The myths of the Greeks and Romans are interesting and enjoyable in their own right. Knowledge of Classical Mythology is also an invaluable resource for understanding the art and thought of the Western tradition, providing a vast set of stories and symbols for ancient and modern writers, artists, and thinkers. Moreover, the myths themselves provide an excellent starting point for the study of Greek and Roman culture. This course will provide an introduction to the major myths of Greece and Rome—including the creation of the cosmos, Olympians and other deities, and human heroes and their exploits—both as they appear in Greek and Roman literature and art and as they are represented in modern art, music, and film.
We will explore Classical Mythology primarily through the stories told by the Greeks and Romans. As you cultivate your “mythological vocabulary”, that is your ability to recognize and appreciate the lore of Classical mythology as it pervades the Western artistic and intellectual tradition, we will also ponder and discuss the social role of myth relative to other forms of narrative. Myth is also more than just a set of stories or symbols, employed as an intellectual or artistic shorthand, it can also be thought of as a complex and nuanced system of representation, a discourse or language with its own particular stance on truth, reality, and universality. And so we will also learn several theories about the purpose and function of myth. And ultimately it is to the use and process of mythology that we will turn.
Requirements: Enthusiastic and well-prepared participation in class discussions; short (1-2-page) response papers; occasional in-class activities; a group project, and a midterm and final exam. There will also be two evening film showings: Camus’ Orfeu Negro (1959) and Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (1954).
Cross-listed in Comparative Literature and Religion.
Prerequisites: There are no prerequisites for this course.