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Viola Repertoire Notes

Recently looked at viola repertoire by difficulty, and also pieces transcribed from cello by their difficulties as played on cellos. I am an "early advanced" player and so I focus on pieces in the intermediate and advanced difficulty ranges. I am interested mostly in Baroque to Romantic pieces, thus I ignore most 20th century works (like Bartok, Hindemith, Walton). (Note: After compiling, I found my old file summarizing Henry Barrett's repertoire, so I unsystematically slot some of the works shown there in the list already writen.)


Early Intermediate: ("Level 4")

- Core: Vivaldi sonatas

- Marcello (easiest) and Vivaldi (e.g. edited by Primrose) sonatas are good pieces for sight-reading practice

- If need to perform, the concertos of Telemann and Handoshkin can be considered


Intermediate: ("Level 5")

- Core: Bach Suite #1 & #2

- Suzuki volume 6 (with Brahms Hungarian Dance #5, Bach Double)

- Concertos: Vanhal, Benda, Zelter; probably Monn Cello Concerto in g minor if transcribed to viola 

- Other pieces: Mendelssohn Songs without Words Op.109 (but in Suzuki book 8), Elgar Salut d'Amour; Bruch Canzone op.55


Late Intermediate: ("Level 6)

- Core: Bach Suite #3, Casadesus / J.C. Bach concerto in C minor (in Suzuki 6/7)

- Pieces written for viola: Clarke Passacaglia on an Old English Tune, Vaughan Williams Suite; Schumann Marchenbilder, Lizst Romance Oubliee

- Concertos: J. Schubert; A. Stamitz Viola concerto #3 in G

- Concertante pieces transcribed from violin: Beethoven Romances #1/#2, Monti Czardas

- Small violin pieces: Kreisler Liebesleid/Liebesfreud; Corelli sonatas op.5 (excludes La Folia)

- Bruch Kol Nidre, probably Brahms Cello sonata op.38 

- I love Boccherini Cello Sonata in G major (transcription from imslp); Schubert Ave Maria (Suzuki 7) is also nice

- I have also transcribed Chopin Op.3 and play it on 5-string viola


Early Advanced: ("Level 7")

- Core: Bruch Romanze Op.85, Bach Suite #4, Hoffmeister Concerto #1 in D

- Suzuki: Casadesus/Handel concerto (Vol 7), Vol 8, Hummel sonata (vol 9)

- Most sonatas written for viola are at this level: Mozart duo K.423/424, C. Stamitz Viola Sonata in B flat; Mendelssohn sonata in c minor, Hummel Fantasie, Boccherini viola sonata in c minor, Vanhal

- Studies: Campagnoli caprices, Fuchs 15 Characteristic Studies   

- Transcriptions from violin: Telemann Solo Fantasias, Corelli La Folia, Dvorak Romance, Kreisler Praeludium & Allegro

- Bach: Brandenberg Concerto #6, 3 da Gamba sonatas

- Bruch Double Concerto Op.88 probably falls here

- Also popular with cellists: Schuman Adagio & Allegro Op.70, Boccherini cello Sonata in A

- Most orchestral excerpts (those published by IMC are either this or the prior level)

- If transcribed from cello to viola, CPE Bach Concerto in A minor and Saint-Saens cello concerto would probably fall near the ends of this broad level


Advanced: ("Level 8")

- Core: Bach Suite #5 & #6, Schubert Arpeggione Sonata, Stamitz Concerto in D, Mozart Sinfonia Concertante K.364

- Solo show pieces: Vieuxtempts' Cappricio, Rolla's Escerzio ed Arpeggio

- Other native or semi-native viola pieces: Glinka sonata, Beethoven Notturno op.42, Weber Andante e Rondo Ungarese, York Bowen concerto, Brahms Sonatas Op.120 (#1, #2)

- Some transcriptions from violin: Brahms sonata op.78, Vitali Chaccone, Biber Passacaglia

- I am starting to learn Beethoven Cello Sonata #3 Op.69; Brahms cello sonata #2 op.99, if transcribed, would be at this level

- Many interesting cello concertos, if transcribed, would fall in this level: Haydn Concerto in C (#1), Boccherini/Grutzmacher Concerto in B flat, CPE Bach concerto in A major, Lalo 


Very Advanced: ("Level 9")

- Viola concertos: Berlioz's Harold in Italy, Paganini's Sonata for Gran Viola (which is actually a concerto)

- Bach's solo violin sonatas and partitas (the most difficult ones like Chaconne are definitely this level)

- Paganini: Caprices and La Campanella 

- Vieuxtemps' Sonata in B flat, op.36
- Handel-Halvorsen's duos: Passacaglia and Sarabande

- Lilian Fuch's: Sonata Pastorale, probably her 12 Caprices and 16 Fantasy Studies

- Cello concertos: Brahms' Double, Haydn Concerto in D (#2), Dvorak; I am not sure if Schumann or Elgar concertos or Tchaikovsky's Rococo Variations have been transcribed 





Lists of 5 and 10 Inspired by Religious Populations in 2010 According to PEW

I have written about my summary of the PEW study on the now defunct Chinese Forum of Peking University. Essentially this is a research on estimated populations by religious affiliations by all countries of the World - adding up to a total of 6.9B in 2010. After classifying according to my geographical divisions, the results are:


East Asia - 1.6B (including 0.3B Buddhists)

South Asia - 1.6B (including 0.5B Muslims)

Europe and Americas -- 1.7B (including 1.4B Christians)

Middle East and North Africa - 0.6B Muslims

Sub-Sahara Africa -- 0.8B (of which 0.5B Christians, 0.3B Muslims)

Southeast Asia + Oceania -- 0.6B (0.2B each for Christians, Muslims, and Buddhists/Others)


So if I use Religious Affiliations crossed with regions to define the relative strength (population size) of different traditions as of 2010, I can get


Buddhists - 0.5B

East Asia - 1.3B (ex - Buddhists)

South Asia + Hindu - 1.35B (count half of South Asian Muslims)

CWANA + Muslims - 1.35B (1.1B in MENA, Sub-Saharan Africa and SE Asia, and count half of South Asian Muslims)

Western + Christians - 2.4B (1.7B in Europe and Americas, plus 0.7B in Sub-Saharan

African and SE Asia)


Say if I want a list with only 5 canonical texts - I divide 6.9B by 5, each set 1.38B gets one book to represent their tradition, then with rounding I have 1 book each for E. Asia, S. Asia, and CWANA/Mulism, and 2 for West/Christian. This List of 5 would be:


1. Bible

2. Quran

3. Mahabharata

4. Shiji (Historical Records)

5  Shakespeare


The last one I need a work that represents the modern West - and given English as the hegemonic western language, using Shakespeare as the representative seems more relevant than using a Classical Greek/Latin work or Marx. This list of 5 does not have any specific philosophical works. And this is just my List of 6 minus Plato.


Now for a List of 10 canonical texts, each 0.69B of population gets one book to represent their tradition. then with rounding I have:


1 Buddhist work - Samyutta Nikaya

2 East Asia - Shiji, Wang Bi works

2 South Asia -- Mahabharata, Samkara's Brahmasutrabhasya

2 CWANA/Islamicate -- Quran, al-Tabari's History

3 West/Christian -- Bible, Shakespeare, St. Augustine


St. Augustine instead of Plato because Christians are predominant, and having a Latin work (as source of Romance language) makes sense. Each half of the world (e.g. "South" with CWANA+South Asia+Buddhist and "North"; or "East" with E. Asia, South Asia plus Buddhist and "West") will have at least a book representing each of the 4 genre categories (Scriptures, History, Philosophy, Literature).


Using 2010 religious population I can finally get to a somewhat "stable" list of canonical works - though the weakness is obvious - that by 2020 or 2025 or 2050 the sense of porportions would need to be different again!















Classical / Romantic Composers

My recent "listing" interests have shifted to classical music composers and their works.


As with canonical texts, the first thing about starting a list is defining the scope. In the broad sense of classical music, my personal interest is actually quite narrow. I never really learnt or listened much classical music composed from 20th century onwards (I could argue that there isn't enough time to form a canonical opinion, but I wouldn't because in music some status of being "classic" seems to happen much faster than for canonical texts). I tried but never really got to the point that I truly appreciate vocal / choral music, opera included. I am also pretty basic, and am not that interested in digging up great works that ended up not being popular (my last try in here is C.P.E. Bach - but decided at the end that his works are not popular for a reason).


With this frame, the number of composers that matter are really limited!  Especially if we exclude composers with really just one popular piece - like Pachebel, whose canon in D is pretty good music, but even the Gigue in the same piece is almost never played. And the current understanding of western classical history is pretty central European (German) biased (especially against southern Europe - Italy and Spain). So the list of instrumental composers that truly matter in the 18th and 19th century comes down to, in chronological order of great works composed:


1. J.S. Bach - I really never like Bach in any real sense, but any instruments I learn I can't bypass him - violin (Sonatas & Partitas), viola (Cello Suites), piano (Well-Tempered Clavier I&II). He is more fun to play, than to listen. And his music tends to be sad/negative rather than entertaining/uplifting - so out of his massive universe of works, the truly enjoyable ones I feel is only a very small percentage. Before Bach, it feels like pre-history - Corelli, Vivaldi, Purcell. Handel is mostly still in the concert repertoire for his Messiah Oratorio - since I am not into choral music, he is out too.


2. Mozart -- there is a generation of Bach's sons that is skipped. I can't find too many J.C.Bach's works to listen to, and C.P.E. Bach may have a bit of comeback these last decades, but I find most of his works not that interesting. The ones that I think have some potential is his cello concertos. Among this list, Mozart is the only instrumental master who also "made it" in the opera world. His Piano concertos I don't think have ever been really surpassed.


3. Haydn -- why does Haydn come after Mozart? Because Haydn's best / most well-known works nowadays almost all date from 1790's after Mozart's death. He is the father of string quartets and symphonies, but Haydn always feel like a little bit in need of "revival." He is solidly on my list because he is through and through entertaining, and most often uplifting.


4. Beethoven -- he is the central guy in the canon, but unfortunately I can't really seem to get myself to like most of his works, especially his late works that are supposed to be deep. When he wants to be charming though, he could be very charming - think Moonlight piano sonata, Spring violin sonata. My personal favorite is his Bagatelles Op.119.


5. Schubert -- I don't really listen to Lieder, so Schubert is handicapped from the get go on this list; and he is often sad and melancholic -- I give him a pass though as sometimes he is so beautifully sad (think the theme of Arpeggione Sonata). But just the instrumental works he finishes in the last years of his life are more than enough to place him solidly on this list.


6. Chopin -- he is one of the three non-Germanic composers on this list. He mostly only composed for piano, especially miniature piece. He knows rules of composition, but using those rules to create a completely different sound world. My only complain is that he tends to be on the melancholic side, that is why I always feel his prime are in the years of 1829~1834, to me his Preludes are already a hint too "dark" - but you got to give him credit - it is hard for anyone to not like Bach if the only Bach pieces one listens to are his Preludes from Well-Tempered Clavier Books.


7. Mendelssohn -- he may not be deep, but his music is charming. As a violin player, his Violin Concerto always hold a special place in my heart. (And not as sad as Bruch's!) 


8. Tchaikovsky -- yes, you read it right, I flew by Lizst, Berlioz, Schumann. Can't say there are no good Lizst works (his Paganini Etudes are quite nice), but the portion of enchanting music is so small compared to Chopin's. I never got to listen to Schumann's much. Every time I try somehow I am never impressed. Thus the jump directly to Tchaikovsky, his prime in my view are 1775-1880, a full generation after Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto of 1844. His most popular works, not so different from the last two on this list, are primarily symphonic, with some chamber music, and less solo (piano) music.


9. Brahms -- most of his works are too serious for me. But he revitalized symphony as a genre. I can't decide if his youthful works are better than his mature works, but in any case  the center and apex of his opus has to be his Symphony #4, which is in the late 1880's.


10. Dvorak -- The most popular works today of this Czech composers mostly originate in his late period from the late 1880's through right after his expatriate stint in the United States.


This is it, my list of 10 composers. 












Old Lists on Amazon

I just realize this past couple of days that I have been a listmaniac for a long time by now. used to have this "Listmania" function that I used - and the first one I did back in May 2001! Here are the four lists, all on the philosophy genre:


A. 20th Century Religious Philosophy from Different Traditions (May 2001)

- Kant (18th c.)

- Schleiermacher (19th c.)

- Karl Barth

- Paul Tillich

- Karl Rahner

- Hans Ur von Balthasar

- Solovyov (19th c.)

