World Literature Favorites

Mural depicting Tragedy in Literature, Library of Congress Jefferson Building
John R. Barse, Jr. Mural depicting Tragedy in Literature, Library of Congress, Thomas Jefferson Building. Photo, Carol M. Highsmith, 2007. Courtesy Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Public Domain.

“Literature is, to my mind, the great teaching power of the world, the ultimate creator of all values, and it is this, not only in the sacred books whose power everybody acknowledges, but by every movement of imagination in song or story or drama that height of intensity and sincerity has made literature at all.”  W.B. Yeats

As we get ready to bid farewell to 2016 and usher in the New Year, we thought you might enjoy world literature resources designed to increase your students’ College and Career Readiness in Literature and Language.

Tap the great teaching power of these favorite narratives from a wide variety of writers and poets who represent cultures across the globe—Nigeria; the Dominican Republic; Columbia; Russia; Ireland; and Britain—as well as ancient Rome. These world literary texts come in an array of formats—short stories; novels; drama; poems; and philosophical treatises.

Each curricular resource in the following list is aligned to Common Core State Standards. There are additional online resources within these resources to support your efforts to teach these texts through reading, writing, and speaking and listening across the curriculum.

Achebe, Chinua: Things Fall Apart

A “New English” in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart: A Common Core Exemplar provides students with an opportunity to see how the author integrates elements from the oral tradition into his narrative: Igbo similes, the proverbs of African conversation, and the folktales that both entertain and instruct.

Alvarez, Julia: In the Time of the Butterflies

Courage In the Time of the Butterflies: A Common Core Exemplar analyzes main characters in Julia Alvarez’s novel and has students consider how each of the four Mirabal sisters and their families demonstrate tremendous courage in the Dominican Republic of the late 1950s as they attempt to overthrow a dictator’s brutal regime.

Chekhov, Anton: “Home”

Chekhov’s “Home”: A Common Core Exemplar offers students a guide into this short story, which serves up a realistic slice of Russian life while reflecting universal truths about the human condition.

De Tocqueville, Alexis: The Tyranny of the Majority

Alexis de Tocqueville on the Tyranny of the Majority introduces students to Tocqueville’s famous work: his thesis about the all-powerful character of majority opinion in a democracy; how unchecked political power leads to tyranny; and how democracy allows for less freedom of discussion and independence of mind than in aristocracy.

Dickens, Charles: A Christmas Carol

Using Textual Clues to Understand A Christmas Carol has students consider the seasonal classic by focusing on Scrooge’s actions before his ghostly experiences and uncover how Charles Dickens used characterization to create a protagonist who is more than just a stereotype. Students also identify key themes that permeate the work.

Dostoyevsky, Fyodor: Crime and Punishment

Schisms and Divisions in Crime and Punishment: A Common Core Exemplar explores the splits that abound in the novel. Students analyze Dostoevsky’s view of human nature; delve into complex characters; consider the Man vs. Superman theory; and explore divisions within 19th-century Russian society. 

García Márquez, Gabriel:  One Hundred Years of Solitude

Magical Realism in One Hundred Years of Solitude for the Common Core uncovers how Gabriel García Márquez meshes magical elements with a reality, which is, in his view, fantastical in its own right. Students are introduced to the term “magical realism” and investigate both the fantastical and realistic elements used to create this epic.

Golding, William: Lord of the Flies

William Golding’s Lord of the Flies for the Common Core has students analyze the novel’s central characters and the symbols and themes that focus on the importance of a system of law and order for maintaining civilization. Students consider what causes individuals and groups to wage war on one another.

Montaigne, Michel: “On Cruelty”

Montaigne “On Cruelty”: A Close Reading of a Classic Essay follows the trail of Montaigne in his philosophical argument for compassion over cruelty in the treatment of human beings and animals.

Ovid: The Metamorphoses

Ovid’s Metamorphoses: A Common Core Exemplar comprises a series of comparisons. Students consider the creative and destructive elements within mythic and biblical accounts and compare Ovid’s story of Orpheus with a modern poetic rendition by H.D. They go on to explore great art works that drew inspiration from the Metamorphoses to better understand how the same story can be rendered in two different mediums.

Wilde, Oscar:  The Importance of Being Ernest

Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest: A Common Core Exemplar helps students analyze the playwright’s use of language, character, and structure in order to uncover the play’s themes and relevant aspects of Victorian society.

Yeats, William Butler “The Song of Wandering Aengus”

Yeats’ “The Song of Wandering Aengus”: A Common Core Exemplar offers students a close reading of W. B. Yeats’ lyrical poem and provides supplementary documents for contextual understanding, including traditional sources of Celtic mythology and influences of the Irish “aisling” tradition.


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