In the days when the field began with the ancient Greeks and bounded forward athletically across the centuries from (Western) masterpiece to (Western) masterpiece, world literature, it was taken for granted, did not need world history at all. History in almost any extra-literary sense would have been an inconvenience. Great writers were assumed to sit on figurative mountain tops communing by unspecified means with other great writers on other distant peaks. To have insisted that each masterpiece must be understood in terms of the ordinary life of its time, conducted as that life was far below (in more than one sense) on the farms and battlefields, in the streets and workshops and bedrooms, would have undercut the field’s unspoken premise: that literary greatness, defined by transcending time and space, makes its own history by addressing eternal human themes and dilemmas – that it is its own history. Pedagogically speaking, it makes sense that, in so-called Great Books courses, historical context has never taken up much class time.