- Berdyaev

- Vladimir Lossky

- Heschel

- Sayyed Hossein Nasr

- Muhammad Iqbal

- Radhakrishnan

- Nishida Kitaro

- Tanabe Hajime

- Tu Wei-ming (because Mou Zong-san didn't have English translations yet then; I now found 2 on Amazon - 19 lectures and autobiography at 50, both published 2015) 


B. Top 10 Western Philosophers (Jun 2001)

- Plato

- Aristotle

- Plotinus

- Augustine

- Aquinas

- Kant

- Hegel

- Marx

- Heidegger

- Habermas


C. Top 10 Pre-modern Asian Philosophers (Apr 2002)

- Zhuangzi

- Nagarjuna

- Vasubandhu

- Buddhaghosa

- Zhiyi

- Kukai

- Sankara

- Zhuxi

- Tsong Kha Ba

- Wang Yangming


D. World Systematic Influential Philosophers Pre-1800 (Aug 2002)

- Plato

- Aristotle

- Mencius

- Zhuangzi

- Nagarjuna

- Vasubandhu

- Plotinus

- Augustine

- Zhiyi

- Zhuxi

- Sankara

- Ramanuja

- Ibn Sina

- Mulla Sadra

- Aquinas

- Gregory Palamas

- Kant







Interesting List of 10 Literature Works

By mortalterror on


1.The Divine Comedy by Dante Alghieri
2.Hamlet by William Shakespeare
3.The Iliad by Homer
4.The Shahnameh by Ferdowsi
5.The Mahabharata by Vyasa
6.The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu
7.The Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin
8.War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
9.The Aeneid by Virgil
10.Don Quixote by Cervantes


There only text that I didn't include in my revised list of 28 is #7, though from a modern perspectives with focus of longer prose like novels, I cannot disagree with mortal error's choice of the Red Chamber over Su Shi or The Odes. 






Progressive Lists of 6 -> 16 -> 28


List of 6

List of 16 (Include column on the left)

List of 28 (include columns on the left)










Modern Western












South Asian


Samyutta Nikaya


Rg Veda


East Asian

Sima Qian

Wang Bi

Zhu Xi

Su Shi


Murasaki Shikibu

I have decided that a List of 10 is not stable. So I have went back to my list of 18, delete Homer and Amir Khusrau from that list to come to a list of 16, and then include the List of 28 which I am still happy with. Pretty sure this is my last thinking on the topic ... for 2015.






List of 10

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.









(This is the condensed version of the list of 100.)

































《東坡全集》- 蘇軾

















List of 6 - again

I have done a list of 6 before, and I have not changed the list.

In the current world of ~7B population, the following has a scale of 1B or more:

Christians (~2.2B according to PEW)

Muslims (~1.6B according to PEW)

Chinese (~1.3B country-wise, and ~1B Chinese-language users according to most sources)

Indians (country-wise ~1.3B, but has maybe ~10% Muslims; Hindu population ~1B according to PEW; and high estimates of Hindi / Urdu users are ~900M, according to Linguasphere)

English L1/L2 users (this may have high overlaps with Christians; but high estimates (also Linguasphere) has it at ~1B L1/L2 speakers)

Adding the early Greeks, it gives the list of 6. The next biggest un-represented group is probably Buddhist, but we are talking the order of half or 1/3 of a billion there; and its textual tradition is more dispersed.

With the recent purchase of Bibek's Debroy's translation of The Mahabharata, I actually have all 6 texts that I can put on my bookshelf! (picture below)








1。《桃源行》(“渔舟逐水爱山春”)7X32=224 (七古)









































100 short works (poems, essays) in ancient Chinese literature 

I am not a literature expert. Recently just scanned through books I have on my shelf and came up with a top 100 list. Something for myself to read and re-read.



























22.《惜誦》( 《九章》)

23.《涉江》( 《九章》)

24.《哀郢》( 《九章》)

25.《抽思 》( 《九章》)

26.《懷沙 》( 《九章》)

27.《思美人 》( 《九章》)

28.《昔往日 》( 《九章》)

29.《橘頌 》( 《九章》)

30.《悲回風 》( 《九章》)






















































《東坡全集》- 蘇軾







《劍南詩稿》- 陸游





















List of 7x4

In another moment of idleness, I was thinking if a list of 28 fits a year's worth of undergrad curriculum, then there could also be a way to build a "clean" list of 28, tapping into the concept of the 7 traditions that first started when I compiled my first List of 36. For every tradition, picking 4 texts - ideally one in each of the 4 genre category I have always been using, would yield another concept for a List of 28. Below is the trial:

Tradition Religious Classics History Philosophy Literature
Chinese  Wang Bi Shiji Zhu Xi Su Shi
Buddhist Samyutta Nikaya Mahavamsha

Tsong Kha Ba

Zhi Yi

Indian Rig Veda N/A Shankara



Islamicate Qur'an al-Tabari al-Ghazali Ferdowsi
Greco-Roman N/A Herodotus Plato



Christian Bible Eusebius Augustine Dante
European N/A Voltaire Marx



Compared with the Revised List of 28 earlier:

This adds: Mahavamsha, Tsong Kha Ba (commentary on Nagarjuna), Zhi Yi (commentary on Vimalakirtinirdesasutra), Eusebius

And takes away: Kant, Tolstoy, Classic of Odes, and Tale of Genji

In summary - beefing up the history genre and the Buddhist tradition, while taking away from Literature and European and East Asian authors. 






List of 28 - Suggested Versions

This is based on my earlier blog post. I tend to like newer and more academic versions.

No Author / Work Suggested Version Comments on Suggested Version
1 Rg Veda The Rigveda  Jamison/Brereton translation, 2014
2 Samyutta Nikaya The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Samyutta Nikaya  Bikkhu Bodhi translation, 2000
3 Mahabharata The Mahabharata: Complete and Unabridged  Bibek Debroy translation, Vol 10 came out Dec 2014
4 Kalidasa Kalidasa: The Loom of Time: A Selection of His Plays and Poems  Chandra Rajan translation, 1989, includes translation of Bengali recension of Meghadutam (poem) and Abhijnanasakuntalam (drama), plus an early work of Kalidasa
5 Shankara Brahma Sutra Bhasya of Shankaracharya  One of the "latest" translation, by Gambhirananda, in 1965. Thibaut version is free online, but no accessible recent reprints
6 Classic of Odes

詩經注析 (Chinese version)


7 Sima Qian 點校本二十四史修訂本:史記 (Chinese version) 趙生群等、2013、繁體
8 Wang Bi 王弼集校釋 (Chinese version) 樓宇烈、1980
9 Murasaki Shikibu 源氏物语 (Chinese version) 林文月、1978、此是2011年的简体版
10 Su Shi 蘇軾選集 (Chinese version) 王水照、1984、選東坡詩、詞、文共300多篇
11 Zhu Xi 四書章句集注 (Chinese version) 新編諸子集成、1983
12 Homer Iliad, Odyssey, and Aeneid box set 
Robert Fagles, 1990 (Iliad), 1996 (Odyssey)
13 Herodotus Herodotus: The History  David Grene, 1987
14 Plato Plato: Complete Works  John Cooper, 1997
15 Virgil Iliad, Odyssey, and Aeneid box set   Robert Fagles, 2006 (Aeneid)
16 Bible The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha: New Revised Standard Version (Fully Revised Fourth Edition)  Oxford NRSV, 2010
17 Augustine The Trinity Edmund Hill, 1991
18 Dante

The Inferno



Robert and Jean Hollander (2000, 2003, 2007)

19 Qur'an The Qur'an  Tarif Khalidi, 2008
20 al-Tabari The History of al-Tabari  Franz Rosenthal, 2007
21 Ferdowsi The Shanameh: The Persian Book of Kings  Dick Davis, 2004
22 al-Ghazali  Alchemy of Happiness  Jay Crook, 2007 - there is no complete translation from Arabic of Revival of Religious Science (there is a complete translation from Urdu though), this is complete translation of Ghazali's own medium-sized version written in Persian 
23 Cervantes Don Quixote  Edith Grossman, 2003
24 Shakespeare  William Shakespeare: Complete Works  RSC Shakespeare, Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen, 2007, based on First Folio
25 Voltaire 风俗论 上册中册、下册  (Chinese version)

No new English translation.


26 Kant  Critique of Pure Reason Cambridge edition, Paul Guyer and Allen Wood, 1998. Many don't like this as much as the Norman Kemp Smith version
27 Marx Karl Marx: Selected Writings, 2nd Edition  David McLellan, 2000 (1st edition 1977)
28 Tolstoy War and Peace Anthony Briggs, 2005





List of 28 - Revised

In a very dreary morning when I needed to wake up at 3:30am, I rethought the recent lists I have made.


- The concept of spending more time to read through 4 texts in details was an intriguing idea at first, but then I realized that the Qur'an was perhaps relatively too short for a detailed read-through vs. the likes of Plato, Mahabharata and Shiji.


- I was also intrigued by using such a detailed early course to read "conjugates" such as Aristotle and Ramayana, but it is not clear if Hanshu or hadith collections are really the right conjugates to be read vs. Shiji or the Qur'an.


- While those thoughts are on hold, I have reviewed the last list of 28, and found that on a canonical basis, it is harder to include Amir Khusraw (especially if we have Ferdowsi to represent Persian-language literature) and Zhiyi (if we really decide that Buddhism should not be over-represented, especially in the case that Nagarjuna is out).


- On Ferdowsi, I have been reading a book on Sadi, and the author said that the top 3 in Persian literature has always been Sadi, Rumi and Hafiz, with Sadi being overshadowed by Hafiz in the 20th century. Ferdowsi is sometimes a 4th, but his stars have been rising in conjunction with Iranian nationalism in the 20th century, and Nezami Ganjavi sometimes a 5th. To me, choice of Hafiz is tough as he was "last of the greats," so hard to justify from influence level. Sadi is hard to pick at this juncture of history, and so I have always been fluctuating between Rumi and Ferdowsi. Ferdowsi has the additional advantage of bringing a non-Islamic (but still Islamicate) aspect into the reading list; the problem is that it is another Epic. 


- With Zhiyi and Amir Khusraw out, then I worry about what 19th century work to include, and after looking through my recent post again, I found the inclusion of Marx and Tolstoy most compelling (especially as Freud's long-term canonicity I still have some doubts).  

- The results are the following revised list which is more skewed towards the West:


Greco-Roman (4): Homer, Herodotus, Plato, Virgil

Christian (3): Bible, Augustine, Dante

Modern Western (6): Shakespeare, Cervantes, Voltaire, Kant, Marx, Tolstoy

Islamicate (4): Quran, al-Tabari, al-Ghazali, Ferdowsi

South Asian (5): Rg Veda, Samyutta Nikaya, Mahabharata, Kalidasa, Shankara

East Asian (6): Odes, Historical Records, Wang Bi, Zhu Xi, Su Shi, Tale of Genji


I found that this list mitigates most of the problems in my list of 25, namely:

- That now I include back in Homer, Virgil, (Classical literature) and Rg Veda (Hindu Religious Classics).

- While continuing to leave Aristotle out (as in List of 50), this no longer includes Zhiyi but excludes Nagarjuna. And this list includes both Marx and Kant.

- Lastly, with Tale of Genji, I was able to include one female author in the list.


So Aristotle continues to be a problem.


This list of 28, also seemingly naturally, starts to repeat the problems identified in the analysis of the list of 36:



1. Secondary civilizational traditions not represented. Examples include: Japanese, Korean, Tibetan, Southeast Asian, Turkish.


2. Secondary traditions within primary traditions not represented. Examples include: Jainism, Bhakti Hinduism, Shiite / Ismaili Islam, Orthodox / Protestant Christianity, Judaism.


3. Secondary modern traditions not represented. Examples include: French, Spanish, Russian, American.


4. Heavy weights given to epics within literature. 5 epics included (Iliad, Mahabharata, Aeneid, Shanameh, Commedia) in list of 36.


Except, that now Japanese is included, and French, Spanish, and Russian literature are all now represented. In this shorter list, the overweight of Epics is even worse.


So, with this revised list of 28, the problems as I continue to see, are:

1. Possibly too skewed towards the West

2. No Aristotle

3. With a list so short, secondary traditions like Jainism, Bhakti, Shiite Islam, etc. are not really represented

4. Overweight of Epics


Now, at this point, I am not too worried about 1), because West (13/28) < 50% of list, West + Islamicate (17/28) > 50%, South (Islamicate + South Asian) > East (9>6). Overall, the key aspects are still not too out of balanced vs. West:East:S Asian;CWANA of 9:6:6:4.


On 2, the old argument still prevails: Herodotus vs. Thucydides, Mahabharata vs. Ramayana, Shankara vs. Ramanuja, Virgil vs. Ovid, Homer vs. Hesiod, Dante vs. Petrarch, Augustine vs. Origen, there is just no good way to include all the later "runner-ups" in a short list.


On 3, this is just a fact of necessity if a short-list is to be maintained.


On 4, I do not feel so bad about it now either, as there are enough novels (Cervantes, Tolstoy, Tale of Genji), drama (Shakespeare, Kalidasa), and short poetry (Odes, Rg Veda, Su Shi), and even prose writers (Voltaire).


All in all, I do feel good about this list of 28.


Additional thoughts as to how an undergrad class can teach this in 2 semesters


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









19th century (1800-1920)

After I did my List of 28 (for one-year undergrad instruction) that I find the need to limit to before 1800 (choosing Kant instead of Marx), I start to feel that an undergrad education that does not include the canonical texts of the 19th century defective. 


Now, because of my theory that it takes at least a century (3 generations) for canonization to solidify, and because of my sheer lack of systematic knowledge of post-1920 humanities (especially literatures), I limit myself to before 1920. But what ends up happening is that the last work chosen is Freud's 1900 Interpretation of Dream. For an undergraduate semester, this list is selected to include 14 texts. In the 19th century, the West definitely dominates - but I still try to make it such that the core areas of UK/France/Germany to account for not more than half of the texts chosen. Also tries to include both thinkers and literary works. (And added in a historian.)


