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

Literature and the arts inspire wonder and offer provocation. In Literature and Humanities, students will explore mythmaking and storytelling from a variety of traditions to understand how poets, historians, and visual artists represented their own worlds and times. What is distinct and visionary about these creative achievements, and why have they endured? What is the role in art and literature of universal human emotions such as anger, love, hatred, and the desire for gain or for revenge? How does one analyse and appreciate the art and craft of storytelling? What are its techniques and conventions? How do cultural works embody values in dialogue, or even in conflict? Through close readings and discussion, students join a reading community that has explored these works throughout history, from Homer’s archaic Greek listeners to the international audience of the contemporary Ramayana traditions. Students will cultivate the aesthetic, rhetorical, and cultural literacy to become cosmopolitan readers of the human experience.

Literature and Humanities 2

Literature and Humanities 2 charts the formation of modernity by exploring texts, images, and film from around the world. Linking to Literature and Humanities 1 taught in the previous semester, we trace a transition from the European Renaissance into the beginnings of colonialism in texts such as Shakespeare’s Tempest. Dramatic historical changes produce new artistic and social movements, revealing urgent new voices and representations of reality in works such as Frankenstein and Mrs. Dalloway.  Postcolonial subjects reflect on the aftershocks of their political and personal experiences in works such as Season of Migration to the North; we explore global shifts in urbanisation, familial structures and eros in Asian films such as Tokyo Story and Happy Together.  We explore how intimate new media like graphic novels can confront narratives of nationhood and even the deep time of the Anthropocene in works such as The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, and Here. Over the semester, students continue to refine their skills in criticism and analysis through discussions and writing assignments, while they ponder their own position within and against the grains of history.

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