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Campus News
Your faculty and staff news since 1965
Current Issue: October 6, 2003
Volume 39, Number 6


UNM English Professor Gary Harrison and his collaborators UNM professors emeriti Paul Davis, David M. Johnson, Patricia Clark Smith and John F. Crawford, recently published the “Bedford Anthology of World Literature,” (Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2004) a five-year project designed to bring world literature into a world context.

The set is already surpassing sales projections at the collegiate level, while volume six, focusing on literature since 1900, is also being used in advanced placement courses in high schools nationally.

The books are sold in packages of the first and second three-set volumes. Each package costs $60. “It is an inexpensive way to build a personal library of the world’s literature,” said Harrison.

The Dead Sea Scrolls, the Odyssey, The Aeneid, Bhagavad Gita, Confucius, St. Augustine, Tao Qian, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz and creation myths from ancient Mexico all have a place within the pages.

Harrison, who came to UNM from Stanford in 1986, said he and the group collaborated on an earlier two-volume text, “Western Literature in a World Context” published in 1995. “Paul [Davis] and I, as well as those in the English undergraduate committee, discussed bringing back the Great Books course,” Harrison recalled.

A National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant allowed the English Department to publicize and offer the courses. “The classes were team taught with male and female instructors because gender and culture affect the reading of literature,” he said.

Harrison said that formerly most world literature courses had a Eurocentric perspective. “The literary traditions of Asia, Africa, India and Latin America were virtually ignored,” he said. He added that the collaborators also made the effort to represent oral and marginalized Western traditions better. “There are no established criteria for defining masterworks in genres such as letters and diaries. They are usually overlooked,” he said.

The anthology corresponds to the six time periods commonly taught. “Expanding to six volumes allowed us to add maps, illustrations and to put the literature in context,” said Harrison.

The collaborators decided to feature cross-cultural literary groupings. The books feature “In the World” clusters written around a theme – history of religions, science, love, human rights, East meets West, imperialism and more. “In the Tradition” sections present poetry on love in the first three volumes while the literature of war and American multiculturalism are featured in the volume six.

Timelines help the students – and instructors – understand what happened where with regard to history and politics, literature, science, culture and technology, with more information available via the Web. “It is critical that students recognize world cultures beyond their own,” said Harrison.

Editors at Bedford/St. Martin’s, a premiere English language publisher, tagged the collaboration “organic” because the professors hailed from one institution, allowing for close contact, regular meetings and discussions so that the work could evolve appropriately without someone taking a lead on any one section.

“These books will change the way World Literature is taught, understood and appreciated,” said Scott Sanders, English Department chair.

Bookshelf highlights books written by UNM employees. The feature runs semi-regularly. To nominate a book for inclusion in the column, call 277-5915.