Cannot say this is by any means representative, just a first try.


1. Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice, 1813) - beginning of sentimental novel, the main modern form of literary


2. Goethe (Faust, 1832) - top name in German literature


3. Mickiewicz (Pan Tadeuz, 1834) - revered work in several countries in  Eastern Europe (Poland, Lithuania, Belarus)


4. Sarimiento (Facundo, 1845) - a foundational work of modern Latin American Spanish literature


5. Burckhardt (The Civilization of Renaissance in Italy,1860) - modern history in German; work is foundation of art / cultural history


6. Hugo (Les Miserables, 1862) - Top French literary figure in the 19th century, novel better known outside France (viewed primarily as poet in France) - still basis of movies and broadway play


7. J.S. Mill (Utilitarianism, 1863) - most important Anglo-Saxon political philosopher in the 19th century


8. Ghalib (Diwan, 1869) - most important Urdu / Persian author before 20th c. (Iqbal)


9. Tolstoy (War and Peace, 1869) - representative Russian novel well-studied internationally


10. Fukuzawa (Bunmeiron no Gairyaku, 1875) - paradigmatic Japanese (and subsequently influenced other East Asian thinkers) thinker's response to Western civilization


11. Machado de Assis (The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas, 1881) - Revered Brazilian Portguese author


12. Marx (Das Kapital, 1883) - philosopher, a founder of sociology, major contributor in economics, founder of Communism


13. Abduh (Risalat al-tawhid, 1897) - Paradigmatic response to the West from Islamic / Arabic Egypt


14. Freud (Interpretation of Dreams, 1900) - Founder of modern psychology

This list includes works in English (2), German (4), Polish, Spanish, French, Urdu, Russian, Japanese, Portuguese, and Arabic. Out of world's 12 most widespread languages, only Chinese (no truly paradigmatic works in this transitional period), Bengali (whose major figure Tagore, just like Gandhi and Iqbal, fit more with post-1920 world than before - even though his Gitajanli is pre-1920, but that will be just like Gandhi's Hind Swaraj is pre-1920) and Bahasa Indonesian (not sure what the canonical work there is here). 


Note on Jan 25, 2015: Just finished Mark Sedgwick's 2009 biography of Muhammad Abduh - and learnt that Abduh's Risalat al-tawhid, as translated, is the version edited / tone-changed by Rashid Rida, who was in his outlook much more conservative / fundamentalist than Abduh - was was more pro-European / liberal. Thus likely need to replace item 13 if / when I work on a new version of the list.






List of 28

I was looking at: how many weeks of actual instructions do US undergrad programs have in an academic year. Turns out say in Harvard, there are 2 semesters and each has 16 weeks. But if you deduct a week for exam, and a week roughly of vacation days, then you end up with 14. At Stanford, there are three trimesters, with something like 11-10-9 weeks excluding exam weeks. If you minus ~2 weeks of days off, every year you also have about 28 weeks (=14x2). Assuming you can teach 1 text in a week (would be intensive reading, may need to meet 2-3 times for lectures and discussions), then in a year, to read through things fast, you can do 28 works. Now if you do intensive readings on the most important 4 works for half of the year, then for the remaining half of the year you can read 14 works - that gives an annual reading list of 18 - and for that purpose, I find my list of 18 to be serviceable.


Now for a list of 28 - I look at the list of 25 that I am not so keen on, and say if we have room for 28:


Greco-Roman (4): Homer, Herodotus, Plato, Virgil

Christian (3): Bible, Augustine, Dante

Modern Western (4): Shakespeare, Cervantes, Voltaire, Kant

Islamicate (4): Quran, al-Tabari, al-Ghazali, Ferdowsi

South Asian (6): Rg Veda, Samyutta Nikaya, Mahabharata, Kalidasa, Shankara, Amir Khusrau

East Asian (7): Odes, Historical Records, Wang Bi, Zhi Yi, Zhu Xi, Su Shi, Tale of Genji


Will need to think about if this is a good list. This limits author selection till 1800











List of 150 - Summary of Revisions Being Considered

I have flipped through my blog posts since I put up the List of 150 in April, 2012. Now that 2014 is coming to an end, I think it is a good time I summarize my notes in preparation for the next revision. In this revision, my end date is 1920.


To replace

- Akbarnama --> Babur

- Nietzsche --> Freud

- Jayadeva --> Tagore

- Calvin --> Luther

- Nezam-al-Molk, Rumi --> Nasir-al-Din Tusi, Nezami Ganjavi (?)

- Livy --> Polybius?


To eliminate:

- Bede

- Masudi

- Chaucer?

- Naima? (because Babur is in)

To consider adding:

- Furuzawa?

- Joaquim Maria Machado de Asis?

- Sor Juana or Sarimiento?

- Hikayat Indraputra?

Happy holidays!






Definitive (?) List of 18

So I decide that I do not yet like my attempt several days ago at a list of 10.


I have come up with a List of 18:

Religious Classic History Philosophy Literature Total
West  Bible Herodotus Plato, Augustine, Marx Homer, Shakespeare 7
CWANA Quran al-Tabari al-Ghazali
South Asia Samyutta Nikaya   Sankara


Amir Khusrau

East Asia Wang Bi Sima Qian Zhu Xi Su Shi 4
Total 4 3 6 5 18

After I draw this up, I find that this is very similar to an old list I have done (see #48 of this page), with 3 changes. All these 3 changes I consider breakthrough of different sorts:

1. Take out Nagarjuna, and in fact, take out Buddhism as a major tradition. Compared with Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism, Buddhism is actually much smaller demographically nowadays. But taking this out, I am able to replace with a-Tabari, that helps add the 3rd book to the History genre - which I think helps the genre representation better. 

2. Rethinking literature. Homer is the source of epic, there is no reason to put Virgil in just to represent the substantial but ultimately minor Latin literature. But Latin is an important language to express Christianity, and inclusion of Augustine takes care of that. Shakespeare has to be in. And Persianate culture just needs one representative, I like Amir Khusrau because he is both admired also in Iran, and also the dominant representative of the Persianate culture in South Asia.

3. The biggest breakthrough is to increase the numbers for the Western tradition. I find that while I have been hung up on the ratios across the 4 traditions, i.e. Western: S. Asian: E. Asian: Islamicate should be 54:36:36:24. Now, I figure that  if I think about this as percentages, in a list of 18 works the ratio of 7:4:4:3 (as it is above) the percentages are essentially the same (i.e. 36%:24%: 24%: 16% is virtually the same ratio as 39%: 22%: 22%: 17%). 






Attempt at List of 10

I am re-ordering my book shelves, thus this new thinking:


First, one from each of the 6 traditions (excluding Buddhism):

- Plato (West - Classical - Greek - Philosophy)

Bible (West - Christianity - Hebrew / Greek - Religion)

- Shakespeare (West - Modern - English - Literature)

Quran (CWANA - Islamicate - Arabic - Religion)

Mahabharata (S. Asia - Hindu - Sanskrit - Literature)

Records of the Grand Historian (E. Asia - Confucian / Daoist - Chinese - History)

(This was the List of 6)



- Herodotus (West - Classical - Greek - History)

- Amir Khusrau (S. Asia - Islamicate - Persian - Literature) 

- Nagarjuna / Tsong Kha Ba (S. Asia / E. Asia - Buddhist - Sanskrit / Tibetan - Philosophy)

- Zhu Xi's Commentaries on 4 Books (E. Asia - Confucian - Chinese - Philosophy)



- Area-wise: West (40%), E. Asia (25%), S. Asia (25%), CWANA (10%)

- Tradition-wise: Classical (20%), Islamicate (20%), Confucian (15%), Buddhist (10%), Christian (10%), Hindu (10%), Modern (10%), Daoist (5%)

- Language-wise: Greek (25%), Chinese (20%), Sanskrit (15%), Arabic (10%), Persian (10%), English (10%), Hebrew (5%), Tibetan (5%)

- Genre-wise: Literature (30%), Philosophy (30%), Religion (20%), History (20%)


Ordering Chronologically:

I-1. Herodotus

I-2. Plato

I-3. Mahabharata

I-4. Records of the Grand Historian 

II-5. Bible 

III-6. Quran

V-7. Zhuxi

V-8. Amir Khusrau

V-9. Tsong Kha Ba

VI-10. Shakespeare


So the mix is reasonable by Ancient / Medieval / Modern broad categories (6+ / 3- /1)

Note after 4 days: Having no Latin work but include half a Tibetan work - this can't be balanced.  







Rethinking Criteria - Shorter Western List

Turns out that the revised criteria does not make it much easier to determine books to be represented in a shorter list. The fundamental issues that arise are:

1) Greek tradition to be so early that it could trump later texts to the extent that it is hardly balanced or representative

2) Specialization - there are not many texts or author that has broad "coverage" (across genres), with the clear exception of the Bible, and then Voltaire (he is both historian, thinker and literary author - though arguably he influenced his time more than his texts ended up being canonical), and maybe Cicero, Machiavelli and possibly Marx.

3) Polycentric nature of the "tradition" - you have these pairs like Herodotus vs. Thucydides, Plato vs. Aristotle, Augustine vs. Origen, Kant vs. Marx, Shakespeare vs. Cervantes -- that in a short list one has to just pick one and ignore the other.


The process I ended up trying to apply my criteria are convoluted, first do it by Greco-Roman, Christian, and modern Western separately; then do it by genres separately, and then list out the top ones no matter how one cuts it.


1. Bible - very easily stand out

2, 3. Plato, Herodotus - easy to pick out if one can accept that Thucydides and Aristotle can't be all be represented in a short-list

4. Augustine - also quite clear if there are more than just the Bible representing Christianity. Also the only clear Latin texts.

All these apparently does not cut into the modern Western tradition. In the "balance" of the scheme, in this go-around, I am still going for a 3-3-3 scheme for Greco-Roman, Christian and Modern Western "periods" What I end up having is:


5. Homer (instead of Virgil)

6. Dante (the 3rd texts of Christianity)

7. Shakespeare (English, 17th c.))

8. Marx (instead of Kant, German, 19th c.)

9. Voltaire (instead of Cervantes; it is in a way a choice between French or Spanish; and Voltaire is the only cross-genre polymath around - though any of his texts are likely to be less canonical than Cervantes, or Virgil, or Kant, or Thucydides or Aristotle, for that matter. This is a very hard choice; 18th c.)


I am sure the next time I play with this I will have a different list.


As I read through this pass of text of 25, I feel that many of the criticism I have for the list of 36 continues - for example the focus on Epics - and a main reason is the reputation of excellence that is built in to the current criteria - that makes a truly spreading out to more minor traditions and other types of literature more challenging.






Rethinking Criteria - Shorter CWANA "Reading" List

Applying the revised critera (see here), the CWANA list becomes clear. The issues have always been whether it should be Ibn Sina or al-Ghazali, or whether it is Shahnama or Rumi. 


With the revised criteria, it is clear that al-Ghazali trumps Ibn Sina because of modern continued readership, and Shahnama trumps Rumi because it is at the root of the Persian literary tradition.


So the 4 texts are: Qur'an, al-Tabari, al-Ghazali, Shanama.






Rethinking Criteria - Shorter "South Asian" Reading List

Continuing to try a slightly different instantiation of my "reading" list criteria listed in my last blog post, and try to apply to a select list of South Asian texts, I get the following results:


I. Mahabharata (1)

II. Ramayana, Kalidasa (2)

III. Rg Veda, Early Upanisads, Samyutta Nikaya, Nagarjuna, Amir Khusrau (5)

IV. Shankara, Patanjali, Umasvati (3)


Given the wish to avoid including texts of same category in the same period, Ramayana is out and so the initial list of the 7 are clear. Now early Upanisads are still in the Vedic series, and clearly Shankara needs to be included if a South Asian list includes any philosophical texts (Darsana), it is probably prudent to put it in the short list.


So the final list of 6 are: Mahabharata, Kalidasa, Rg Veda, Samyutta Nikaya, Amir Khusrau, Shankara.


Nagarjuna is hard to judge, it should be in if in the East Asian list Zhiyi is in; but having 3 texts out of a total of 25 (if each of East and South Asian has 6 texts, the total World list will have 25 texts, this is the general balance established in the List of 150) Buddhist feels high. So this is a maybe.









Rethinking Criteria of List - Coming up with a short East Asian "Reading" List

Recently I started thinking about - out of my list of canonical texts, which one should I really spend time to study before it is too late?


I started with the East Asian tradition (the Chinese portion), and found myself selecting texts based on criteria that are not necessarily just "influential", "representative", nor for the list to be "balanced" as laid out in this site's original Concept page.


I ended up thinking about 5 things, which may end up being a better instantiation of the original 3 of "influential", "representative" and "balanced."


1. Texts that are at the root of tradition(s) and/or genre(s)

2. Texts that are currently still very widely read by people in the tradition

3. (relatively less important for me) Texts that are historically influential / significant

Arguably, these are just some parameters of texts being "influential"

4. Excellence - some texts are influential, yet does not have a good reputation of being an excellent text. To me, as a reader now deciding what to read, this trumps "historical significance" considered above.

5. Coverage - this is a hard one to define, but I take it to mean that with one texts it can be considered to be representative of multiple traditions / genres / authors. It may be a "representative" criteria looked at from the perspectives of individual text but not considering the list in total.


