World Literature Intro Unit Essential Questions Universality Creation Myths Motifs
English 12: world literature • Essential Questions • 1. How does an understanding of literary tradition enhance my reading of literature? • 2. How does an examination of literary works from various cultures deepen my understanding of the human condition?
How does an understanding of literary tradition enhance my reading of literature? • Read the article • Define literary tradition • Brainstorm answers to the essential question
How does an understanding of literary tradition enhance my reading of literature? • It is a means of negotiating time periods and establishing connections between writers. • It implies hierarchy and establishes a canon. • It provides an active historical sense of the past while living in and shaping the present. • It provides basis for dominant theme and form.
How does an examination of literary works from various cultures deepen my understanding of the human condition? • What is the human condition? • the positive and negative aspects of existence as a human being, esp. the inevitable events such as birth, childhood, adolescence, love, sex, reproduction, aging, and death • Brainstorm answers to the essential question • The universality of human responses to the world • Universality – relation, extension, or applicability to all
The universality of human responses to the world Before examining literature of the world, it is necessary to visit the genesis of story-telling. Myths serve as the basis of such a journey. Myths pose “vital questions about the human visions of the universe: the spiritual and intellectual strands that bind us together through time and across deep and alien seas; the unexplainable creative urges that fuel us even in the bleakest of times; and the twin presences of good and evil, joy and sorrow, birth and death that we all must grapple with and reconcile (Stillman, Introduction to Myth).
The universality of human responses to the world • There are, of course, differences between the numerous mythologies and religions of mankind; however, there are similarities, as well, and once they are understood, the differences will be found to be much less great than is popularly (and politically) supposed.
Myth • A traditional, typically ancient story dealing with supernatural beings, ancestors, or heroes that serves as a fundamental type in the worldview of a people, as by explaining aspects of the natural world or describing the psychology, customs, or ideals of society
Creation Myth • A sacred narrative (story) explaining how the world and humankind came to be in their present form • Nearly every culture that has ever existed has a story of their own of how the world and people were created • There are undeniable similarities among the creation stories of world cultures
Why do we study myths from around the world? • Brainstorm • The world is now a global society and it is important to understand other cultures • The myths of a culture give us insight into the culture’s beliefs, customs, and traditions • Myths, through their similarities, help us recognize the universality of the human experience • Myths form timeless universal truths • Without myths, there would be no literature
Group Assignment • Research the creation myth of your assigned culture
Universal Ideas in the myths we read • Darkness/nothing • Heaven and earth were one • Supreme beings • Eggs • Chaos/disorder • World destroyed and recreated • Water • Separation of mother/father or male/female • Many creation myths sprung from civilizations that never interacted
Myths and literature Similarities Differences • Both are stories • Both contain narrative elements • Both evoke emotion • Both tie together commonly held human identities • Both entertain • Myths do not originate with 1 author • Myths were not originally written • Myths have changed over time • Myths were not conscious works of art
Maori • In the beginning, Rangi (Heaven) and Papa (Earth) clung close together and all was darkness • They had six sons who eventually wanted to live in light, so five of them decided to separate their parents • Tane-mahuta pushed his parents apart, creating the earth and sky • When light appeared all of the humans fathered by Tu-matauenga were revealed
Greek • In the beginning, there was empty darkness and a black bird, Nyx • Nyx laid a golden egg and when Eros emerged from the egg half of the shell became the sky (Uranus) and the other half became the earth (Gaia) • Zeus, the grandchild of Uranus and Gaia, told his son Prometheus to create man and his other son Epimetheus to create animals • Prometheus created man in the image of the gods and gave them the gift of fire
Chinese • In the beginning, heaven and earth were one and the universe existed in chaos inside an egg-shaped cloud • Pan Gu created heaven and earth by breaking out of the egg; when he died, his body parts became the earth’s elements • Many centuries later, Nu Wa, a lonely goddess created humans from mud
Egyptian • In the beginning, there was only watery chaos, called Nu, and darkness • Atum , the sun god, gave birth to Shu and Tefnut • Atum was separated from his children for a long time and when they reunited, he cried tears of joy • Humans formed in the places where his tears fell
Hopi (Native American) • In the beginning, only the creator, Taiowa existed in the endless space of the world • Taiowa created Sotuknang to do his work for him • Sotuknang gathered the matter from the endless space to create nine worlds/universes (First Creation) • Sotuknang created land, sea, winds, and breezes in the worlds (Second & Third Creation) • Sotuknang created Spider Woman and gave her the power to create life • Spider Woman created humans using different colors of mud mixed with her saliva • She created women in her own image
Norse • In the beginning, there was nothing except for a place called Niflheim • Where cold and warm met, Ymir, the first frost-giant, was created • In that same place, a cow was created and that cow created Buri, the first god • Buri’s son, Bor, married Bestla and they had 3 sons • The 3 sons killed Ymir, whose body parts became the parts of the earth • The 3 sons then created humans from 2 logs
Hebrew • In the beginning, the earth was a formless void in darkness • God, the creator, spoke and in six days created everything on earth • He created humans in his likeness
India • There is no real beginning or end to the cycle of creation – the world is destroyed and recreated over and over • After the world is destroyed by Lord Shiva (the Destroyer), Lord Vishnu (the Preserver) floats on a snake in a vast ocean of chaos • Lord Brahma, the Creator, awakens from Vishnu’s bellybutton to create everything • Brahma splits in two to create male and female, then he becomes one again to create humans