World Literature

World Literature

Prof. (Dr.) Asghar Ali Ansari, School of Language & Literature, Jaipur National University, Jaipur


Hey, have you ever thought that what is world literature? Come; let us have a brief look into world literature. We all know, more or less, about British literature, American literature, Irish literature and Indian literature but the term ‘world literature’ seems to be a new thing for many scholars of literature of our age. Many students surprisingly ask what world literature is, who coined the term and why should we study world literature? What is the benefit of studying it? In this blog we are going to explore all these aspects related with the world literature which will certainly increase our knowledge of literature.

Popularity of World Literature:

World Literature is becoming popular day by day. Many universities have included the World Literature as a subject of the syllabus of the department of English literature. Some of the universities like Perk University, China, Islamic university, Turkeya and Harvard University, London are offering special summer course on the World Literature. This is because the World Literature is attracting more and more people due to its universal themes and human emotions. The term world literature was fist coined in 1827 by German novelist and poet, Johann Wolfgang Goethe. In his essay he often used the term welt literature which means world literature in English.

What is World Literature?

When a piece of literature written in a country and its popularity, due to its humanistic themes, crosses the boarders and is equally becomes popular in other countries, and then this work of literature is included into the category of world literature. So world literature is a vast compass which covers almost all the literary genres like plays, novels, poetry or short stories which are written in a country and spreads in other countries other than the country of its origin. In fact the world literature does not know any boundary of the country where it is originated due to its human values and universal and relevant themes. David Damrosch has rightly said, “A work enters into world literature by a double process: first, by being read as literature; second, by circulating out into a broader world beyond its linguistic and cultural point of origin”. In literature we find that there are many pieces of literary works which were written a long before but they are still read with great enthusiasm. There are some classical pieces in literature which are called the great literature of the world and that great literature is taught everywhere in the world and all the scholars of the world, studying them all around the world from the time of their writing till date. Some of the examples of the world great literary works are The Odyssey, Illiad, Divine Comedy etc.

Characteristics of World Literature:

To conclude we can say that any type of literature, written in any language or by anyone is, however, literature. But it is called World Literature to differentiate from other literary works because its range is very vast and so its writers are. Moreover, the world literature deals with the universal human emotions which can appeal any one of any country. So, written in any country and in any language the literature having universal themes and human emotions in it naturally attracts the attention of the people and they become curious to about the books and so they want to read that literary work. As a result that literary works are translated into different languages so that the audience may be acquainted with it and thus the book becomes the part of the world literature.

Benefit of studying World Literature:

By studying world literature one can explore the humanistic themes, human values and human experience of the other countries of the world having different cultures and traditions. When we study and analyze a literary text, we come to know the cultural and literary tradition of the country of its origin. The first condition of a literary work in the form of a text to be leveled as a world literature is that it must deals with the human values and human experience which are generally of universal nature. Human values and experiences are, more or less, are the same of all the countries of the world and so, when a foreigner reads a text of literature written in other than his country, he relates himself with the human values and experiences mentioned in that text and has a feeling that it is all happening with him and in his own country. Moreover, he comes to know about the culture and tradition of a foreign country and compares his tradition and culture and in this way some of the best and beneficial aspects of other culture may be adopted by the reader which in the comparative study of the culture and traditions of the different countries. This brings the whole world together and plays a very important role in the formation of a global village. Thus the world literature is playing a very important role in connecting people throughout the world.