I looked at the Chinese texts in my East Asian list, and come up with this ranked groups:


I. Historical Records (1)

II. Wang Bi's Commentaries on Book of Changes and Laozi; Zhu Xi's Commentaries on the Four Books (2)

III. Zhuang Zi's Commentaries by Guo Xiang and Sub-Commentaries by Cheng Xuanying; Correct Meanings of Mao Odes, Selected Literature, 300 Tang Poems, Su Shi (5)


(Notice that all the Buddhist works are outside of this short-list).


Then I pose myself the question, out of group III, if I need to select just 5-6 books from the Chinese tradition, how would I pick given I already has the first 3 - clearly Zhuang Zi is somewhat redundant wtih Wang Bi, so that is out. But among the 4 Literature works:

- Odes are old and Mao odes include layers of Commentaries on Classics, the Odes are classic but the Commentaries are mostly interesting because of historical significance

- Selected Literature is the first summary of the period when Literature became an independent field; its collections include among the more important authors Qu Yuan, the Cao's and Tao Qian. But as a selection it also has many poets no longer widely read or considered very important; while some selections of works before Sima Qian is selected in a limited manner in the Historical Records. But it includes many different genres which speaks to the factor of coverage

- 300 Tang poetry - this is not strong as the root of a tradition but can be considered to be a refounding of the poetic tradition, nor does it covers more than one genre (but it does include 3 main poets Du Fu, Li Bai, Wang Wei plus many more). But this is hugely popular, and Tang poetry are considered exemplary, and historically significant.

- Su Shi is very week as a source of tradition, but he spans many genres in Literature (and also has interesting philosophical, poetical and exegetic works), probably the most reputation author in the history of Chinese literature, still popular nowadays (though probably not so much as Tang poets), and is clearly important historically.


So my ultimate selections among group III?

300 Tang Poetry, and Su Shi. In this case, being at the root of tradition is just not as important to me as a reader. But these are broadly speaking, not texts that are very far apart in too many senses.


And then I feel that if I have to pick between 300 Tang Poetry and Su Shi, I go for the latter as among 300 Tang Poems the only poet I feel is superior to Su Shi is Wang Wei, but the selection's maybe only 10% is with Wang Wei's works. And Wang Wei is less canonized in Tang poetry as Du Fu and Li Bai historically. So here personal taste start to matter, and the subjectively comes into play when considering "Excellence" - which ultimately is a mix of tastes and reputation.


So, if I were just reading for the sake of reading canonical Chinese texts, the 4 will be 1) Historical Records, 2) Commentaries on Four Books; 3) Wang Bi; 4) Su Shi.


This clearly takes out East Asian Buddhism, and no novel / non-Chinese East Asian works. So for "balance", in this round of thinking with a new criteria, and only bring back the view of "balance" at the very end the list of 6 works would add 2 more to the list:


5) Zhiyi (East Asian Buddhism)

6) Tale of Genji (Japanese literature - novel - much earlier than Story of the Stone - and by a female author)







List of 6

I have been trying to focus on history and historiography in my readings and learnings this past while. Have bought a new edition of Sima Qian's Historical Records (or The Grand Historian) (in Chinese, published last year). At the same time, there is a Coursera course offered by Chinese University of HK where the class only do 4 simple sets of readings. All these for some reasons spur my interest to create a short list of 6.


1. Plato's Dialogues - Greco-Roman, Greek, Philosophy

2. Sima Qian's Historical Records - East Asian, Chinese, History

3. The Bible - Christian, Hebrew/Greek/(Latin), Religious Classics

4. Mahabharata - South Asian/Hindu, Sanskrit, Literature (Epic)

5. The Qur'an - Islamicate, Arabic, Religious Classics

6. Shakespeare's Plays (or First Folio) Modern European, English, Literature (Drama)






Attempt at a new "List of 25"

As noted in this post, in thinking about a 2-semester undergrad "World Humanities" curriculum, I dislike the the original "List of 25" on the site.


I took the cue of what I personally like in the simplicity and symmetry of the "List of 16", and try to construct something "simpler," based on the still somewhat complex distribution scheme - 9 texts for Western, 6 texts for East Asian, 6 texts for South Asian, and 4 texts for CWANA - this preserve the ratio envisioned in the List of 150.


CWANA is already existing (based on List of 16): Quran, al-Tabari, Ibn Sina, Rumi. One for each genre, 1 Persian language work that also covers Sufism.


East Asian: I figure that my issue is that I am too "ingrained" in the Buddhist tradition, and thus made some text selection based more on personal preference than actual influence. The 6 texts I am thinking now are: Wang Bi, Sima Qian, Zhuxi, 300 Tang Poems, Jingde Chuandeng Lu, and Tale of Genji.


South Asian: this is tougher, again as there is too much to include - besides the Sanksrit mainstream, has to include something on Buddhism, Bhakti and Islam right? 5 of them is clear: Rg Veda, Samyutta Nikaya, Samkara's Brahmasutrabhasya, Mahabharata, Kalidasa. I am ok to not include Nagarjuna (but then the question is, is this "giving up" an objectively defensible choice based on influenc?); but couldn't decide among Adi Granth (Sikh scripture, but composed mostly of devotional hymn that is somewhat of a confluence of bhakti and Islamic piety, in general characteristics similar to Rg Veda though), or Akbarnama (history work, in Persian; this will give up bhakti, and as a work it is more exemplary, maybe representative of the historical tradition by Muslims in Persian, but clearly not as influential as Nagarjuna), or Amir Khusrau (emblematic of the beginning of a native South Asian Islamic tradition), or Gita Govinda (Vishnaivite bhakti poetry).


Western: with 9 works, the simple rule is to spread out 3-3-3 for Greco-Roman, Christian and modern European. (This is the key to break-out the 2-2-5 allocation in the original List of 25)

Greco-Roman: same as those selected in the List of 16: Herodotus, Plato, Virgil.

Christian: Bible, Augustine, Eusebius (the last represents history, probably less "in vogue" than Dante, but represents the Greek-side of early Christianity - the history is also foundational for western medieval historiography).

Modern European: Kant and Shakespeare are clear. The last one is harder to decide - I am thinking either Tolstoy or Dostoevsky (gives good balance, English, German, Russian all represented; also covered 17th, 18th and 19th century; plus it includes a novelist which is the most dominant literary form since the 19th century, and hailed from different strands of Christianity); or Victor Hugo (to represent French, but how about Voltaire?); but influence-wise can a Tolstoy or Dostoevsky or Hugo compares wtih Marx? 











Columbia's "World Humanities" Offerings (2)

Continuing ...


CLME G4227y The Islamic Context of the Arabian Nights since the Establishment of Baghdad 3 pts. Prerequisites: No prior knowledge of Arabic language is required. This course questions the popular assumption that the tales of the Thousand and One Nights lack any Islamic content and that their fantastic or erotic dimensions are the only dynamic narrative components behind the vogue. This collection is read against a number of contemporaneous writings (in English translation), including al-Hamadan's Manama, to discuss issues that relate to market inspectorships, economy, social order, marginal groups like the mad, the use of public space including the hammed, and the position on fate, destiny, time, afterlife, sex and love. The course takes its starting point from classical Arabic narratives, poetry and epistolary art and follows up the growth of this repository as it conveys, reveals, or debates Islamic tenets and jurists' stand. The course aspires to provide students with a solid and wide range of information and knowledge on Islamic culture since the emergence of the Islamic center in Baghdad (b. 762). Students are expected to develop a critical method and insightful analysis in dealing with the text, its contemporaneous works from among the belletristic tradition and popular lore, its adaptations, and use and misuse in Arabic culture since the ninth century.


MDES G4247x Islamicate Culture in its Islamic and Jewish Forms 3 pts. The historian Marshall Hodgson invented the term "Islamicate" to refer to cultural phenomena which do not pertain to the Islamic religion but which have been historically associated with places in which Muslims live. Thus a synagogue built in Egypt might exhibit Islamicate architecture but would have no formal association with Islam itself. In this course we will read some of the great works written by Muslims and Jews in the medieval Islamic world. We will examine what features of these works made them appealing across religious boundaries. We will explore what makes a work Islamicate and in what ways these features were considered by these authors to be separate from Islam itself. Thus, for example, we will investigate how the works of the Jewish philosopher Maimonides can be Islamicate, but not Islamic and how this made it possible for them to be read and enjoyed by Muslim audiences. All texts will be provided in English translation.


MDES G4623x India Before Colonialism: Culture, Society, Polity 3 pts.Not offered in 2013-2014. This course is designed as an introduction to core topics in the study of South Asia prior to 1800. The course is intended for MA and beginning PhD students as well as upper-level undergraduates who have already taken at least one course in South Asian Studies. It will expose students to the most important new scholarship on cultural, social and political dimensions of the subcontinent during the pre-colonial era. The course will explore three areas of inquiry. The first and most straightforward will look into what we are learning about the actual organization of knowledge in traditional India. The second is how do the readings help us measure, retrospectively, the transformation of knowledge acquisition introduced by European colonialism. The third area concerns questions of scholarship itself; how are objects of analysis identified, or created, in these texts; how is evidence deployed, arguments formulated and knowledge advanced?


CLME G4626x Indo-Persian Literary Culture 3 pts.Not offered in 2013-2014. A wide-ranging exploration of the multiple dimensions and spaces of textual productions of the Indo-Persian literary civilization, from the 10th to the 18th century, examining major texts written in Persian in South Asia (from the qasidas and the masnavis of Mas'ud-e Sa'd Salman and Amir Khusraw to the linguistic writings of Siraj al-Din Arzu), in the context of larger socio-historical and linguistic developments. Special attention paid to the relationship between Persian as a cosmopolitan language in the Subcontinent and the wider Persian-writing and Islamic world, and on the relevant issues of multilingualism and aesthetic transitions.

MDES G4721x Epics and Empires: Shahnameh 3 pts.Not offered in 2013-2014.

CLME G4725x Memory & History in Persian Literature 3 pts.Not offered in 2013-2014. A discussion-based seminar exploring the role and use of memory in the broad domain of Persian textual culture, addressing the relationship between memory and literary creation and reproduction, the tradition of memorialistic and (auto)biographical writings, and the construction and reception of historical identity in the literary space. Special attention paid to the development of the tazkira-genre (broadly speaking, "biography") in Iran and South Asia and the role of the representation of the literary past in shaping ideas of "tradition" and "newness" in the eastern Islamic world.


EARL W4310y Life-Writing in Tibetan Buddhist Literature 4 pts. This course engages the genre of life writing in Tibetan Buddhist culture, addressing the permeable and fluid nature of this important sphere of Tibetan literature. Through Tibetan biographies, hagiographies, and autobiographies, the class will consider questions about how life-writing overlaps with religious doctrine, philosophy, and history. For comparative purposes, we will read life writing from Western (and Japanese or Chinese) authors, for instance accounts of the lives of Christian saints, raising questions about the cultural relativity of what makes up a life's story. Global Core.


AHUM V3830y Colloquium On Modern East Asian Texts 4 pts.AHUM V3400 is recommended as background. Introduction to and exploration of modern East Asian literature through close reading and discussion of selected masterpieces from the 1890s through the 1990s by Chinese, Japanese, and Korean writers such as Mori Ogai, Wu Jianren, Natsume Soseki, Lu Xun, Tanizaki Jun'ichiro, Shen Congwen, Ding Ling, Eileen Chang, Yi Sang, Oe Kenzaburo, O Chong-hui, and others. Emphasis will be on cultural and intellectual issues and on how literary forms manifested, constructed, or responded to rapidly shifting experiences of modernity in East Asia. Global Core.


AHUM W4029x Colloquium on Major Works of Chinese Philosophy, Religion, and Literature 4 pts. Prerequisites: AHUM 3400, ASCE V2361, or ASCE V2002. Reading and discussion of major works of Chinese philosophy, religion, and literature, including important texts of the Buddhist and Neo-Confucian traditions. Sequence with AHUM W4030, but either may be taken separately if the student has adequate preparation.


AHUM W4030y Colloquium on Major Works of Japanese Philosophy 4 pts. Prerequisites: AHUM V3400ASCE V2361, or ASCE V2002 Reading and discussion of major works of Japanese philosophy, religion, and literature from the 14th through 18th centuries. Major Cultures Requirement: East Asian Civilization List B. Global Core.


EAAS W3928x Japanese Literature: Beginning to 1900 3 pts. An examination of the major genres -- poetry, prose fiction, historical narrative, drama, and philosophical writing -- of Japanese literature from the ancient period up to 1900 as they relate to larger historical changes and social, political and religious cross-currents. Major Cultures Requirement: East Asian Civilization List B.


EAAS W4009y Introduction to Classical Chinese Poetry 3 pts. This course introduces Classical Chinese poetry from its beginnings to the Song dynasty (960-1279). Readings consist entirely of primary texts in English translation.


EAAS W4031x or y Introduction to the History of Chinese Literature 3 pts. An introduction to the major narrative genres, forms and works from the beginning through to 900 C.E. Readings in English. Major Cultures Requirement: East Asian Civilization List B.


EAAS W4031y Introduction to the History of Chinese Literature (9th Century through the 19th Century) ENG 3 pts. An introduction to the major narrative genres, forms and works from the 9th Century through the 19th Century. Readings in English.


