For the just beginning English teacher, as well as for those who have been at it awhile, the National Council of Teachers of English has just published the second edition (after a 14-year interlude) of a most helpful "Guide to World Literature."
Primarily intended to encourage the reading of great literary works in English translation, and to provide assistance in establishing comparative and world literature courses, the new edition is a good-quality reference to many of the world's great writers and their works, past and present.
The works covered in the guide range from novels and short stories to drama, essays, autobiographical writing, and poetry, spanning the centuries from "Gilgamesh" and the Homeric epics through the 1960s. Each of the 200 selections from 26 countries referred to includes brief biographical and historical background, plot summation, genre identification, and thematic analysis. Most major world cultures whose literatures lie outside the British/American tradition are featured and allow teachers to reach beyond the traditional limits of the English curriculum.
Of particular interest to a teacher wanting to direct a student's continued reading along a specific theme is the closing paragraph for each selection. Titled "Comparative," it links the work just considered to other works from other cultures and eras. A student's question on what to read further about the issues raised in a given novel, play, or poem can easily be answered with suggestions referring to other writers who have dealt with the same subject, but from their own culture's unique perspective. A genuine sense of the universal nature of humankind's experience results.