Mythology Course Description
Section 02 [HUM] [H]
MWF 11:10 – 12:00 noon.
Zoom until it’s safe, then maybe Spark 339.
Dr. Michael Delahoyde
Avery Hall 355 — Washington State University
This course, Humanities 103, is designed to acquaint you with a body of material with which cultured people of the Western world have been familiar for millennia and in which they have found wisdom. Through readings and exposure to other works of art and cultural products, you will come to know some of the world’s most influential mythology in more thorough and meaningful ways than its contemporary reduction to cheesy vestiges and obscure trivia questions. We will explore the theory of myth and the uses of myth in art, literature, and film; but more importantly, we will try to tap into “the power of myth” — the cultural and psychological implications of myths — that is, their impact on the minds and lives of those who have been influenced by them, especially ourselves.
Graeco-Roman myth, which played a key role in shaping Western culture, will make up the bulk of the course’s readings, as we put into perspective some crucial developments of Western thought through a focus on the greatest hits of the ancient world. I am particularly interested in how the principles and issues raised in this body of Classical literature survive and arise in our own contemporary culture. I will encourage you to see and to make connections between ideas, attitudes, and cultures in classroom discussions, and to keep track of ideas (or myths) currently circulating that interest you.
There will be much to cover in this semester, but you can master this material more easily than you’d suspect. It’s like starting to watch a soap opera, or the first time you began watching a cable series: you’ve heard a few of the names already, you catch on to a few key plots, you stick with it for a while, and gradually you’re an expert and you realize the field that seemed so vast before was actually finite after all.
Naturally I have many interests that involve these works; and we’ll discuss matters such as the presentation of monsters, women, reptiles, men, arrogance, and death. But I’m just as anxious to hear and to read your discoveries concerning these myths.
I’ve come to believe that this material contains real wisdom: better than most “literature,” much more valuable than those cheap one-line adages being bandied about constantly these days, and more healing and affordable than psychotherapy.
[These are the texts ordered at the Bookie. You may use other scholarly editions of the following texts but at your own risk; exams will be based largely on quotations drawn from these versions. Cheesy online editions tend to lack line numbers, explanatory notes, and other more professional and helpful features. But because of the remote condition, I will provide links on Canvas to online editions.]
Homer. The Iliad. Trans. Robert Fagles. NY: Penguin Books, 1991.
Sophocles. Oedipus Rex. NY: Dover Pub., Inc., 1991.
Euripides. Medea. Trans. Rex Warner. NY: Dover Pub., Inc., 1993.
Ovid. Metamorphoses. Trans. David Raeburn. Penguin, 2004.
[Lots of other crucial and cool materials will be provided through Canvas and visually in class.]
Student Learning Outcomes:
At the end of the course, students should be achieved the following objectives. The Course Requirements detail how these outcomes will be addressed and evaluated in the class work.
- Students will gain exposure to basic terms in the study of mythology and to some of the major artistic works that have recorded the human experience and have shaped Western culture, its later arts, and the way we think.
- Students will increase intellectual maturation and clarification of their own values through examination of ideas and attitudes in cultural contexts and especially through articulation of these in academic discourse.
- Students will develop skills in careful verbal analysis and critical thinking through reading and communicating (in discussion and writing) about literary and cultural texts and other artistic media, so that they will be able to communicate successfully with other audiences both within and outside the University.