EAAS W4553 Survey of Tibetan Literature 4 pts. An introduction to Tibetan literary works (all in English translation) spanning fourteen centuries, form the Tibetan imperial period to the present-day. Close readings of texts and discussion of the genres they represent are supplemented by biographical material for each author. Special emphasis is placed on vernacular and popular literature, as well as landmark works from the post-Mao period. The questions explored include: What are the origins or inspiration for the literary work(s) assigned? In what ways have Tibetan literary forms and content developed throughout history? How has the very concept of "Tibetan literature" been conceived, especially vis a vis works by Tibetan authors writing in Chinese and English? Above all, how have Tibetan writers and scholars - past and present - negotiated literary innovation?


In the above, I have also tried to exclude (as I did for Harvard) courses that requires language skills. On my 5 criticism of Harvard's curriculum, here is how Columbia seems to compare


1.Not studying canonical history texts - Columbia a tiny bit better than Harvard in that Herodotus and Thucycdides are in the Core Curriculum.


2. No surveys of global or regional historiographical traditions (except one optional seminar for History Majors) - Columbia more explicit courses on this than Harvard - has a course on Historiography of East Asia focusing on traditional texts.


3. No world-wide intellectual history survey course - Columbia also has none.


4. Insufficient courses on specific non-Western authors/texts - Columbia is probably even worse than Harvard. But Columbia is better than Harvard in that it surveys more of the sub-traditions and their canonical texts (e.g. Hindu Bhakti, Indo-Persian, serial courses on Chinese and Japanese literatures.) Also courses are also more "schematic" and less "issues-based." 



5. Relative weakness in on South Asian tradition (vs. Harvard's other Departments) - I have to say that Columbia is a bit more balanced than Harvard in that from the scan East Asia is the prime focus, but it is not clear South Asia is much "shorted" vs. Middle-East / Islamic tradition(s). 


Generally the focus that surfaced from Columbia's bulletin is that it is more based on traditional texts. On their MESSAS and East Asian deparments there are also quite a bit of courses on contemporary issues. Also, just like Harvard, Columbia also seems to have nothing on Southeast Asia.


The bolded items above are research / curriculum development areas needed "World Humanities" as a field for undergrad education.






Columbia's "World Humanities" Course Offerings (1)

My earliier post on Columbia may have sounded a bit critical. But that was just regarding how western bias the Core Curriculum is. Now if we look at it from the angle of having a major or minor that allows undergrad to know enough about "World Humanities," the question becomes a different one because the 4 semesters of on Western textual traditions is already quite well-covered, leaving the need to only introduce students to the 2(-3) text-based civilizations.


I looked briefly at the undergrad Major and Concentration (sounds like this is what Columbia is terming its Minor), and it does look like overall the course requirements are more prescription (more specific requirements), and more demanding in terms of language requirements. But that is for another post.


Here I want to capture the courses I find in Columbia, especially in the context of my earlier criticism of Harvard's offerings, which are:

1.Not studying canonical history texts

2. No surveys of global or regional historiographical traditions (except one optional seminar for History Majors)

3. No world-wide intellectual history survey course

4. Insufficient courses on specific non-Western authors/texts

5. Relative weakness in on South Asian tradition (vs. Harvard's other Departments)


Below are some of the courses I find in Columbia's College (undergraduate) Bulletin that speaks to the above:


HIST W2901y Historical Theories and Methods 3 pts.Not offered in 2013-2014. Designed to replace the History Lab and Historian's Craft, HIST W2901 "Historical Theories and Methods" (formerly titled "Introduction to History") offers a new approach to undergraduate introductory courses on historical practice and the history of history. The course combines an overarching lecture component consisting of one lecture per week of 75 minutes with a two-hour "laboratory" component that will meet weekly at first, then less often as the semester progresses. The course aims to introduce students to broad theoretical and historiographical themes while drawing on those themes in providing them skills in actual historical practice, in preparation for the writing of a senior thesis or extended research paper. It is required that juniors planning to write a senior thesis take this course in the spring semester in preparation for their projects. Students who plan on studying abroad during the spring term must take HIST W4900 The Historian's Craft in the fall term as a replacement. Field(s): METHODS


LACV C1020x Primary Texts of Latin American Civilization 4 pts. This course is part of the Global Core of Columbia College. It focuses on key texts from Latin America in their historical and intellectual context and seeks to understand their structure and the practical purposes they served using close reading and, when possible, translations. The course seeks to establish a counterpoint to the list of canonical texts of Contemporary Civilization. The selections are not intended to be compared directly to those in CC but to raise questions about the different contexts in which ideas are used, the critical exchanges and influences (within and beyond Latin America) that shaped ideas in the region, and the long-term intellectual, political, and cultural pursuits that have defined Latin American history. The active engagement of students toward these texts is the most important aspect of class work and assignments. Global Core.


HIST W4713x or y Orientalism and the Historiography of the Other 4 pts.Not offered in 2013-2014.This course will examine some of the problems inherent in Western historical writing on non-European cultures, as well as broad questions of what itmeans to write history across cultures. The course will touch on therelationship between knowledge and power, given that much of the knowledge we will be considering was produced at a time of the expansion of Western power over the rest of the world. By comparing some of the "others" which European historians constructed in the different non-western societies they depicted, and the ways other societies dealt with alterity and self, we may be able to derive a better sense of how the Western sense of self was constructed. Group(s): C Field(s): ME


HIST W4718x Theories of Islamic History 4 pts.Not offered in 2013-2014. Unlike European history, which divides into generally agreed upon eras and is structured around a clear narrative of religious and political events from Roman times down to the present, the broad sweep of Islamic and Middle Eastern history appears in quite different lights depending on who is wielding the broom. Theories of Islamic history can embody or conceal political, ethnic, or religious agendas; and no consensus has gained headway among the many writers who have given thought to the issue. The study of theories of Islamic history, therefore, provides a good opportunity for history majors to explore and critique broad conceptual approaches. A seminar devoted to such explorations should be a valuable capstone experience for studnets with a special interest in Islam and the Middle East. One or two works will be read by the entire class each week, and two students will be assigned to lead the discussions of the week's readings. Grades for the course will be based half on class participation and half on a 15-page term paper devoted to a topic approved by the instructor. Field(s): ME


HIST W4768x Writing Contemporary African History 4 pts.Not offered in 2013-2014. An exploration of the historiography of contemporary (post-1960) Africa, this course asks what African history is, what is unique about it, and what is at stake in its production. Field(s): AFR


HIST W4803y Subaltern Studies and Beyond: History and the Archive 4 pts.Not offered in 2013-2014. This is an advanced undergraduate seminar course that will retrace the history of the making of the Subaltern Studies problematic, considered a major intervention in both Indian nationalist history and the wider discipline of history itself, with a focus on the relationship between method, archives, and the craft of history writing. Group(s): A, CFields: *SA


HSEA W4890y Historiography of East Asia 3 pts. This course is designed primarily for majors in East Asian studies in their junior year; others may enroll with the instructor's permission. Major issues in the practice of history illustrated by critical reading of important historical works on East Asia. Group(s): A, CField(s): EA


HIST W4900x or y Historian's Craft 4 pts. Intended for history majors this course raises the issues of the theory and practice of history as a discipline. Considers different approaches to the study of history and offers an introduction to research and the use of archival collections. Special emphasis on conceptualization of research topics, situating projects historiographically, locating and assessing published and archival sources.Field(s): METHODS


HIST BC4904x or y Introduction to Historical Theory and Method 4 pts. Prerequisites: Prerequisites: Permission of the instructor. Enrollment limited to 15. Preregistration required. Preference to JUNIOR and SOPHOMORE Majors. Fulfills General Education Requirement (GER); Historical Studies (HIS). Confronts a set of problems and questions attached to the writing of good history by examining the theories and methods historians have devised to address these problems. Its practical focus: to prepare students to tackle the senior thesis and other major research projects. The reading matter for this course crosses cultures, time periods, and historical genres. Fulfills all concentrations within the history major. Field(s): METHODS


PHIL G4095x Medieval Hebrew Philosophical Texts 3 pts. Selected readings in major medieval Hebrew philosophic texts. Works discussed include: Maimonides' Book of Knowledge, Shemtob Falaquera's Epistle of the Debate, Gersonides' War of the Lord, Hasdai Crescas' Light of the Lord, and joseph Albo's Book of Principles. Focus will be on basic problems concerning reason and religion; ethics, politics, and law.


PHIL G4170x Medieval Philosophy 3 pts. Latin, Arabic, and Hebrew philosophy from the 4th to the 14th century, including Augustine, Alfarabi, Avicenna, Anselm, Ibn Gabirol, Averroes, Maimonides, Aquinas, Duns Scotus, and Crescas.


RELI V2005x Buddhism: Indo-Tibetan 3 pts. Historical introduction to Buddhist thought, scriptures, practices, and institutions. Attention given to Theravada, Mahayana, and Tantric Buddhism in India, as well as selected non-Indian forms. Recitation Section Required.


RELI V2008x Buddhism: East Asian 3 pts. Lecture and discussion. An introductory survey that studies East Asian Buddhism as an integral , living religious tradition. Emphasis on the reading of original treatises and historiographies in translation, while historical events are discussed in terms of their relevance to contemporary problems confronted by Buddhism. Global Core.


RELI V2105y Christianity 3 pts. Survey of Christianity from its beginnings through the Reformation. Based on lectures and discussions of readings in primary source translations, this course will cover prominent developments in the history of Christianity. The structure will allow students to rethink commonly held notions about the evolution of modern Christianity with the texture of historical influence.


RELI V2205y Hinduism 3 pts. The origin and development of central themes of traditional Hinduism. Emphasis on basic religious literature and relation to Indian culture. Readings include original sources in translation. Discussion Section Required. Global Core.


RELI V2405y Chinese Religious Traditions 3 pts. Development of the Three Teachings of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism: folk eclecticism; the contemporary situation in Chinese cultural areas. Readings drawn from primary texts, poetry, and popular prose. Global Core.


RELI V3205y Vedic Religion 3 pts.Not offered in 2013-2014. Introduction to the religion and culture of India during the Vedic period, ca. 1700-700 B.C. Concentrates on sacred texts from the Rig-Veda toUpanishads.


RELI V3314y Qu'ran in Comparative Perspective 3 pts.Not offered in 2013-2014. This course develops an understanding of the Qu'ran's form, style, and content through a close reading of comparable religious texts. Major topics include the Qu'ranic theory of prophecy, its treatment of the biblical tradition (both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament), and its perspective on the pre-Islamic pagan religion.


RELI V3410y Daoism 3 pts. Philosophical ideas found in the Daode jing, Zhuangzi, hagiographies and myths of gods, goddesses and immortals, psycho-physical practices, celestial bureaucracy, and ritual of individual and communal salvation. Issues involved in the study of Daoism, such as the problematic distinction between "elite" and "folk" traditions, and the interactions between Daoism and Buddhism.


RELI V3515x Readings in Kabbalah 3 pts.Not offered in 2013-2014. This course will serve to provide a wide but detailed exploration of Jewish Mysticism, raising questions about its connection to other Jewish traditions, the kind of symbolism and hermeneutics at stake, and the conception of God, man and world we are dealing with, amongst other major ideas.



RELI V3535x or y Introduction to Rabbinic Literature 3 pts.Not offered in 2013-2014. Examines the differences between Halakha (the legal portion of the Talmud) and Aggadah (the more legal portion) with respect to both content and form. Special emphasis on selections from the Talmud and Midrash that reflect the intrinsic nature of these two basic genres of rabbinic literature.


RELI W4011y The Lotus Sutra in East Asian Buddhism 4 pts.Not offered in 2013-2014. Prerequisites: Open to students who have taken one previous ocurse in either Buddhism, Chinese religions, or a history course on China or East Asian. The course examines some central Mahayana Buddhist beliefs and practices through an in-depth study of the Lotus sutra. Schools (Tiantai/Tendai, Nichiren) and cultic practices such as sutra-chanting, meditation, confessional rites, and Guanyin worship based on the scripture. East Asian art and literature inspired by it.


RELI W4205y Love, Translated: Hindu Bhakti 4 pts. Hindu poetry of radical religious participation-bhakti-in translation, both Sanskrit (the Bhagavad Gita) and vernacular. How does such poetry/song translate across linguistic divisions within India and into English? Knowledge of Indian languages is welcome but not required. Multiple translations of a single text or poet bring to light the choices translators have made.


RELI W4330x Seminar on Classical Sufi Texts 4 pts.Not offered in 2013-2014. Prerequisites: Instructor's permission. Close study of pivotal texts from the classical periods of Islamic mysticism, including works by Hallaj, Attar, Rumi, In Arabi, and others (all texts in English translation).


RELI W4503x Readings from the Sephardic Diaspora 4 pts.Not offered in 2013-2014. Prerequisites: instructor's permission Close readings of some canonical 15th- and 16th-century works (in translation) from the Sephardic diaspora that touch on theology, philosophy, ethics and mysticism.

RELI W4507x Readings in Hasidism 4 pts.Not offered in 2013-2014. Prerequisites: At least one previous course on Judaism or familiarity from elsewhere with the normative, traditional Judaism. An exploration of Hasidism, the pietist and mystical movement that arose in eastern Europe at the beginning of the eighteenth century. Hasidism stands as perhaps the most influential and significant movement within modern Judaism.

