Why Should My Student Take World Literature?

Jan 29, 2020

Students often take four years of English classes in high school. An introductory course to literary analysis, American literature, and British literature can be found in most schools across the country.  World Literature is often underrepresented, however, and it is more important than ever! Here’s why you don’t want to miss this course as you plan your student’s high school years:

Lets find out, What is world literature and why is world literature important?

World Literature Gives Us Context for Other Studies:

  • World literature brings studies in history, geography, and foreign language to life. Stories are memorable because they take us into specific characters’ lives and their experiences in time, allowing us to live through them.  World Literature helps students become familiar with the locations, history, and culture of places they study but may not have personal experience with.  We can explore ancient Greece with The Odyssey, visit a WWII concentration camp with The Diary of Anne Frank, or discover life in rural China through Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth. Such works cause the places we study to come to life.  World literature allows students to “live” through all of these places and pick up countless cultural and historical details as they get swept away in the plot.
  • The popular idiom “America is a melting pot” portrays how diverse the United States is; we are a nation made up of people from many other nations. Our country is relatively young, and because of that, our history is closely tied to many other places in the world.  World Literature helps us get to know our own histories better, as well as those of our neighbors.


Modern Applications of World Literature:

  • It’s no secret we live in a more diverse world than ever before. In this digital age where it’s easy to be unkind behind a screen or to curate our media and newsfeeds to support our particular biases and preferences, stories can help develop compassion and empathy outside of our relational spheres.
  • By growing in our understanding of other worldviews, cultures, and histories through World Literature, we learn to think deeply about our own. We can grow in wisdom when we see the complex challenges, motivations, and stories of those different from us.  For instance, opportunities for learning are almost endless when we examine such works as Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, Machevilli’s The Prince, or Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Looking at militia strategies, political and governmental values, and the power of media and collective opinion are just some of the things these works address that have countless relevant and critical applications today. World Literature gives us examples, both positive and negative, that help us understand current challenges and potential solutions.

World literature is critical to understanding our neighbor, to growing in compassion and wisdom, and to thinking critically about our world today.  As we find ourselves in an increasingly globalized society, we must have knowledge that includes nations, cultures, and worldviews beyond our own borders.  World literature can bring these topics to life in a memorable way through story.

Check out our English II: World Literature class here!

Jenny Cutler graduated in 2005 with a B.A. in Education, and in 2012 with a Master’s Degree in Multicultural Education, both from Eastern University.  Jenny taught in both private and public schools until she had her first child and decided to stay home with him.  She ran a tutoring business during her first few years as a stay at home parent but found teaching online to be an ideal fit for her, and she made the switch in 2014. 

The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the author and should not be taken to represent the views of Excelsior Classes, LLC or the consortium of teachers.