

As a natural consequence of learning to study and appreciate literature, some of the specific abilities students develop in this course include:

  • The ability to understand major literary works from antiquity to the present day
  • The ability to interpret works of world literature in light of their historical, social, and/or economic contexts
  • The ability to write and speak effectively about literature to both general and specialized audiences, as well as analyze and evaluate reasons and evidence in order to construct coherent and logical arguments
  • The ability to relate and apply the complex social and ethical situations illustrated in literature to your personal and professional lives
  • The ability to understand the effects of political, economic, and social institutions on literature in order to better articulate awareness of your own place in the world
  • The ability to respond to diverse cultural perspectives on identity, religion, politics, race, gender, and sexuality in an informed way

Past Course Themes

While the readings, notes, and class discussions will cover a wide range of literary movements, genres, styles, and critical theories, each class has a unique focus and overarching goal. Here are some of the previous themes used in this course:

Gender and Sexuality

The focus of this particular class is on the interrelated concepts of gender, as socially constructed identities, and sexuality, as physical attractions and erotic relations. By examining depictions of gender and sexuality in literature from a historical and comparative perspective, we will investigate how culturally-ascribed gender ideals influence internal psychology and dominate external social relations. The purpose of the class is to understand how conceptions of masculinity and femininity have evolved, how they differ across world communities, and to what extent do literary works support or undermined these ideals.

Speculative Fiction

This class will examine the literary works from around the world that led to the formation of the modern genres of Science Fiction and Fantasy as well as explore how writers from different cultural backgrounds adapt these narrative forms to produce uniquely entertaining works of social speculation. The purpose of this class is to better understand the global commodification of culture, the fetishization of technology in Western society, and how the dominant ideologies that structure race, gender, and class relations are continually challenged through literature.

Life and Death (but mostly Death)

This course will explore the literary representations of dying and responses to death from a historical and comparative perspective. We will examine how writers from around the globe portray death, articulate the act of dying, and grapple with its inevitability in order to better understand what it means to die and what death symbolizes socially, culturally, and figuratively throughout the world. The purpose of the class is to understand the degree to which gender, social class, and age influence our understanding of death, to better articulate our identity and purpose in the world, and to come to terms with our own fears and anxieties over dying.

Romantic Dalliances

From the poetry of Ancient Egypt through the irony of Jane Austen to the works Nora Roberts, romantic love has been the inspiration and subject for countless works of literature. This class will explore the representation of love, sex, and romantic relationships in texts from around the world. How does the depiction of love change with literary movements? How do writers use sex to comment upon society? What is considered romance or a romantic act? By examining how these concepts differ across time and place, we will gain a better understanding of the origin of our modern attitudes and beliefs.

Commerce and Exchange

We live in a world increasingly affected by the globalization of production and circulation of goods. How has this change affected the composition and reception of art and literature? And what role does art and literature play in the integration of social, economic, and cultural institutions that defines our present era? This class will explore the evolving relationship between art and globalization. We will seek to better understand how literary texts reflect and comment on local, national, and global issues such as exploration, trade, and migration.

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