RELI W4508y Jewish Philosophy and Kabbalah 4 pts.Not offered in 2013-2014. The purpose of this seminar is to study the interactions between two major intellectual trends in Jewish History, the philosophical and the mystical ones. Focusing on the medieval period but not only, we will discuss their interactions, polemics and influences. We will compare Philosophy and Kabbalah in light of their understanding of divine representation and in light of their respective Theology and conception of God.


I have pasted some course descriptions for History; Comparative Literrature and Society; Philosophy; and Religion courses. Mostly courses selected with some explicit mentions of reading of primary texts. Several observations:

1) Quite a lot on Jewish tradition, possibly related to the presence of big Jewish communities in New York City, where Columbia is.

2) On historiography, the 4713 - 4890 above is quite nice, especially impressed is HSEA W4890y on East Asia. There is half a semester in the introductory class on history of history also - but not more than that unfortunately.

3) The study of religions is quite explicitly traditional text-based, and also has some interesting courses focusing on particularly Asian religious texts like Lotus Sutra, Vedic texts. The inclusion of coverage of classic Sufi texts, Daoism, Hindu Bhakti are all "nice touches" in the curriculum.


Next we will be looking at the courses offered by MESSAS and East Asian Department.






Columbia's Reading Lists

I kept thinking about where South Asian Studies may be strong, and I recall Columbia where Sheldon Pollock (Sanskritist) and Fran Prichett (Urdu-ist) teach. I looked at Columbia when I wrote this post, but left this train of thought after confirming that East Asian Languages and Cultures is a full department while South Asian Studies is just part of "Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies." (MESAAS)


Now that I have thought through what preliminarily World Humanities may mean, and come back to the thought as to how the World Canonical Text List on this site maybe used to construct specific courses as undergrad curriculum, I found Columbia is thinking about this in a way that has some similarity to my current thinking.


1. First, in the famous (or notorious in some circles, but definitely NOT for me!) Core Curruculum, there are clearly less choices for students, and forces everyone to take 6 classes (Columbia is also 4-year 2-semester system, so each class here is just like a "half-course" in Harvard, though each class in Columbia is awarded different "points") focusing on Western civilization, 4 is text-based, and 1 each in western art and music. And then the non-Western-based departments are grouped in "East Asian" and "MESAAS", which is essentially how I think of global regions in terms of West, East, South (stated in this post).


2. Columbia's Reading List for the 4 Western canonical text classes can be found in these 2 pdf links ("Contemporary Civilization" and "Literature Humanities") Just in case it will change in the future, I will capture the texts read in these two courses:


Plato, Republic (Hackett)
Nicomachean Ethics (Oxford) Aristotle, Politics (Hackett)
On Moral Ends (Cambridge)
The Holy Bible (Revised Standard Edition)

Augustine, City of God (Penguin)
The Meaning of the Holy Qur’an (Amana)

Machiavelli, The Prince (Hackett)
The Discourses (Penguin)

Descartes, Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy (Hackett)

The Protestant Reformation (Harper & Row)

Hobbes, Leviathan (Oxford)
Political Writings, Wootton, ed. (Hackett) 978-08722067 


Hume, An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals (Hackett)

Rousseau, The Basic Political Writings (Hackett)

Smith, Wealth of Nations (Modern Library)

Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (Cambridge)

Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (Oxford)

Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (Dover)

Tocqueville, Democracy in America (Penguin)

Mill, On Liberty and Other Essays (Oxford)

Marx-Engels Reader (Norton)
Darwin, Norton Critical Edition (Norton)

Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals / Ecce Homo (Vintage)

Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (Dover)

Freud, Freud Reader, ed. Gay. (Norton)
The Wretched of the Earth (Grove)
Selected Political Writings (Hackett)
Three Guineas, Annotated Edition (Harcourt) 978- 0156031639 


Homer, Iliad (U. of Chicago, tr. Lattimore)
, Odyssey (Harper, tr. Lattimore)
Oresteia (Aeschylus I, U. of Chicago, tr. Lattimore)
, Oedipus the King (Sophocles I, U. of Chicago, tr. Grene & Lattimore) Euripides, Medea (U. of Chicago, tr. Warner)
The Histories (Oxford, tr. Robin Waterfield)
History of Peloponnesian War (Penguin, tr. Warner)
Lysistrata (Penguin, tr. Sommerstein)
, Symposium (Hackett, trs. Nehamas, Woodruff)
Bible: Revised Standard Version (Meridian)

Virgil, Aeneid (Bantam, tr. Mandelbaum)
Metamorphoses (Penguin, tr. Raeburn)
Confessions (Oxford, tr. Chadwick)
Inferno (Bantam, tr. Mandelbaum)
Essays (Penguin, tr. Cohen)
King Lear (Pelican)
Don Quixote (Harper Collins, tr. Grossman)
Faust (Bantam Classics, tr. Salm)
Pride and Prejudice (Oxford)

Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment (Vintage, trs. Pevear & Volokhonsky)

Woolf, To the Lighthouse (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich) 


3. In my list of 54 Western works, even though the works chosen are not the same, it has many overlaps with Columbia's list. What I have not chosen are Hobbes, Rousseau, Adam Smith, Burke, Wollstonecraft, Tocqueville, Darwin, Du Bois, Freud, Fanon, Gandhi, Woolf, Aeschylus, Euripides, Aristophanes. (I don't have Dostoevsky in my List of 150, but has it in my list of 100 when Tolstoy and Solovyov gets "compressed" into Dostoevsky). For what I didn't include, partially it can be explained by i) I specifically stop my list at around 1900 (thus no Freud, Fanon, Gandhi, Woolf); ii) I don't have a specific agenda to include current academic emphasis on gender / ethnic studies (thus no Wollstonecraft, Du Bois); iii) I do not include scientist (thus no Darwin). For Hobbes, Rousseau, Smith, Tocqueville, and the Greek dramatists, I chose instead Gibbon (not Hobbes), Voltaire (not Rousseau), Chaucer + Milton + Lyrical Ballads (not Smith), de Acosta + Whitman + William James (not Tocqueville) and Sapphos + Plotinus + Lives of Eminent Philosophers (over Aeschylus + Euripides + Aristophanes, given Sophocles is already on). I can see why Columbia as an US institutions made such a choice, but the lack of focus on the broader Christian tradition and Romance literature is something to consider in the Columbia's list. Also, the lack of any history work after Herodotus and Thucydides is just another reflection of canonical "historical" texts being almost completely driven away from Humanities in US. 


4. Then in the Global Core Requirement (where there are many electives, all undergrad needs to pick two) there are two classes which is like a "mirror" to this set of western texts, one for "East Asia" (AHUM V3400) and one for "Middle East and South Asia" (AHUM V3399)


AHUM V3399x Colloquium on Major Texts: Middle East and South Asia 3 pts. Readings in translation and discussion of texts of Middle Eastern and Indian origin. The Qur'an, Islamic philosophy, Sufi poetry, the Upanishads, Buddhist sutras, the Bhagavad Gita, Indian epics and drama, and Gandhi'sAutobiography.Global Core.


AHUM V3400x and y Colloquium on major texts: East Asia 4 pts.AHUM V3399 and AHUM V3400 form a sequence but either may be taken separately. AHUM V3399 may also be taken as part of a sequence with AHUM V3830. Readings in translation and discussion of texts of Middle Eastern, Indian, Chinese, and Japanese origin, including the Analects of Confucius, Mencius, Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, the Lotus Sutra, Dream of the Red Chamber, Tale of Genji, Zen literature, Noh plays, bunraku (puppet) plays, Chinese and Japanese poetry. Global Core.


5. In the short "Middle East and South Asian" list, the focus for Islam is religious and thus missing Arabic history and literature; in the South Asian list given such a short list I think it is ok, though the focus is so "early" (I guess the Indian drama stops at best in the 7th century if not the 3rd for Kalidasa) and then the jump to Gandhi is just glaring - I thinks what is clearly shorted is the Indian philosophical tradition after Upanisads and Buddhist Sutras, the Bhakti traditions. In the East Asian list Chinese history (the bulk of canonical texts in volume terms!) is missing, and probably over-representation of the Japanese literary tradition while underplayed Neo-Confuciansim, Buddhist philosophy, religious Daoist, Shinto and Buddhism in general.


6. It looks like a semester can do ~10+ authors/texts - so as I think about "curriculum" the one-semester version should probably has about 12 texts (like this one), and year-long sequence has about 25 (like this one). And if it is like Columbia which can force all students into 4-course (or more) sequence, it will be an author list of ~50 (like this one).


7. BTW, Columbia requires all student to attend one foreign language proficiency to the level at the end of second-year; or take 4 semesters in one language. More stringent than Harvard, further reinforcing its self-image of being a Arts & Humanities-focused school (the Arts part being the requirement for western Arts and Music Humanities). 






World Canonical Texts and Area Studies

As I am looking at school lists, I occurs to me that World Canonical Texts as a project, is very similar to part of "Area Studies" - which usually studies the language(s), literature(s), history, philosophies / religions, and possibly contemporary economic, political and other issues concerning the area or cultures or civilization, however defined. 


It seems that World Canonical Texts, is essentially a portion of the project to try to look at the World in the manner of Area Studies - with the only difference being that the area in question is bigger - in fact, the World.






Encyclopedia of Literary Translation into English

This is a "trade" style  encyclpedia published in 2000 - essentially covering the same topic as the Oxford Guide I just posted about. Below are the number of entries under each language, ordered from the most represented language down:


1. French (106)

2. German (65)

3. Spanish (45)

4. Russian (40)

5. Italian (38)

6. Greek (33 - 24 Ancient, 9 Modern)

7. Latin (29); Chinese (29)

9. Arabic (23)

10. Japanese (17)

11. Dutch (11)

12. Portuguese (10)

13. Czech (9); Persian (9); Polish (9)

16. Hungarian (8)

17. Danish (5), Norwegian (5), Sanskrit (5, Kalidasa, Mahabharata, Ramayana), Serbo-Croat (5)

21. Swedish (4)

22. Bengali (3, Tagore), Hindi (3, Kabir, Tulsidas)

24. Catalan (2, Ramon Llull), Gaelic (2), Hebrew (2 - Ancient and Modern, Bible), Korean (2), Urdu (2, Ghalib - also listed under Persian)

29. Akadian (1), Albanian (1), English (1, Beowulf), Estonian (1), Finnish (1), Latvian (1), Old Norse (1, Egil's Saga), Slovak (1), Turkish (1), Welsh (1), African Languages (1) 


French is 20% of the world's total of 532!






Oxford Guide to Literature in English Translation: Analysis

Looking at the Table of Contents, on the top level (within each group in order of number of sub-sections in a chapter)


- The Bible (the only one that is not referring to languages)

- Single Language: French, German, Italian, Greek, Latin, Russian, Arabic

- Small-area language groups: Central and East European Languages, Northern European Languages,Celtic Languages, Hebrew and Yiddish

- Big-area language groups: Hispanic Languages, East Asian Languages, African Languages, Indian Languages, West Asian Languages


Roughly, this is a hierarchy being centered in Western Europe - (Bible - probably the author does not want to classify it as a Latin, or Greek or Hebrew work), French, German, Ialian, groups of European languages (the name of Hispanic Languages is curious - first time I saw people refer to Portuguese as a Hispanic language), classical European languages, Russian, Arabic, and then East Asian, African, Indian (also curious that Indian is so low in the hierarchy for a British work), and West Asian.


It is clear that for the least important languages, they would not even have their own independent sections; more important ones have one section of their own, then some will have split into periods, then into genres; then into genre-periods; and then there will be mention of individual authors and works.


