You have likely heard contemporary regional and religious conflicts explained as a contest or battle between the East and the West, tyrants and freedom fighters, patriots and traitors, the “oriental” and occidental or secular and fundamentalist. The U.S. has long avoided the language of empire and all it entails in the history of the Western World yet our cultural legacy is largely rooted in the Western intellectual tradition. This course is a survey of literature exploring the foundation and legacy of the West and the formation of the cultural, political, and intellectual concept of the West. We will read selected literature that may include the Classical era and Renaissance, the modern era, and contemporary comparative, critical and speculative evaluations of the West. We will study distinctive and changing features of the various literary types, the relations between literature and the larger course of Western Civilization, the emergence and effect of actual or imagined “Western” concepts, imperial and colonial enterprises from Rome onward, the identity of the United States as part of the West, and comparative and critical challenges to the idea of the West from internal minority populations and from Near Eastern, Asian, and other global sources. This course fulfills the General Studies requirement in Literature.

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