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Project Summary: CCNY World Humanities

Lead editor/author: Václav Paris

About the Project

World Humanities courses are part of the General Education syllabus at City College New York. Historically there have been a series of three courses. World Humanities 1 focuses on “Great Books” from around the world, from Homer to about 1800. World Humanities 2 focuses on the period between 1800 and 2000. And World Humanities 3 is about contemporary literature. The ambitious aim of these courses is to give new students a basis for understanding cultural diversity as well as a critical insight into some of the key texts of what was once known as “Western Civilization.”

In the last two years only World Humanities 1 and 2 have been regularly taught, in multiple sections drawing together students from across the City College campus. Although these courses have a standardized reading list (every section reads the same texts each semester), there is not yet a single textbook for either of these courses.

The priority for this project is to produce a textbook for World Humanities 1.


At the moment, students of World Humanities need to either buy texts (which are almost all out of copyright) or they need to find them in various sites online, without good or tailored introductions. In practice, this means that many students don’t do the reading, or are reading from different translations in classes. I want to make a single textbook that can be downloaded as an epub/kindle or as a pdf.


The primary audience is made up of students (mostly freshman) who probably have very little experience of literary study (and in fact may take no other courses in the humanities). Consequently the aim for the textbook is to be as accessible as possible - requiring very little previous knowledge and building on its own developments as it goes along.


The main part of the textbook will be the readings. For World Humanities I these are:


The Odyssey


Marie de France




The textbook will include all of these texts in open source translations, checked for accuracy. It will also include introductions and (wherever necessary) annotations and notes. The introductions will help students to understand the flow and structure of the course. Although World Humanities I has an almost impossibly ambitious scope - ranging from Homer to the Enlightenment - and in no way pretends to teach a coherent canon or progression, there are nevertheless certain ideas that return and are developed. The aim of the introductions will be to draw out these continuities, so that students have a sense of moving forward in the course and building off earlier knowledge.




I hope to have the textbook for World Humanities I complete by December so that it can be incorporated into courses in January 2022. World Humanities II and possible World Humanities III will follow, but this is not my priority.

Measures of Success

I will coordinate and teach World Humanities at CCNY in the spring of 2022. I will be able to evaluate how useful the textbook is to instructors and I will ask students for feedback on their experiences with using it. Each semester students in World Humanities Courses fill in the same survey, so one clear measure of success will be comparing the new surveys to the old ones.


Nice to get a sense of the structure and timeline! Thanks for sharing.