On a sub-section basis, one can give the following hierarchy:

French > German = Italian > Greek = Latin > Spanish > Russian > Arabic > Chinese = Japanese > Portuguese = Polish > Gaelic > Welsh = Norwegian = Swedish = Persian > Sanskrit = Tamil > Afrikaans = Armenian = Bulgarian = Georgian = Hungarian = Romanian = Serbo-Croat = Ukrainian = Korean = Hebrew = Yiddish = Catalan (but no Basque!) = Old English = Old Norse / Icelandic = Danish = Dutch = Icelandic = Turkish > Czech = Slovak = Finnish = Finland-Swedish > East African = West African = South African = Modern Indian = Ancient Mesopotamian


On a genre-basis, it recognizes:

Poetry (Epics [and Romances], Lyrics, Pastoral, Epigram, Satire, 

Devotional Writing), Prose (History, Biography, "Thinkers", Philosophy, Oratory), Fiction (Picareque Novels), Drama


And lastly, just looking at the table of contents, one can pick out the following works / authors (altogether 48):


Bible > The Koran = The Mu'allaqat = The Muqaddimah = The Thousand and One Nights = Naguib Mahfouz = La Fontaine = Baudelaire = Proust = Beckett = Goethe = Heine = Marx = Nietzsche = Freud = Rilke = Aeschylus = Sophocles = Euripides = Aristophanes = Cervantes = Camoes = Dante = Boccacio = Aristo = Tasso = Leopardi = Pirandello = Lucretius = Virgil = Horace = Ovid = Kalevala = Ibsen = Strindberg = Pushkin = Tolstoy = Dostoevsky = Chekhov > Rabelais = Montaigne = Kant = Hegel  = Pulci = Boiardo > Hugo = Homer = Goldini






Oxford Guide to Literature in English Translation: Table of Contents

Found this book in the library - found this interesting again from a World Canon perspectives. For a somewhat "limited" version of a World Canon (e.g. a List of 150), one may feel that if an author/work has not been translated into English, it most likely should not be in the list to start with. Now, for a work like this (edited in Britain, in 2000), there is clearly a British / English slant to the selection. Below is the Table of Contents for Part II:


a. African Langauges

1. Introduction 2. East African Languages 3. West African Languages 4. Languages of South Africa 5. Afrikaans


b. Arabic

1. Introduction 2. The Koran 3. The Mu'allaqat 4. The Muqaddimah 5. The Thousand and One Nights 6. Modern Literature 7. Naguib Mahfouz


c. The Bible

1. The Bible in English 2. The Authorized Version and English Literature


d. Celtic Languages

1. Introduction 2. Early Irish / Gaelic 3. Medieval Welsh 4.Scottish Gaelic 5. Modern Irish (Gaelic) 6. Modern Welsh


e. Central and East European Languages

1. Armenian 2. Bulgarian 3. Czech and Slovak 4. Georgian 5. Hungarian 6. Polish Poetry 7. Polish Fiction 8. Polish Drama 9. Romanian 10. Serbo-Croat 11. Ukrainian


f. East Asian Languages

1. Chinese: Introduction 2. Chinese Poetry 3. Chinese Prose 4. Chinese Fiction 5. Japanese: Introduction 6. Japanese Poetry 7. Japanese Fiction 8. Japanese Drama 9. Korean


g. French

1. Introduction 2. Troubadours and Trouveres 3. Medieval Literature 4. Poetry 1450-1620 5. Renaissance Prose: Rabelais and Montaigne 6. Classical Drama 7. La Fontaine 8. Thinkers 1630-1780 9. Nineteenth-Century Fiction 10. Poetry since Hugo 11. Baudelaire 12. Twentieth-Century Fiction 13. Proust 14. Beckett 15. Twentieth-Century Thinkers 16. Francophone Writing outside France


h. German

1. Introduction 2. Medieval Literature 3. Poetry 1750-1850 4. Drama 1770-1850 5. Goethe 6. Heine 7. Kant, Hegel, and Romantic Philosophy 8. Marx 9. Nietzsche 10. Freud 11. Fiction: Nineteenth and Twentieth Century 12. Drama since 1880 13. Poetry since 1850 14. Rilke


i. Greek

1. Introduction 2. Homer and Other Epics 3. Aeschylus 4. Sophocles 5. Euripides 6. Aristophanes 7. Lyric, Pastoral, and Epigram 8. Classical Philosophy 9. Attic Oratory 10. History 11. Biography, Fiction, and Other Prose 12. Modern Greek


j. Hebrew and Yiddish

1. Hebrew 2. Yiddish


k. Hispanic Languages

1. Introduction 2. Medieval Spanish Literature 3. Spanish Poetry. Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century 4. Spanish Golden Age Drama  5. Cervantes 6. Picaresque Novels 7. Spanish Poetry: Nineteenth and Twentieth Century 8. Spanish Prose: Nineteenth and Twentieth Century 9. Twentieth-Century Spanish Drama 10. Latin American Poetry in Spanish 11. Latin American Fiction in Spanish 12. Catalan Literature 13. Camoes 14. Modern Portuguese Literature 15. Brazilian Literature


l. Indian Languages

1. Introduction 2. Sanskrit 3. Classical Tamil 4. Medieval Devotional Writing 5. Modern Indian Languages


m. Italian

1. Introduction 2. Dante 3. Boccacio 4. Early Lyric Poetry 5. Epic and Romance: Pulci and Boiardo 6. Epic and Romance: Ariosto 7. Epic and Romance: Tasso 8. Renaissance Prose 9. Drama since Goldini 10. Leopardi 11. Nineteenth-Century Prose 12. Pirandello 13. Twentieth-Century Poetry 14. Twentieth-Century Prose


n. Latin

1. Introduction 2. Lucretius 3. Virgil 4. Lyric Poetry 5. Horace 6. Ovid 7. Satire and Epigram 8. Silver Epic 9. Drama 10. History 11. Prose Authors 12. Late Latin and Postclassical Latin


o. Northern European Languages

1. Old English 2. Old Norse / Icelandic 3. The Kalevala 4. Danish 5. Dutch 6. Finnish and Finland-Swedish 7. Icelandic 8. Norwegian 9. Ibsen 10. Swedish 11. Strindberg


p. Russian

1. Introduction 2. Pushkin 3. Nineteenth-Century Fiction 4. Tolstoy 5. Dostoevsky 6. Chekhov 7. Twentieth-Century Poetry 8. Twentieth-Century Fiction


q. West Asian Languages

1. Ancient Mesopotamian Literature 2. Classical Persian 3. Modern Persian 4. Turkish










Google N-gram Viewer - some Western comparisons

Today, I very belatedly discover this tool:


Here are some of the tests I did, based on English-language books from 1900-2000:


1.Tolstoy >> Pushkin ~Dostoevsky >> Mickiewicz > Solovyov

2.Dante > Hugo >> Voltaire > Montaigne > Petrarch; Dante was vastly more mentioned than Hugo in 1900, but in 2000 it is just slightly above Hugo. Voltaire also shifted from between Dante and Hugo between 1900, to just a little above Montaigne in 2000

3. Shakespeare > Milton > Chaucer

4. Among English romantic poets, Wordsworth and Byron are very closed together

5. Charles Dickens > Jane Austen in 1900; Jane Austen > Charles Dickens in 2000

6. Mark Twain >> Walt Whitman > Emily Dickinson

7. William James > John Dewey > Charles Peirce

8. William James > John Locke > David Hume > J.S. Mill (the last one is not so easy to search, so I wouldn't trust the data. For William James, it could be American-centric sampling issue

9. In 1900: Kant > Descartes > Marx > Nietzsche ; In 2000: Marx > Kant > Nietzsche > Descartes

10. Shakespeare >> Dante ~ Goethe ~ Hugo > Tolstoy > Cervantes

11. Jane Austen > William Shakespeare > John Milton > William Wordsworth

12. Shakespeare > Marx. The lead in 1900 was strong, lead in 2000 weak. Marx overtook Shakespeare around 1971 - 1993

13. Gibbon > Burckhardt > Ranke (position of last 2 switched around the middle of the century)

14. Luther >~ Augustine >> Calvin > Aquinas

15. Augustine >> Origen >~ Eusebius 

16. (This is surprising!) Horace > Cicero > Virgil > Ovid > Tacitus ~ Livy (Tacitus stronger than Livy in 1900, but now about the same)

17. Herodotus > Thucydides > Xenophon (Herodotus' lead vs. Thucydides is clearer than what I would have thought)

18. Plato > Aristotle between 1900-1956; Aristotle > Plato in 1956-2000

19. Euripides > Sophocles > Aristophanes > Aeschylus

20. Homer >> Euripides ~ Sophocles ~ Sappho (Sappho came up strongly during the century

21. Aristotle > Plato > Homer > Herodotus

22. Horace > Homer before 1956; Homer > Horace (mostly after 1956)

23. Bible > > Shakespeare > Aristotle. For about 50 years between 1920s to 1970s, Shakespeare often surpassed Bible

24. 1900: Luther > Kant > Marx; 2000: Marx > Kant > Luther

25. Aristotle > Marx; but Marx > Aristotle between 1966-1996

26. Herodotus >~ Gibbon > Tacitus >s Eusebiu (only slight lead in 1900; almost the same in 2000)


So at least in English language representation, things seem to come down to:

Bible > Shakespeare > Aristotle (but not always vs. Plato or Marx) >> Herodotus (and Gibbon)






(St. James) Reference Guide to World Literature, 2 Volumes, Third Edition

I chanced upon this reference work published in 2003. It is supposed to include works in World Literature that are not in English. Took some quick look at it, and came to the conclusion that it is just a "trade" work that is not really not of solid academic quality in terms of its editing.


As someone interested in author / work list - I checked out 3 lists they have:

1. Chronological List of Writers

2. Chronological List of Works

3. Language Index


Problems that I saw through a quick scan:

- The list of writers don't have any non-Greek / Latin works until Tao Qian and Kalidasa

- The list of works  have the City of God of 5th century A.D. placed as 5th century B.C. between Sappho and Pindar - a pretty basic mistake

- In the list of authors have Herodotus, but it is not in the list of works - probably because the work is so structured that authors mostly have one main work is treated on one entry only. But if this is the case there really should be a combined list say using authors as the basis, and then merge with anonymous works, as they do with the Language Index

- In the language index, they treated Farsi as different from Persian (questionable); Chinese for Tao Qian treated as the same as Chinese for Mo Yan, while distinguishing Greek into ancient and modern (consistency?); classify The Bible as a Hebrew work (anachronism); and most serious, "Indian" is tagged as a language (!)

- In terms of balance, blatantly "market-driven", mostly western works. Among non-Western writers/works the mix by language is:

>Japanese (27)

>Chinese (20)

> Indian (14)

> Persian (7)

> Arabic (7) 

> Egyptian (4) (Egyptian Arabic?)

> Farsi (1)

> Kreol (1) (I have not heard of this language)

> Kurdish (1)

> Sumerian (1)

> Thai (1)

- Within each entry, there is some good general coverage about an author's works and basic biographic details. I looked at the entry for Adam Mickiewicz and the one for Pan Tadeusz, I find the bibliographical data useful (e.g. when translation into English happened). Not sure how accurate they are - it said Pan Tadeusz was written in Paris, but my recollection was that it was written in Rome (?). Well, it may be right, but given the quality of the indices, I would not bet on it.

- Oh, there is no entry for Gogol.


Enough said.








Religous Population Data

Current religious population data could be useful in assessing influence and balance in text lists. I just found PEW religious population data for 2010 (published in Dec-2011 and Dec-2012):


  CWANA E Asia Europe Lat Am N Am S Asia SEAO SS Africa Grand Total
Sum of Christian          24,170,000          87,480,000        555,220,000        531,280,000        266,640,000          35,830,000        153,340,000        519,140,000    2,173,100,000
Sum of Muslim        525,520,000          25,220,000          43,250,000                790,000            3,480,000        480,860,000        240,150,000        279,090,000    1,598,360,000
Sum of Hindu            1,720,000                  80,000            1,270,000                610,000            2,260,000    1,017,760,000            7,560,000            1,600,000    1,032,860,000
Sum of Buddhist                570,000        308,860,000            1,290,000                340,000            3,850,000          28,060,000        144,240,000                110,000        487,320,000
Sum of Other Religious            6,350,000        331,840,000            3,160,000          11,350,000            9,260,000          35,140,000          49,570,000          29,630,000        476,300,000
Sum of Unaffiliated            3,800,000        820,470,000        134,790,000          45,310,000          59,040,000            1,050,000          34,930,000          26,890,000    1,126,280,000
Total        562,370,000    1,573,980,000        739,270,000        590,050,000        344,520,000    1,598,760,000        629,980,000        856,840,000    6,895,770,000

  CWANA E Asia Europe Lat Am N Am S Asia SEAO SS Africa Grand Total
Sum of Catholic            5,350,000          15,220,000        261,590,000        432,350,000          87,600,000          12,870,000        102,460,000        177,030,000    1,094,470,000
Sum of Protestant            1,950,000          69,610,000        100,590,000          94,210,000        169,240,000          21,290,000          47,440,000        296,200,000        800,530,000
Sum of Orthodox          17,230,000                  40,000        197,130,000                250,000            2,340,000            2,370,000                740,000          40,170,000        260,270,000
Sum of Other Christian                150,000                870,000            3,040,000            6,770,000          11,120,000                  50,000            1,430,000            4,680,000          28,110,000


Data in the table are my analysis mostly in the form of regional definition. Most of this should be straight forward, except for North Africa I excludes Sudan and West Sahara. I classify Afghanistan as Central Asia. SEAO means Southeast Asia and Oceania. Regarding this regional classification, the more I look at this the more I think it might make sense to group North and south America together.


The table does not really show up right in the blog. Oh well ...


P.S. I was looking at this the weekend right before the Pope announced his resignation.








Added 2 Lists

List of 50 and List of 25, added to site, under List of 150 > Derivative Lists.


Intent is to also add List of 100 at some point - however the organizational principle will needs to be thought through.






Wm. Theodore de Bary's List

Today, I saw de Bary's book Finding Wisdom in East Asian Classics in a bookstore. (The Amazon's link is here.) In compiling my East Asian list, I have consulted his Sources of the Japanese Tradition I found in my local library. He is an old Columbia University professor who clearly believed in Great Books education, and in the Finding Wisdom book's first chapter, he gave a list:


  "Having come to this point, it may be in order for me to suggest what are the classics I would consider essential to a basic reading program-- a list that could be defined as what might be appropriate for an introductory, one-year course. A more generous selection is found in what follows, which gives the teacher or discussion leader more to choose from in meeting the needs of particular groups or to draw upon for somewhat more leisurely reading and a less pressured learning situation. In this light, what I propose here is not necessarily ideal, nor on the other hand does it represent the bare minimum, but rather something more like a Mean. As an introduction to the major Asian traditions, one could hope that it would not misrepresent them but rather provide enough pleasure in the reading and enough stimulus for discussion that most participants would emerge from the experience with an appetite for more and the wherewithal to pursue its satisfaction.

