I have recently finished reading Murasaki Shikibu's Tale of Genji (2015 English translation by Dennis Washburn, Kindle edition which I bought for a whopping $2.85), which is part of my "current" list of 28 that I have been quite happy with for most of 2015. I actually like the book given the fact that I had the patience to spend about half a year to finish reading it. But still I ask myself, does every college kid really need to read such a disturbing text?
I went back to the end of that post, and for instructions into 9 categories (Southern and Western Epics are actually just one original category, that I cut up because of the need to balance number of texts to be taught in one semester), and say for Literature as Entertainment a good "must read" list really should not include Tale of Genji. Nor the highly vulgar (at some points) Don Quixote. So maybe a good list really is just one text for these 9 categories. Original list is as follows:
First Semester (14)
Foundational poetry (SE, E, W - 3): Rg Veda, Odes, Homer
Foundational world religious texts (SE, W, SW - 3) - Samyutta Nikaya, Bible, Quran
Foundational histories (W, E, SW - 3) - Herodotus, Shiji, al-Tabari
Plato and theology (W, W, SW - 3): Plato, Augustine, al-Ghazali
Southern Epics (SE, SW - 2): Mahabharata, Ferdowsi
Second Semester (14)
Western Epics after Homer (W, W - 2): Virgil, Dante
Religio-philosophical commentaries (E, SE, E - 3): Wang Bi, Shankara, Zhu Xi
Masters of genres (SE, E, W - 3) - Kalidasa, Su Shi, Voltaire
Literature as entertainment (E, W, W - 3) - Murasaki Shikibu, Shakespeare, Cervantes
Modern Prophets (W, W, W - 3) - Kant, Marx, Tolstoy
Going through the first 2 categories make me realize that foundational poetry really only has historical interests. Rg Veda is really a quite different religion as current Hinduism; Odes is so archaic that by middle ages Tang poetry became primary despite the authoritative "classic" status of the Odes. Homeric gods and Epic violence? Maybe we can do without the whole category. Instead, all 3 foundational world religious texts are still quite relevant even today.
Further, referring back to the math done in my list of 6, My list of 10 now is the following:
1. Samyutta Nikaya (SE, foundational religious text)
2. Bible (W, foundational religious text)
3. Qur'an (SW, foundational religious text)
4. Shiji (E, foundational history)
5. Plato (W, Plato and theology - philosophy)
6. Mahabharata (SE, epic - literature)
7. Commentaries on the Four Books (E, philosophical commentary)
8. Su Shi (E, master of genres - literature)
9. Shakespeare (W, literature as entertainment)
10. Marx (W, modern prophets - philosophy)
Beyond list of 6, there is now Buddhist foundational text, Four Books, Su Shi, and Marx - arguably reflects my interest as Chinese.
- Genre, 3 in each of religion, philosophy and literature, 1 history
- Traditions: 4 West, 3 East Asia, 2 South Asia, 1 CWANA / Islamicate
- Language: 3 Chinese, 1.5 Greek, 1 each for Pali, Arabic, Sanskrit, English and German, 0.5 Hebrew
Not a bad list of 10, until I change my mind.