The course examines the problem of the origins of literary traditions. There will be some comparative material from different cultural and literary traditions, though the main focus will be on the European context from antiquity through modernity. Why do literatures come into existence at certain times and places? Is this something we should take for granted? What are the circumstances that lead to the development of a literature? Throughout we will be asking why literatures come about in different ways, with varying ways of harkening back to the past, drawing on local custom, or appropriating other cultural traditions.