A significant part of at least your “job” of being a student this semester (but maybe also part of your life) is focusing on the study of Mythology. Responsibly reading and studying the works is not especially demanding, and we have the opportunity to be doing it together as a learning community. The university provides a space and a time in which I, as instructor, do my best to craft an opportunity for engagement and learning (and, truth be told, the thrill of it all). In no strict numerical way, absences will end up affecting your final grade; but worse would be your general “absence”: that is, approaching the class under the assumption that your education is a consumer product being served to you, that you can “multi-task” between class and your phone, that you can coast along with a cursory skimming of Sparknotes, that the experience should be reduceable to some kind of “study guide” (if it were, we wouldn’t need to meet at all). Do you even have the capacity to be present and “plugged in” to the classroom experience? You will never realize how rewarding this can be, especially when it’s Mythology, unless you are. Because classroom interaction is essential for this to be a valuable experience, and because occasional quizzes and homework writings will be exchanged and in-class voting will take place, absences will affect your grade regardless of reason. Here’s the math:
1) I will frequently ask you for relatively minor homework assignments to be posted to discussion spaces in Canvas), designed primarily to stimulate subsequent discussion and to practice conventions for writing about humanities. At other times I will ask you to answer questions in writing in class, often ad lib responses to the reading before class discussion begins. Homework assignments and quizzes will receive numerical grades (points) and the final semester totals will be curved if necessary. I acknowledge that there are many valid reasons for missing the deadline on these postings (almost always shortly before the start of class); however, since I don’t have the luxury (with classes usually of 50 and more) to backtrack, and since the point of the posting is to hash out your impressions and notions and letting me see what you come up with before we discuss the material in the class period following (otherwise it’s just pretty pointless busy-work), late postings will not be graded. Know that missing a posting due-date is not a disaster, because there are several optional extra-credit prompts through the semester and, besides, every posting demand is an opportunity to earn extra-credit points simply by exceeding general expectations, which you can probably estimate by reading what others are posting. (30%)
2) Your presence will be required at two exams. No make-ups will be crafted for your convenience. Accompanying the in-class portions of each exam will be a written take-home essay turned in on the same day. Late essays will receive F grades; missing the exams or failure to turn anything in, even late, will result in an F for the course. (Each exam/essay: 30%)
3) Class participation and other service to the learning community will be expected (occasional group work, for example). (10%)
Some introductory advice about succeeding with homework and exams can be found here.
And here is an explanation of letter grades assigned to class work. No make-up exams or assignments will be constructed. No incompletes will be given.
Students with Disabilities:
Reasonable accommodations are available for students with documented disabilities or chronic medical or psychological conditions. If you have a disability and need accommodations to fully participate in this class, please visit your campus’ Access Center/Services website to follow published procedures to request accommodations. Students may also contact their campus offices to schedule an appointment with a Disability Specialist. All disability related accommodations are to be approved through the Access Center/Services on your campus. It is a university expectation that students visit with instructors (via email, Zoom, or in person) to discuss logistics within two weeks after they have officially requested their accommodations. For more information contact a Disability Specialist: 509-335-3417. Access Center: https://www.accesscenter.wsu.edu. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
As an institution of higher education, Washington State University is committed to principles of truth and academic honesty. All members of the University community share the responsibility for maintaining and supporting these principles. When a student enrolls in Washington State University, the student assumes an obligation to pursue academic endeavors in a manner consistent with the standards of academic integrity adopted by the University. Any student plagiarizing on any assignment or cheating on any exam in this class will receive an F for the course and will be reported to the Office of Student Standards and Accountability, who remind us that Washington State University reserves the right and the power to discipline or to exclude students who engage in academic dishonesty. Cheating is defined in the Standards for Student Conduct WAC 504-26-010 (3). It is strongly suggested that you read and understand these definitions and stop plagiarizing that Icarus essay on file in your sleazy frat.
Safety and Emergency Notification:
Classroom and campus safety are of paramount importance at Washington State University, and are the shared responsibility of the entire campus population. WSU urges students to follow the “Alert, Assess, Act” protocol for all types of emergencies and the “Run, Hide, Fight” response for “an active shooter incident,” which seems to be precisely the one emergency the university expects. Remain ALERT (through direct observation or emergency notification), ASSESS your specific situation, and ACT in the most appropriate way to assure your own safety (and the safety of others if you are able).
These are most of the required syllabus inclusions, but the suffocating mountain of more of these statements perpetually added by administrators is making it impossible to create a syllabus that isn’t a booklet. (If all syllabi are supposed to include these, why aren’t they just sent to all students from the university itself instead of rendering the syllabi unreadable and moot? — because you wouldn’t read them?) Here’s more.