World Theory Readings in Chronological Order

Steven J. Venturino
2007, 2013:
World Theory Home Page

This chronological arrangement of readings allows students to consider the global sweep of literary criticism. Readings in both the Norton and the Bedford/St. Martin anthologies, by largely concentrating solely on the Western tradition, skip from the third and fourth centuries to the fourteenth and eleventh centuries, respectively. Readers of the selections in this list will discover that these “blank spots” actually occur at times of a flourishing global literary scene, particularly in India and the Arab world.

1700 B.C.E – 2nd Century C.E.

  • Rig Veda (1700-1000 BCE), Hymns to Vāc (on speech and language)
  • Hesiod (c. 700 BCE), from Theogony (on lies and truth)
  • Confucius (551-479 BCE.), from Analects
  • Laozi (4th-3rd BCE.), from Daodejing (“truthful words are not beautiful”)
  • Plato (427-347 BCE), from Ion, Republic
  • Aristotle (384-322 BCE), from Poetics
  • Valmiki (c. 200 BCE), from Ramayana (“invention of poetry”)
  • Horace (65-8 BCE), from Ars Poetica
  • Longinus (1stC), from On the Sublime
  • Bharata (2ndC), from Natyasastra

4th – 9th Centuries

  • Augustine (354-430), from On Christian Doctrine
  • Macrobius (c. 400), from Commentary on the Dream of Scipio
  • Liu Xie (465-520), from Wenxin Xiaolong (The Book of Literary Design, aka The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons)
  • Bede (673–735), from Concerning Figures and Tropes (on allegory)
  • Ruth Rabbah (600-700), later classic rabbinic midrash (Neusner’s discussion)
  • Dandin (8thC), from Kavyadarsa
  • Anandavardhana (855-85), from Light on Suggestion

10th – 14th Centuries

  • Ibn Sīnā (980–1037, aka Avicenna), selections (on truth and falsity of poetry)
  • Murasaki Shikibu (978–1016?), from The Tale of Genji
  • Abhinavagupta (9-11C?), on the theory of rasadhvani (socio-moral value of poetry)
  • al Niffari (d. 976), from The Book of Spiritual Stayings (on the ineffable)
  • al Jurjani (d. 1078, Arabic), on the faculty of imagination
  • Ibn Rushd (1126–98, aka Averroes), selections (on mimesis and figurative language)
  • Maimonides (1135–1204), from The Guide to the Perplexed (or from Commentary on the Mishna)
  • Ifa divination and Esu Elegbara trickster figure(11thC), from Gleason and Ogundipe, and/or Gates’s discussion of same
  • Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274), from Summa Theologica
  • Christine de Pizan (1365-1429), from The Book of the City of Ladies
  • Zeami Motokiyo (1363–1443, Japanese), from On the Art of No

16th – 17th Centuries

  • Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586), from “An Apology for Poetry”
  • Yong Yuzi, preface to Sanguo zhi tongsu yanyi (Romance of the Three Kingdoms) (on historiography)
  • Li Zhi (1527–1602), from Fenshu (A Book to be Burned)
  • Popol Vuh (1550), (on shared language)
  • Pierre Corneille (1606-1684), “Of the Three Unities of Action, Time, and Place”
  • Jin Shengtan (1610–61), from his edition of Shuihu zhuan (Water Margin)
  • John Dryden (1631-1700), from An Essay of Dramatic Poesy, from Preface to Troilus and Cressida
  • Giambattista Vico (1668-1744), from The New Science
  • Alexander Pope (1688-1744), “An Essay on Criticism”

18th Century (long)

  • Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), from The Rambler (on fiction), from Preface to Shakespeare
  • David Hume (1711-1776), “Of the Standard of Taste”
  • Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), from Critique of Judgment
  • Edmund Burke (1729-1797), from Enquiry into the Sublime
  • Motoori Norinaga (1730–1801), selections
  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), from Conversations with Eckermann
  • Germaine Necker de Stael (1766-1817), from Literature in its Relations to Social Institutions
  • Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831), from The Philosophy of Fine Art
  • William Wordsworth (1770-1850), Preface to Lyrical Ballads
  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), from Biographia Literaria
  • Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822), from A Defence of Poetry

19th Century

  • Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), from The Poet
  • Karl Marx (1818-1883) and Friedrich Engels (1820-1895), selected writings
  • Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), from The Painter of Modern Life
  • Matthew Arnold (1822-1888), “The Function of Criticism at the Present Time,” and from Culture and Anarchy
  • Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), from What is Art?
  • Wilhelm Dilthey (1833–1911), on the hermeneutic circle (and Schleiermacher)
  • Altaf Hussain Hali (1837-1914), from Muqaddama-e-Sher-o-Shaeri
  • Henry James (1843-1916), from “The Art of Fiction”
  • Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), “On Truth and Lying in a Nonmoral Sense”
  • Manuel González Prada (1848-1918), on indigenous writing
  • José Martí (1853-95), “Nuestro America”
  • Rubén Darío (1867-1916), from “La literatura en Centroamérica” and/or another on modernismo
  • Tsubouchi Shōyō (1859–1935), from The Essence of the Novel (1885–86)
  • Shimamura Hōgetsu (1871–1918), on poetry and naturalism vs. modernity
  • Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), from “The Critic as Artist”
  • Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939), “Creative Writers and Day-Dreaming” and/or from The Interpretation of Dreams

20th Century

  • Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913), from Course in General Linguistics
  • Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), selection
  • Kuppuswami Sastri (1885–1980), from lectures of 1919
  • W. E. B. Du Bois (1868-1963), from “Criteria of Negro Art”
  • Liang Qichao (1873–1929), selection
  • Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961), from “On the Relation of Analytical Psychology to Poetry”
  • Wang Guowei (1877–1927), from Honglou meng pinglun (A critique of Dream of the Red Chamber)
  • Leon Trotsky (1879-1940), from Literature and Revolution (on the formalists)
  • Lu Xun (1881-1936, Zhou Shuren), selection
  • Virginia Woolf (1882-1941), from A Room of One’s Own
  • Viktor Shklovsky (1893-1984), from “Art as Technique”
  • T. S. Eliot (1888-1965), “Tradition and the Individual Talent”
  • John Crowe Ransom (1888-1974), from The New Criticism
  • Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), selection
  • Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960), from “Characteristics of Negro Expression”
  • Hu Shi (1891-1962), “A Proposal fro Reforming Literature”
  • Walter Benjamin (1892-1940), from “On Language as Such and On the Language of Man”
  • Guo Morou (1892–1978), on the Creation Society
  • Mao Zedong (1893-1976), from “Talks at the Yan’an Forum on Literature and Arts”
  • Edmund Wilson (1895-1975), from “Marxism and Literature”
  • Mikhail Bahktin (1895-1975), from “Epic and Novel: Toward a Methodology for the Study of the Novel”
  • Mao Dun (1896-1981, Shen Yanbing), on the Literature Research Society
  • André Breton (1896-1966), from Les pas perdus
  • Yokomitsu Riichi (1898–1947), on New Sensualism
  • Nazım Hikmet (1901-1963), selection (letters)
  • Langston Hughes (1902-1967), “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain”
  • Kobayashi Hideo (1902–83), selection (on creative imagination)
  • Jean-Paul Satre (1905-1980), “What is Literature?”
  • Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986), from The Second Sex
  • Aimé Césaire (b.1913), selection from w L’Étudiant Noir

Selections organized by region or tradition
Selections organized by topic
For a pdf file of the full list and sample TOCs, click here

Steven J. Venturino

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