Re-Institutionalizing World Literature Instruction in General Education of the 21st Century
Goethe famously wrote 192 years ago, “I am more and more convinced that poetry is the universal possession of mankind, revealing itself everywhere and at all times in hundreds and hundreds of men…the epoch of world literature is at hand, and everyone must strive to hasten its approach.” Whereas Goethe’s perception of world literature as the totality of literature by mankind is still upheld (with some modifications) as the ultimate ideal, it continuously invites new interpretations. In curriculum design, world literature is virtually identified with literatures written in foreign languages. To facilitate students’ access, undergraduate courses in world literature courses are mostly taught in English translation by faculty of foreign languages department at American universities. This paper discusses a post-2008 initiative to relocate world literature (in English translation) from foreign languages department to English department at American universities. This discussion will cover three interrelated areas: 1) its institutional implication and impact to American general education; 2) its pedagogical implications for an increasingly internationalized student population at American universities; 3) its feasibility or the lack thereof for Asian universities, which respond enthusiastically to this move. By conclusion, this paper raises two questions: 1) to what extent does the teaching of world literature from the single setting of English department popularize world literature in what is known as the STEM age?2)can the re-institutionalization encourage self-other comparisons at the expense of the rich diversity of world literature or raise awareness of it?
Keywords - Concept of the World, Comparative Literature, Global English, Institutional Resources