WORLD LITERATURE I (ENG251)
Dr. Diane Thompson, NVCC, ELI
SUMMARY OF TASKS FOR UNIT 3:
This month your reading will focus on two texts, one from Europe and one from the Islamic world, during the time of the Crusades. This was a time of struggle between two competing ideas of civilization. The twelfth century, when the Song of Roland was composed, was a fascinating period when Europe began to develop economically, create wonderful art and literature and rediscover the ancient Greek philosophers and scientists, largely through translations from the Arabic of Greek philosophical texts with Arab commentaries.
In the early Middle Ages (8th - 12th centuries), the greatest wealth and culture was not in Christian Europe, but in the Muslim world, which included Spain and Sicily as well as North Africa, the Near East, Arabia, Persia, and India. By the end of the Middle Ages, the Europeans had crusaded all the way to the Near East, driven the Muslims and Jews from Spain, sacked Christian Constantinople (1204), conquered various Muslim territories, and retaken Jerusalem, at least temporarily. This crusading brought a wealth of new ideas back to Europe along with the treasures of the conquered lands, and new real estate for the European nobles in the Holy land and environs.
You will look at an epic of that crusade, The Song of Roland, which became the national epic of the developing French nation, and as such, it defined its own virtues in opposition to those of the enemy, Islam. Roland has the simple, severe, intensely colored beauty of a medieval stained glass window, sharply outlined, with no room for another faith. It presents as absolutes the heroic values of loyalty to Emperor Charlemagne, friendship among the peers, love of "beautiful France," and the unwavering faith of a Christian warrior knight. You will also read the Sermon on the Mount to see just how far from early Christian ideals these Christian soldiers had come.
Next, you will enjoy a special treat, The Arabian Nights (more traditionally known as the Thousand Nights and a Night.) This wonderful collection of interconnected stories was created and gathered over many centuries. The stories originally came from India, Persia, and the Arab countries. They are folk tales, told and retold by thousands of people over hundreds of years, changing and gathering ideas, values and details from the many places and times of their retellings. The basic Nights stories were collected between the eighth and thirteenth centuries; later stories were added after the thirteenth century, and came from as far away as China. You will also read three selections from the Koran to gain more insight into the values of the Muslim world regarding the status of women.
TASK 1.Read the Roland Study Guide, which will give you background information on the Song of Roland and its crusading context.
Option: You may choose to watch the Roland Video instead. It contains the same information. See instructions for accessing it on the Course Materials Table on the 251 Home Page.
Option: Use the links to the etexts of Roland and The Sermon on the Mount on the Course Materials Table on the 251 Home Page. If you are using the etexts, pay extra close attention to the Roland Study Guide.
TASK 4. Read through the Arabian Nights Study Guide. Note that the textbook calls these stories The Thousand and One Nights. This will give you background information on the Muslim world of the Arabian Nights and the frame stories.
Option: You may choose to watch the Nights Video instead. It contains the same information. See instructions for accessing it on the Course Materials Table on the 251 Home Page.Option: Use the link to the etexts of the Nights and the Koran (read at least Suras 1, 4 and 5) on the Course Materials Table on the 251 Home Page. If you are using the etexts, pay extra close attention to the Nights Study Guide.
TASK 6. Read through all the Arabian Nights Activities.
Then select one of these questions to answer for Activity 7, and post it to the
TASK 7. Prepare and take Exam 2.
After completing Exam 2, go on to Unit 4.
(c) Diane Thompson: 11/14/1998; updated: 01/28/2011