ENGL 103 800: Modern World Literature


Modern World Literature serves as a profound mirror reflecting the complex interplay of socio-political forces, ideologies, and human experiences in the tumultuous 20th and 21st centuries. In the course ENGL 103 800 (formerly X04), students embark on a captivating journey through the literary landscapes of various cultures, examining how authors from different corners of the globe have harnessed the power of storytelling to comment on the sociopolitical realities of their time. This course is not merely about reading and analyzing literature; it is an exploration of how literature has acted as a powerful vehicle for commentary on the ever-evolving world order.

Module 1: Literary Reflections of Colonialism and Post-Colonialism

The ENGL 103 800 course begins by delving into the shadows of colonialism, a socio-political system that had a profound impact on the lives of millions. Students explore works like Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” to understand the African experience during the colonial era. Achebe’s novel, which centers on the Igbo society of Nigeria, offers a poignant critique.

Simultaneously, students examine colonialism from a different perspective through Jean Rhys’s “Wide Sargasso Sea.” This novel reimagines the story of Bertha Mason, the ‘madwoman in the attic’ from Charlotte Brontë’s “Jane Eyre,”.

Module 2: World War Literature

World War I and II were pivotal events in modern history, and literature from this period reflects the upheaval. Students read works such as Erich Maria Remarque’s “All Quiet on the Western Front,” a haunting portrayal of the dehumanizing effects of war. Remarque’s novel serves as a stark reminder of the physical and psychological toll of conflict.

In addition to the Western front, the course also delves into the Eastern front of World War II through Svetlana Alexievich’s “The Unwomanly Face of War.” This powerful oral history work offers a female perspective on the horrors of war, shedding light on the experiences of women.

Module 3: Literary Responses to Totalitarianism

The rise of totalitarian regimes in the 20th century, exemplified by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, had a profound impact on the world. The course explores George Orwell’s “1984,” a dystopian masterpiece that remains relevant in its depiction of a surveillance state and the manipulation of truth.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” provides an insight into the Soviet Gulag system. Through the protagonist, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov, Solzhenitsyn offers a harrowing account of the dehumanization and oppression faced by political prisoners.

Module 4: Literature of the Civil Rights Movement

As students progress through the course, they examine literature as a catalyst for social change. Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me” is a modern reflection on race and identity. Coates’s work is a contemporary testament to the ongoing struggle for racial justice.

Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” takes students back to the era of segregation, providing a poignant coming-of-age narrative and a testament to the indomitable human spirit.

Module 5: The Global Refugee Crisis

With the world witnessing a surge in refugee crises and forced migrations. The course examines literature that addresses the harrowing experiences of those who are displaced. Viet Thanh Nguyen’s “The Sympathizer” offers a unique perspective on the Vietnam War and the plight of Vietnamese refugees. The novel explores themes of identity, loyalty, and betrayal in the midst of political turmoil.

Khaled Hosseini’s “The Kite Runner” explores the impact of conflict on the lives of Afghan refugees. This novel humanizes the refugee experience and underscores the enduring scars of conflict.

Module 6: Environmental Concerns in Literature

In an era marked by environmental crises and global climate change, literature becomes a powerful platform for addressing ecological concerns. Barbara Kingsolver’s “Flight Behavior” engages students with the ecological issues of climate change. Kingsolver’s work offers an intimate view of the human relationship with the environment.

Richard Powers’ “The Overstory” delves into the intricate connections between humans and trees. This novel serves as a call to action in the face of ecological degradation.


ENGL 103 800: Modern World Literature as Socio-Political Commentary is a testament to the enduring power of literature. Through the careful selection of diverse works, this course not only enhances students’ understanding of the world. As they explore the literary voices that have shaped and responded to our complex modern world.

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