TTh 10:35 – 11:50
Dr. Michael Delahoyde
Avery Hall 355 — Washington State University
Hours: TTh 8:30-10:15, and by appointment.
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. 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.
Græco-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 WWF events: 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.
- To gain exposure to some of the major artistic works that have shaped Western culture, its later arts, and the way we think.
- To increase intellectual maturation and clarification of our own values through examination of ideas and attitudes in cultural contexts.
- To develop skills in verbal analysis and critical thinking through reading, discussion, and writing about literature and other artistic media.
- To develop visual literacy, including recognition of key works, motifs, and implicit ideologies.
[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.]
Homer. The Iliad. Trans. Robert Fagles. NY: Penguin Books, 1991.
Sophocles. Oedipus Rex. NY: Dover Pub., Inc., 1994.
Euripides. Medea. Trans. Rex Warner. NY: Dover Pub., Inc., 1993.
Ovid. Metamorphoses. Trans. Rolfe Humphries. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1961.
[Lots of other crucial and cool materials will be provided through WebCT, in handouts, and on videotape.]
A significant part of your life this semester has to become Mythology. But at least you won’t be alone. Because classroom interaction is essential for this to be a valuable experience, more than three absences will affect your grade regardless of reason. Additionally, no late assignments of any sort will be accepted. Here’s the math:
1) I will frequently ask you for relatively minor homework assignments to be turned in (or posted to discussion spaces in WebCT), 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, although these writings cannot be made up (except for a couple optional writings that can take their place), the final semester totals will be curved if necessary.(30%)
2) You will submit two projects of manageable magnitude: perhaps a manuscript analyzing a myth or mythological theme, or a collaborative project involving the construction of a useful web site. I will offer suggested topics and possibilities with the assignment sheets.(30%)
3) Class participation and other service to the learning community will be expected (occasional group work, for example). (10%)
4) A midterm and some form of a final will either delight and entertain you or oppress and crush you.(30%)