Plan II TC603A:
Composition and Reading in World Literature

Unique: 39630
Semester: Fall 2004
Meeting Time and Room: MWF 12:00-1:00 in Jester 207A

Instructor: Janet Swaffar
Office: EPS 3.166
Office Hours: TT: 2:00-3:30 and by appointment
Phone: 232-6376 or 471-4123 (Germanic Studies main office)


Lost your syllabus? Download pdf versions of syllabus and assignments.


This course asks students to look at how world literature can be adapted and its materials reformulated to speak to different audiences The objective is to reveal that, regardless of major or minor literatures, political positions, ethnic origins, or religious orientations, of what was taken from the original text, or of whether rewritten as poem or play, novel or film, comic book or essay, such conversions offer the classics true afterlives.

That afterlife can take different forms. In the case of The Iliad, for example, the recent translation of Robert Fagles (1990), heralded as superior to extant translations, can also be compared against those earlier versions to identify how language and stereotypes about how "real men" behave shift with different times and audiences. Nonetheless, in amore obvious afterlife, virtually all war stories draw on characters, tropes, and descriptive power of such Greek models. In another kind of afterlife, adaptations need not only be drawn from themes or primary plots in a classic work. Rochester's mad wife in Jane Eyre, for example, becomes the outsider and victimized child-bride of Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea; Odysseus fooling the Giant whom he encounters by pretending to be "nobody" finds its parallel in works such as Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man. Whereas Miller's play The Crucible looks at the fate of the Salem community as parable of fear mongering, Maryse Condé's short novel I, Tituba examines events from the perspective of a slave caught in the maelstrom of those events.

Sometimes relationships among classical texts become seminal for other disciplines. Oedipus Rex and Hamlet, for example, both deal with Kings and their sons as sagas of royal families. Freud's view of Oedipus, however, changed that relationship into a psychological, sexually based one rather than a fated conflict (Sophocles) or a tragedy of indecision (Shakespeare). Dante's Divine Comedy has given impetus to depictions of heaven and hell in the pictorial arts as well as in literature.

These texts will be read or viewed as exercises in identifying how classic sources have modified and where their influences are realized. In addition to the sample texts compared in class, students will do historical research to identify other examples of such target/source relationships based on works read or topics of their particular interest.


The Iliad, The Divine Comedy I (Inferno), Oedipus Rex, Hamlet, Invisible Man, The Crucible, I Tituba, Wide Sargasso Sea. Excerpts from The Odyssey, Jane Eyre, Omeros, Divine Comedy III (Paradise) and selected PDF files available from the on-line syllabus


ON RESERVE AT MEZES HALL LAB (2.104A): Hamlet (Olivier, Gibson, Branaugh versions), Wide Sargasso Sea, The Crucible (French and American versions)


Five Précis (two worksheets, three originals) @ 5% each = 25%
Presentation/Paper (total) 45%
Four Short Blackboard Writing Assignments @ 2.5% each = 10%
Quizzes 10%
Group presentation on PowerPoint 10%

August, 2004
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