Literature and Humanities 1 and 2

In this two-semester course, students explore myths and stories across time and space to understand how writers represented and shaped the worlds in which they and their audience lived. Students work closely with their professors in seminar groups examining epics, histories, dramas and visual art pieces. They grapple with questions such as “What makes a creative achievement visionary and enduring?” and “What roles do universal emotions (anger, love, hatred, lust, greed, compassion) play in art and literature?” The course aims to cultivate the cultural, aesthetic and rhetorical literacy needed to become a cosmopolitan reader of human experience.

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Literature and Humanities 1

In Literature and Humanities 1, we engage masterpieces from the beginnings of myth-making to the early modern period, in three sets of related works: the epic adventures of Rama and Odysseus narrated in Valmiki’s Ramayana and Homer’s Odyssey; the historical writings of Herodotus and Sima Qian; and the creative recycling of traditional tales in 1001 Nights and Boccaccio’s Decameron.

Literature and Humanities 2

Literature and Humanities 2 engages creative works of art and literature in a world that is becoming increasingly complex and hard to grasp because of rapid and constant change. The works respond to the changing relationship between the secular and the sacred; the experience of cross-cultural encounters; the formation of national identities; the challenges of modern urban life; the creation of new social movements; and the realities and fantasies of colonialism, post-colonialism and globalisation. Works read might include:

  • Shakespeare’s The Tempest
  • Honoré de Balzac’s Père Goriot
  • Lu Xun’s Diary of a Madman and Other Stories
  • Virginia Woolf’s Dalloway
  • Eileen Chang’s Love in a Fallen City
  • Tayeb Salih’s Season of Migration to the North
  • Sonny Liew’s The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye


Student Voices

I enjoyed how there has been a focus on challenging cultural binaries. Our reading of both Western and non-Western writings has challenged my past conceptions about non-Western civilisations, while training me to have a deeper respect for different cultures around the world.

Student from the Class of 2020
Major Undecided

Teaching Faculty