Fall 2021 - WL 400 D100

Early Literary Cultures (4)

Class Number: 7511

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Tu, Th 4:30 PM – 6:20 PM
    AQ 5009, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    60 units including two 300-level courses in World Literature, English, and/or Humanities.



Explores ancient literatures and text networks. May focus on the themes of heroism, war, the rise of ethical systems, love and sexuality from pre-history to the 7th century CE.


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WL 400 – Early Literary Cultures: “Christendom: from East to the Rest”

Christianity, a venerable trunk of beliefs, values and practices, began as an offshoot of Judaism and spread throughout Asia Minor and the Mediterranean in the first 300 years of the Common Era. It seeded a civilization, later known as “Christendom,” that grew up around it and branched off into “Western Civilization.” This course will explore the rise of Christianity in its texts and contexts and end by tracing one of its runners westward in a vagabonding story of medieval saints.

What did the new faith have to offer to the established Jewish and Greco-Roman cultures that they didn’t already have? How did its texts and discourses transform an empire’s attitudes toward women, sexuality, the family and political authority? How did the new genre of saints’ lives influence European cultures in ways that are discernable even today? The three-fold structure of this course, arranged around the required texts, is designed to stimulate conversations around these questions with the aim of better understanding our moment in history. No prior knowledge of Christianity, the Roman Empire or classical/medieval literatures is required, just a will to read with an open mind, discuss frankly, and write thoughtfully.


  • Acquiring knowledge of Judeo-Christian foundations of Western civilization
  • Honing attentiveness to cultural and historical specificities of ancient texts
  • Developing competency in cross-cultural and transhistorical comparison
  • Applying with discernment Girardian and gender-oriented theoretical frameworks
  • Sharpening oral and written communication techniques to an advanced undergraduate level


  • Short essay 1 (5 pages) 15%
  • Midterm exam 20%
  • Research paper proposal + Final paper (15% + 30%) 45%
  • Oral report on the final paper 10%
  • Participation / Group work 10%



The Oxford Study Bible: Revised English Bible with Apocrypha. Oxford University Press, 1992
ISBN - 13:      9780195290004

Cambrai, Gui de. Barlaam And Josaphat: A Christian Tale of The Buddha. Penguin, 2014
ISBN - 13:      9780143107019

Girard, Rene. The Girard Reader. The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1996
ISBN - 13:      9780824516345

Registrar Notes:


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Teaching at SFU in fall 2021 will involve primarily in-person instruction, with approximately 70 to 80 per cent of classes in person/on campus, with safety plans in place.  Whether your course will be in-person or through remote methods will be clearly identified in the schedule of classes.  You will also know at enrollment whether remote course components will be “live” (synchronous) or at your own pace (asynchronous).

Enrolling in a course acknowledges that you are able to attend in whatever format is required.  You should not enroll in a course that is in-person if you are not able to return to campus, and should be aware that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who may need class or exam accommodations, including in the context of remote learning, are advised to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112) as early as possible in order to prepare for the fall 2021 term.