A History of European Literature: The West and the World from Antiquity to the Present

ISBN : 9780198732679

Walter Cohen
624 ページ
153 x 234 mm

Walter Cohen argues that the history of European literature and each of its standard periods can be illuminated by comparative consideration of the different literary languages within Europe and by the ties of European literature to world literature. World literature is marked by recurrent, systematic features, outcomes of the way that language and literature are at once the products of major change and its agents. Cohen tracks these features from ancient times to the present, distinguishing five main overlapping stages. Within that framework, he shows that European literatures ongoing internal and external relationships are most visible at the level of form rather than of thematic statement or mimetic representation. European literature emerges from world literature before the birth of Europeduring antiquity, whose Classical languages are the heirs to the complex heritage of Afro-Eurasia. This legacy is later transmitted by Latin to the various vernaculars. The uniqueness of the process lies in the gradual displacement of the learned language by the vernacular, long dominated by Romance literatures. That development subsequently informs the second crucial differentiating dimension of European literature: the multicontinental expansion of its languages and characteristic genres, especially the novel, beginning in the Renaissance. This expansion ultimately results in the reintegration of European literature into world literature and thus in the creation of todays global literary system. The distinctiveness of European literature is to be found in these interrelated trajectories.


1 Introduction

Part 1: Antiquity
2 The Old World Literary System
3 Empire and Its Discontents in Classical Latin

Part 2: The Vernacular: From the Middle Ages to Early Modernity
4 The Vernacular
5 Medieval Epic
6 Medieval Lyric
7 Medieval Narrative after 1100
8 Language, Literature, and Popular Culture in the Age of the Reformation

Part 3: Early Modernity
9 The Representation of Empire in the Renaissance, 1: Europe and the Mediterranean
10 The Representation of Empire in the Renaissance, 2: Global Perspectives
11 Eurasian Literature through the Eighteenth Century

Part 4: Modernity
12 Nineteenth-century Poetry: Romanticism and After
13 Nineteenth-Century Fiction
14 Jewishness and Modernist Fiction
15 World Literature and Contemporary Fiction
16 Conclusion



Walter Cohen is Professor of English at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, after having taught from 1980 to 2014 in Comparative Literature at Cornell University, where he received a distinguished teaching award and held various college and university administrative posts for two decades. He is the author of Drama of a Nation: Public Theater in Renaissance England and Spain, and of numerous articles on Renaissance literature, literary criticism, the history of the novel, and world literature. He is also one of the editors of The Norton Shakespeare.