World Literature


World Literature

Course Description:

Throughout the year, students will be introduced to modern literary works from a wide range of countries and cultures. Our readings will span multiple genres, from poetry and short stories, to novels and plays. We will attempt to situate works in their social and cultural context, with attention to literary movement, author biography, genre and country of origin.

Students can expect roughly 10-15 pages of active reading each night. Active reading requires annotation, critical thinking and, oftentimes, re-reading. Students can expect to encounter unfamiliar words, phrases and allusions in their nightly readings, and are expected to look them up prior to class.

In conjunction with selected readings, students will be provided with opportunities for various types of writing, ranging from formal essays to creative compositions. All major writing assignments will go through multiple stages before they are complete; expect to submit an outline, rough draft and final draft for each. Students will complete peer reviews and participate in writing workshops and teacher-student conferences to aid in the editing process.


World Literature, Macmillan Literature Series, Glencoe

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, published by Random House

Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw; published by Simon & Schuster

Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand; trans. by Lowell Bair; published by Signet Classics

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho; trans. by Alan R. Clarke; published by Harper Collins USA

Course Objectives:


  • compose various formal essays (e.g. narrative, persuasive, expository, research)
  • develop original theses
  • support analysis through thoughtfully-structured paragraphs
  • revise essays for improvement in content, structure, and style
  • develop a practical understanding of grammar and usage


Reading Comprehension

  • apply close reading techniques in the analysis of various literary genres, including short fiction, novels, poetry and drama
  • develop a familiarity with literary concepts and identify instances of their inclusion in texts
  • build a sophisticated vocabulary, with a focus on common SAT words

Scope and Sequence:

Each unit will include a longer work (novel or play), in addition to shorter selected readings. Quizzes will cover nightly reading, vocabulary and literary terminology, while an exam will cover each long work. Students will have a variety of written assignments, ranging from reading responses to formal essays.  In addition to critical writings, students will be assigned a few creative and interpretive assignments to help further their understanding of a particular genre or style.

Unit I: Survey: Personal Narrative

  • Students will read and analyze personal essays and memoir excerpts selected from World Literature and outside texts, including works by Colette (France), Singer (Poland), Li (China) and Lahiri (United States)
  • Major writing assignment: students will compose an original narrative essay with a focus on sensory description and setting
  • Literary focus on voice, point-of-view, tone, audience


Unit II: Novel: Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (United States)

  • Major Writing Assignment: students will compose an analytical essay with a focus on tone
  • Literary focus on: dystopia, plot structure, characterization, theme


Unit III: Play: George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion (England)

  • Major Writing Assignment: students will compose an analytical essay with a focus on theme
  • Literary focus on: dialogue, satire, comedy


Unit IV: Survey: World Poetry

  • Students will read and analyze poetry selected from World Literature and outside texts, including works by Walcott (St. Lucia), Brodsky (Russia), Heaney (Ireland), Bishop (United States), Rilke (Germany), Milosz (Poland), Paz (Mexico)
  • Creative Writing Assignment: students will read poems based on traditional fairy tales and compose an original work inspired by a tale or myth
  • Literary focus: sound, structure and figurative language


Unit V: Survey: The Short Story

  • Students will read and analyze short stories selected from World Literature and outside texts, including texts from Calvino (Italy), Garcia Marquez (Columbia), Babel (Russia), Peng-Cheng (China), Bradbury (United States), de Maupassant (France), Chekov (Russia), Achebe (Nigeria), Tagore (Bengal), du Maurier (England) and Bhat (Canada)
  • Major Writing Assignment: Students will compare and contrast two short stories, focusing on their differing uses of literary devices
  • Literary focus: flashback, foreshadowing, structure


Unit VI: Play: Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac (France)

  • Major Writing Assignment: Students will compose a persuasive essay with a focus on characterization
  • Literary focus: hyperbole, verse, monologue


Unit VII: Survey: Folk Story and Myth

  • Students will read and analyze short stories selected from World Literature and outside texts, from countries such as Mexico, France, India, Greece, Germany, Japan, China, Chile, India, Algeria and Ireland
  • Major Writing Assignment: Students will choose a country and research its folklore. They will compose a research paper that explores that country’s use of narrative, language and symbol in folktale or myth.
  • Literary focus: myth, fable, legend, folk tale, hero


Unit VII: Novel: Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist (Portugal)

  • Major Project: Students will present on a thematic element from The Alchemist
  • Literary focus: symbol, allegory, motif