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Invitation to World Literature

Introduction to World Literature

Literature is where I go to explore the highest and lowest places in human society and in the human spirit, where I hope to find not absolute truth but the truth of the tale, of the imagination and of the heart.

—Salman Rushdie

[I]s the capacity for the quiet use of leisure, something essential to reading, on the wane? Isolation and insularity can afflict any land. One of the best cures is to read the finest literature from as many places as possible. Louise Erdrich might call it 'life medicine.'

—Liesl Schillinger, New York Times Book Review, January 4, 2009

Welcome to Invitation to World Literature!

Our own time and place is a world shaped by all that has come before, not just the physical world we inherit, but the world of our own imagining. The stories of previous ages and different places are part of our heritage; perhaps, given our species' propensity for storytelling, they are part of our DNA (figuratively speaking).

This multimedia series, Invitation to World Literature, offers you a passport to this rich heritage via thirteen works from a range of eras, places, cultures, languages, and traditions. These are books that we hope spark your interest, or satisfy long-standing curiosity about things you wished you had read, or introduce works that are new to you, opening up a world of connections and experiences.

Here were our guiding ideas as we produced this series:

  • introduce you to the richness and purpose of World Literature, its timeless stories, its living characters, and its diverse cultural origins and contexts.
  • inspire you to go further, both to read these works for yourself, and to make connections that build knowledge and understanding—connections between texts, between regions of the world, and between the works and your own lives.
  • and, at the simplest level, let you in on the secret that works of World Literature are "great reads." In addition to crossing cultures, space and time, they are deeply satisfying and engrossing experiences.

We invite you to pick a work and start your journey.

Meet the literary advisor for the series, Professor David Damrosch.
Learn more about the series.