In this English 2 course, I have been learning about western literature for the past one hundred and eighty days! In this course, the western literature I have been learning about are specific literary books, like Boccaccio’s Decameron and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, literature from a specific civilization, like Greek literature and Roman literature and Hebrew literature, literature from a specific religion, like Christian literature, and literature from a specific time period, like medieval literature.
Boccaccio’s Decameron: The Decameron, according to Wikipedia, is “subtitled Prince Galehaut and sometimes nicknamed l’Umana commedia, is a collection of short stories by the 14th-century Italian author Giovanni Boccaccio. The book is structured as a frame story containing 100 tales told by a group of seven young women and three young men; they shelter in a secluded villa just outside Florence in order to escape the Black Death, which was afflicting the city.” This book was written in 1353. Is was a piece of Renaissance literature, and it was very popular at the time. This tale tells of ten people who fled their home because of the Black Death and searched for a new home. They found an old abandoned castle to live in and in order to keep themselves entertained, they told each other stories. These stories are the basis of the book.
Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales: According to Wikipedia, “The Canterbury Tales is a collection of twenty-four stories that runs to over 17,000 lines written in Middle English by Geoffrey Chaucer between 1387 and 1400. It is widely regarded as Chaucer’s magnum opus.” One of these stories, the Pardoner’s Tale, I wrote an essay on earlier in the English 2 course if you want to check it out.
Greek literature: According to Wikipedia, “Greek literature dates back from the ancient Greek literature, beginning in 800 BC, to the modern Greek literature of today. Ancient Greek literature was written in an Ancient Greek dialect, literature ranges from the oldest surviving written works until works from approximately the fifth century AD.” Among the Greek literature we see the epic poems The Iliad and The Odyssey. These poems were written by Homer. Two other works are Theogony and Works and Days, both of these written by Hesiod.
Roman literature: According to the World History Encyclopedia, “The Roman Empire and its predecessor the Roman Republic produced an abundance of celebrated literature; poetry, comedies, dramas, histories, and philosophical tracts; the Romans avoided tragedies. Much of it survives to this day.” Some Roman works are The Rise of Rome by Livy, On the Nature of the Universe by Lucretius, and Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.
Hebrew literature: According to Wikipedia, “Hebrew literature consists of ancient, medieval, and modern writings in the Hebrew language. It is one of the primary forms of Jewish literature, though there have been cases of literature written in Hebrew by non-Jews… Works of rabbinic literature were more often written in Hebrew, including: Torah commentaries by Abraham ibn Ezra, Rashi and others; codifications of Jewish law, such as Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah, the Arba’ah Turim, and the Shulchan Aruch; and works of Musar literature (didactic ethical literature) such as Bahya ibn Paquda’s Chovot ha-Levavot (The Duties of the Heart).”
Christian literature: According to Wikipedia, “Christian literature is the literary aspect of Christian media, and it constitutes a huge body of extremely varied writing.” Some amazing examples of Christian literature are Christian books. Here are some great examples: The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, The Confessions of St. Augustine by St. Augustine and John K. Ryan, and Knowing God by J.I. Packer. Some of these books were written not long ago, but Christian literature is Christian literature, no matter how old it is.
Medieval literature: According to Wikipedia, “Medieval literature is a broad subject, encompassing essentially all written works available in Europe and beyond during the Middle Ages. The literature of this time was composed of religious writings as well as secular works.” Some Medieval literature is The Divine Comedy by Dante, Travels by Marco Polo, and The Mabinogion by Anonymous.
The Greeks were polytheistic, which means that they thought that their lives were controlled by their Greek gods. The Olympian gods, household gods, gods of the city, all of them. However, the Greek gods did not always agree. There were usually conflicts between the Gods, and ultimately, man was just another ‘chess piece on a chessboard’. The Roman worldview was based on Greece’s worldview, however, the Roman gods tended to be politically-based. But again, men were just another ‘chess piece on a chessboard’. The Hebrews worldview was based upon the Biblical Old Testament. They believed in one sovereign God as the Creator of everything. The Christian literature was mostly concurrent with Roman literature in the course. The authors of Christian literature supported the sovereignty of God in contrast to the Roman gods. Medieval literature also recognized God’s complete sovereignty. It gave special importance to hierarchical obedience.
Are Boccaccio’s Decameron and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales closer in outlook to Greek and Roman literature than they are to Hebrew, Christian, and medieval literature?
Boccaccio’s Decameron and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales are both written after the Black Death (According to Wikipedia, “The Black Death was a bubonic plague pandemic occurring in Western Eurasia and North Africa from 1346 to 1353. It is the most fatal pandemic recorded in human history, causing the death of 75–200 million people, peaking in Europe from 1347 to 1351.”) and showed just how radically Europe changed. Europe was completely change because of the Black Death. In the stories, when the Black Death hit, many people were part of the Catholic Church and began to lose faith in the Church and even gave up on life itself. Many people tried their best to keep their distance from the plague, but nothing helped.
Both of these works showed not a single trace nor sign of a sovereign God, but instead they actually attacked the corrupt hierarchies of the Church and also the state. These books reflected the loss of hope in people. Basically, the Church lost its influence in people and eternal succession was barely mentioned in these two stories.
So, I would say that this is closer to Greek and Roman literature, although you can say otherwise.