Fall 2023 - WL 103W D100

Early World Literatures (3)

Class Number: 6995

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 6 – Dec 5, 2023: Thu, 10:30 a.m.–12:20 p.m.



Introduces ways of comparing early world literatures across time and space. May explore fundamental themes such as love, heroism, or the underworld. Writing/Breadth-Humanities.


Fasting and Feasting in the Pre-Modern World

Food is a powerful system of communication, as Roland Barthes has posited. Yet, how can we interpret it beyond “basic physiological need”? This course aims to broach this question by homing in on both the abundant presence of food (feasting) and its glaring absence (fasting) in pre-modern texts from around the globe. This dialectal relationship between restrain and excess will inform our readings of diverse texts such as the Mayan Popol Vuh, Homer’s The Odyssey, Galen’s On Food and Diet, St. Augustine’s “The Usefulness of Fasting,” as well as others. Some of the topics we will explore include the pre-Columbian foodways of Mesoamerica, the dietary customs of Early Christianity, the eating habits of second-century Romans, as well as the important social role of commensal eating patterns.


  • Attendance and Participation 15%
  • Group Oral Report & 3-page Report 20%
  • Midterm 20%
  • Final Essay (4 pages draft) 15%
  • Final Essay Rewrite (7 pages) 30%



The Popol Vuh, Translation and Commentary by Allen J. Christenson. Available on Canvas.

St. Augustine, “The Usefulness of Fasting.” Available online through the SFU library.

Homer, The Odyssey (Selected Chapters). Available online through the SFU library.

Galen, On Food and Diet. Available online through the SFU library.

Additional material will be provided by the instructor on our Canvas page


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

Registrar Notes:


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Students with a faith background who may need accommodations during the semester are encouraged to assess their needs as soon as possible and review the Multifaith religious accommodations website. The page outlines ways they begin working toward an accommodation and ensure solutions can be reached in a timely fashion.