Spring 2011 - Undergraduate Course Description
Cotter, Sean
Discipline and Number
LIT 3300 Section 001
MW Time 4:00 PM - 5:15 PM
Course Title
Western Literary Tradition

Description of Course:

This course will read texts from ancient and medieval periods of Western culture, examining the diversity of a literary tradition of Greek, Latin, Hebrew, and Arabic texts. We will pay special attention to the ways in which different languages and cultures interact to develop and transform literary ideas. Thus, our definition of “Western” will be broad, as will our use of “literary,” since our readings will include philosophy and popular texts. We will come to understand “tradition” as two impulses in tension with each other: on the one hand, a tradition gives us a set of conventions—heroes, plots, genres, etc. which work in an expected way. On the other, a tradition is also the history of the violation of these conventions, their transformation through creativity, misunderstanding, and material conditions of transmission. Our class will record the richness of a vast number of readers of a changing set of shared books.

We will concentrate on the idea of love, following a historical series of transmissions from Greek texts, through Arab poetry and philosophy, into Provençal lyrics, and finally (for this course) to Dante. Even though the authors make use of a shared group of texts, a variety of intellectual, physical, and spiritual ideas of love emerge. Dante’s combination of Christian and courtly loves demonstrates a maximal use of the resources of the Western tradition. This is to say that Dante the author is also a model reader, who includes the conventions of tradition and transforms them into an encyclopedic Western literary underworld.

Required Texts:

Course Requirements/Evaluation Criteria:

On 5 to 6-page paper, quizzes, a mid-term, and a final

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