  "Here then is my list , with a brief comment on each work for the benefit of those to whom the title alone might be meaningless:"


Then the list starts with The Islamic Tradition (Quran, al-Hariri, al-Ghazali, Rumi, Attar, Ibn Khaldun, with Muallaqat, Thousand and One Nights, other Arab philosophers including Averroes and Ibn Arabi, other Sufi poets such as Hafiz, etc. as optional, followed by the South Asian (or Indian? from this point on Amazon does not show the three pages, and I forgot the exact label) and the Chinese tradition, with the Japanese tradition at the end.


"The foregoing lists give, I hope, a fair representation of the different preferences and shared values among the great traditions of Asia. They include works that have withstood the test of time not only in their own traditions but in at least sixty years of reading and discussion with American students of all ages. ..."


As the Islamic list shows, it has 6 main texts selected, with 5 more names mentioned. Compared his Islamic list with my CWANA list, he included Attar, Thousand and One Nights, and Averroes that my list of 24 does not include. 


The only real criticism I have with his list is that his Japanese tradition list is longer than the Islamic list, which is hardly "balanced" if you consider the relative importance of the Islamic vs. Japanese tradition, both historically and currently. I may also add that what was taught in the last sixty years to American students, really should not matter that much.






List of 100 - What would be left out?

After putting up the List of 150 texts on this site, I started to try to trim it down to a List of 100. In theory, it is just picking 2 books out of 3. And as I mentioned in a blog post before named "Numerology", the relative size of conventional traditions would just be reduced to East Asian (36->24), South Asian (36->24), CWANA (24->16), Western (54->36).


I try this. And in fact I try to make sure that the 2/3 rule is followed as accurately as possible to represent the right proportion of each sub-tradition, and by genres, for each of the conventional traditions. (So say if a sub-tradition has 22 texts originally, after selecting 2/3, I will select 15 [round up from 14.7] texts. Given this rule, if a group has 2 texts, I will keep 1 text; if a group has only 1 text to start with, that text will remain). Of course this proportion keeping cannot be perfectly done. Furthermore, I also try to make sure language proportion remains. I also can't do this perfectly, but I only need to slightly overselect Arabic and Greek (one each) at the expense of Avestan (1->0) and French (4->2). I also need to change the selection of texts very slightly, 1) Change Zhuangzi Zhu to Zhuangzi Zhushu (thus adding Cheng Xuanying's sub-commentary to reflect Daoist religious commentary); 2) Use Luther's Three Treatises of 1520 to replace Calvin and Schleirmacher (this helps reduce number of Latin texts and the Protestant sub-tradition from 2->1 text); 3) Use Dostoyevsky's Brothers Karamazov to replace Tolstoy and Solovyov (combining 2 Russian texts to 1).


So what are not selected after this procedure? Big categories below:

1. Sappho (1 of the 3 female-authored work needs to come out)

2. Hellenistic philosophies (Cicero, Diogenes Laertius, Plotinus)

3. Yogacara Buddhsim (Yogacarabhumi, Xuanzhuang)

4. Many less important religious texts of Period 1-3 (Early Upanisads, Buddhaghosa, Zhenggao, al-Shafii, Bhagavata Purana)

5. All Western works in Period 3 (Bede, John of Damascus)

6. Many later Sanskrit literature (Bhartrhari, Bana, Somadeva, Hemacandra, Kaviraja)

7. All tantric texts (Kukai, Abhinavagupta)

8. Derivatives of Yi Jing [Classics of Change] other than Wang Bi's commentary (Shao Yong, Zhouyi Cantongqi Fahui)

9. Several Persian prose works (Nizamulmulk, Sadi, Abul Fazl)

10. Most later East Asian literature (Xixiangji, Shuihuzhuan, Matsuo Basho)

11. Qing scholarship (Gu Yanwu, Xu Zizhi Tongjian)

12. All USA works (Whitman, William James)


I guess other than losing all Hellenistic philsophies, (together with Arthurian Romances, Petrarch and Hume, not mentinoed above), I do not have too much regret about this list of 100. I guess I feel pretty good about the List of 100. Maybe I should publish that some day.






Canonical Text List 150 - Analysis (3)

Also looked at the list of 150 by language, results below:


Chinese - 34

Sanskrit - 24

Arabic - 16

Greek - 15

English -11

Latin, Persian - 9 each

German - 6

French - 4

Pali, Italian - 3 each

Japanese, Spanish, Turkish, Russian - 2 each

Avestan, Prakrit, Tamil, Tibetan, Portuguese, Proto-Hindi / Punjabi, Polish, Urdu - 1 each







Canonical Text List 150 - Analysis (2)

I looked at the list of 150 texts based on putative date (trying to be timing of text "completion" but of course in many case, especially for early text, it would have been lucky if the right century is actually represented). Based on the distribution of the dates, I am able to "periodize" the history of canonical text formation - and the results are very surprising to me!


Period 1: 1000B.C. to 14A.D.; duration 1014 years; 22 texts; starts with Rg Veda ending with Livy's History of Rome; average years lapsed between texts in this period is 48 years; 76 years before next period starts


Period 2: 90A.D. to 531A.D.; duration 441 years; 26 texts; starts with Asvaghosa's Buddhacarita ending with Xiao Tong's Wenxuan; average years lapsed between texts in this period is 18 years; 70 years before next period starts (2 generations' lapse when the average is half a generation!)


Period 3: 601A.D. to 850A.D.; duration 249 years; 16 texts; starts with Zhiyi's/Guanding's Fahua Xuanyi ending with Bhagavata Purana; average years lapsed between texts in this period is 17 years; 50 years before next period starts


Period 4: 900A.D. to 1122A.D.; duration 222 years; 18 texts; starts with Manikkavachakar's Tiruvacakam ending with Maqamat al-Hariri; average years lapsed between texts in this period is 13 years; 48 years before next period starts


Period 5: 1170A.D. to 1408A.D.; duration 238 years; 27 texts; starts with Chongyang Quanzhen Ji ending with Tsong Kha Ba's Ocean of Reasoning Commentary on Mulamadhyamakakarika; average years lapsed between texts in this period is 9 years; 105 years before next period starts (3 generations' lapse!!)


Period 6: 1513A.D. to 1706A.D.; duration 193 years; 19 texts; starts with Machiavelli's The Prince ending with Matsuo Basho; average years lapsed between texts in this period is 11 years; 42 years before next period starts


Period 7: 1748A.D. to 1907A.D.; duration 159 years; 22 texts; starts with Hume's Essay Concerning Human Understanding ending with William James' Pragmatism; average years lapsed between texts in this period is 8 years


As one can see, this periodization makes general sense as each period has a similar number of texts (between 16-27), and as one can expect the later the period the duration and average years lapsed between texts trend down (with an exception between Period 5 and 6.) The "blank period" duration is always at least 1+ generations before the next period starts, with the most conspicuous blank durations between Periods 2 & 3 and between Periods 5 & 6.


So, what is surprising about this periodization? Well, I started the text selection by considering only influence and "balance" of the list in terms of representativeness, but when I do periodization based on the dates presented by the 150 texts, I came to a periodization that is mostly aligned with typical periodization in world (and European) history!!! (maybe that is not so surprising as Western texts occupy slightly over 1/3 of the list; but nevertheless quite surprising!) In more common language, these periods are:


Period 1: Classical Antiquity (1000B.C. to ~50A.D.)

(marker is end of classical civilization and beginning of christianity)


Period 2: Late Antiquity (~50A.D. to ~550A.D.) 

(2 generations' lapse; marker is end of "antiquity" in the West, end of Gupta in South Asia, beginning of Islam, and beginning of Sui/Tang "second empire" in China)


Period 3: Early Medieval (~550A.D. to ~850A.D.)

(marker is less clear as the two texts the bookend this blank period are Indian texts of obscure dating, but more or less Tang-Song transition and decline of Abbasids which marked the golden age of Islamicate canon formation) 


Period 4: Central Medieval (~850A.D. to ~1150A.D.)

(marker is end of Northen Song, and beginning of Mongolian phase of world history)


Period 5: Late Medieval (~1150A.D. to ~1450A.D.)

(3 generation's lapse; marker is medieval / modern transition, whether you put it at end of Byzantine Empire or discovery of Americas)


Period 6: Early Modern (~1450A.D. to ~1750A.D.)

(marker is Enlightenment and beginning of industrialization)


Period 7: Modern (~1750 to now) 






Canonical Text List 150 - Analysis (1)

By now, I have put up canonical text lists of 4 "traditions" making up a big list of 150 texts:


Western: 54 texts

CWANA: 24 texts

South Asian: 36 texts

East Asian: 36 texts


If we are truly honest (and clear) about using "traditions", then arguably the 5 Islamicate texts included in the South Asian list should go towards "CWANA" - which should proably be named "Islamicate" instead of CWANA (the latter more of a geographical concept), or


Western: 54

Islamicate (include Zoroastrian): 29

South Asian: 31

EAst Asian: 36


If for tradition we want to make it more religiously, we can say


Paganite - Christianite: 54

Zoroastrianite - Islamicate: 29

Hindu - Jain - Sikh: 25

Buddhist - Japanese: 15

Confucian - Daoist: 28 


If we make the analysis on pure geography:


Europe: 45 (= 54 - 2 - 7 works completed in Turkey, Syria, Israel / Palestine, Egypt and Algeria)

U.S.A.: 2


South Asian: 35 (=36 minus Tsong Kha Bha)

East Asian: 37


If we look at this list of 150 by genre, we have:


Foundational / Religious Classics: 12

History: 26

Philosophy (this includes political thoughts, theology, mystical works, etc.): 57

Literature: 55 






Ghalib Urdu Ghazal Site

I came across this site on Ghalib's Ghazals from a booko comment on Amazon:


Looks like a pretty good site!







For the "longer list" I have been working on, it is coming to be a list of 150 texts:


Western: 54


South Asian: 36

East Asian: 36


I just realize that using a similar proportion, I can easily turn into a list of 100, since every sub-component is divisable by 3 -- making the component looks like:


Western: 36


South Asian: 24

East Asian: 24







Web-based Book Catalogue Site

Stumbled upon a site today:


I have put up a initial catalogue of books I own there (max allowed is 200, I added names of 100 - turns out it does not support Chinese, so it remains an English catalogue).


Looks like an interesting site!






UNESCO Collection of Representative Works

I have suspected UNESCO would have an equivalent of a "world canon" list somewhere ... today I finally found it: called UNESCO Catalogue of Representative Works - works funded by UNESCO to get translated. Program started from 1948 till 2005 I've read. I have not studied the list yet (>1000 titles), but here is the url:


Blank search will give the full list - for now, I would go through country by country (e.g. India or China) and see how the list maps with what I know.






Norton Anthology of World Literature - Second Shorter Edition - Table of Contents


Wasn't able to find the preface / introduction or criteria of selection. Anyone happen to have a version?






Routledge Concise History of World Literature

On Litnet forums, I have been engaging in some discussions with other readers regarding world canon. One (maybe obvious) that came across is that ultimately world canon is linked to how people write "history of world literature" (or by extension, how people write "world intellectual history").


With this thought in mind, I have just come across this to-be-published book by Routledge:

The Routledge Concise History of World Literature


Table of Content:

1. Introduction: the (Re)Turn of "World Literature"

2. Goethe’s "Weltliteratur" and the "Humanist" Ideal

3. World Literature and Comparative Literature

4. World Literature as an American Pedagogical Construct

5. World Literature and the Literatures of the World

6. World Literature in the Literary Marketplace

7. World Literature and Translation

8. World Literature, (Post)Modernism and (Post)Colonialism

9. Conclusion: The Struggle for World Literature?


Looks like it is focused on the 20th century, but a promisingly interesting title. To be published in Oct / Nov!






Images of Authors in the Second Half of 20th Century I Admire

From left to right:

Top: MU Zongsan, Marshall Hodgson, Clive Ponting, JIN Yong

Middle: Jurgen Habermas, QIAN Mu, Mikhail Gorbachev, Colin McEvedy

Bottom: Karl Potter (right), Randall Collins, Immanuel Wallerstein, Yinshun






Top 10 Influential Books

I was checking out The Literature Network Forums, and found and old thread that asks for 10 most influential books, so I gave a shot in replying.


Content pasted below:


1) There is roughly 6B people around 1999-2000; now approaching 7B; given modern population explosion, what is widely read now definitely has some weight of being influential. 2) But influential also has an aspect of being early, thus being able to influence many other readers AND AUTHORS of later times. 3) Lastly, usually shorter and lighter (i.e. easier to read) books get read most (thus easier to be influential).

What would be on the scale of ~1B? Chinese, Indians, English speakers, Christians, Muslims
What would be on slightly smaller magnitue? Buddhists, Spanish, Communist
What would be early? Greeks

So, roughly, the list probably look something like: (not in order)
1. Confucius' Analects
2. Three Hundred Tang Poems
3. Bhagavadgita
4. Shakespeare's Hamlet
5. Bible
6. Quran
7. Buddha's Samyutta Nikaya (and its corresponding northern recension)
8. Cervante's Don Quixote
9. Marx's Communist Manisfesto
10. Illiad