Course Description and Objectives
Classical mythology provides a rich abundance of traditional stories that pose difficult, and at times uncomfortable, questions about human nature and the cosmos, justice and injustice, communities and individuals, power and helplessness, life and death and what might transcend mortality. These are universal questions that we still ask today, and part of the power of myth has been its ability to provide a space for people throughout the history of western civilization and in the present day to renegotiate their positions on those questions. We shall examine these myths both as they were told and in their cultural and historical contexts, interrogate them and understand both what they have to say and what forces shaped their diverse perspectives. We shall also consider the impact of these stories on subsequent generations in Rome, in Europe, and in today's world.
Classical Studies 350 provides you with four of the twelve necessary General University Requirement (GUR) credits in Humanities (HUM). The Humanities requirement provides an introduction to the subject matter, methods of inquiry and forms of expression of academic fields that treat language, literature, fine arts, history, philosophy and religion in the Western cultural tradition. The humanities study principal themes, issues and images concerning human beings and their place in the universe, as these have been shaped and expressed since ancient times, in thought, imagination and action.
Greek Mythology focuses on the following GUR competencies:
- GUR Competency 1
- Analyze and communicate ideas effectively in oral, written, and visual forms.
- GUR Competency 2
- Analyze and interpret information from varied sources, including print and visual media.
- GUR Competency 6
- Explore, imagine and create.
- GUR Competency 8
- Understand and evaluate assumptions, values, and beliefs in context of diverse local, national and global communities.
In addition to considering multiple works of Greek literature and visual examples of material culture related to those works of Greek literature, you will engage in writing exercises and discussions on Canvas to explore ethical concerns of ancient literature and the complex relationship between ancient mythology and the modern Western cultures that often claim descent from ancient Greece.
On Keeping an Open Mind
While many people say that ancient Greece lies at the roots of modern western civilization, the ancient world also differs from the modern in may ways. Likewise, within ancient Greece different cities and different people within those cities held diverse views on important social and cultural issues, just as the modern world enjoys a diversity of perspectives. Some of the ancient ideas that you encounter in this class will seem very alien, and some may be shockingly different from your own views. We shall encounter myths about heterosexuality, homosexuality, transexuality, rape, incest, pederasty, bestiality, and many other configurations of sex and power. Greek art also frequently depicts the human form in the nude, especially the male form, so you will encounter frequent depictions of genitalia, especially the male member, in vase paintings, sculptures, frescoes, mosaics, and other works of art.
Office Hours: Miller Hall 122D, Monday, Wednesday and Friday: 2:30–3:00 PM, and Tuesday and Thursday: 2:00–2:30 PM.
Class Time and Location
This course meets every Tuesday and Thursday from noon until 1:50 pm in Miller Hall 138.
The first class meeting is on Tuesday, April 2, and the last on Thursday, June 6. The midterm and final examinations will be on Canvas, so there will be no final examination period or classroom.
You will need a copy of Morford, Lenardon, and Sham's Classical Mythology. The University Bookstore should carry the following:
The University bookstore should have the eleventh edition available for sale. The bookstore is not cheap (the bookstore is selling it for around $90 new, down from last year's price of $110 for the tenth edition). Earlier editions will be just as useful and much cheaper (around $4), so you might well want to look online for a used, older edition. If you plan on ordering an earlier edition, start working on obtaining your copy early. You will need your textbooks as soon as classes start.
Because many students want to order textbooks but have trouble getting them shipped in time, I have made the readings for the first week (but only the first week) available on Canvas as PDF files. Click on the readings in the syllabus below or in the modules list for the link to each PDF file.
Other optional readings will appear in the modules list from time to time to supplement Morford. They are not required, but they are never boring.
University Services for Students
I am more than happy to make accommodations for students with disabilities or other special needs. So that the Disability Access Center (DAC, formerly DRS) office can ensure that your needs are being met appropriately, all requests for accommodation must be made through the MyDAC system every quarter: accommodations do not automatically roll-over into future quaters. New students should enroll with the DAC office to receive accommodations.
The Student Health Cetner not only provides primary care serveices but also handles documentation of medical issues for you, making your life easier.
Phone: (360) 650-3400
In the case of a family or personal crisis or emergency, please contact the Office of Student Life. During a personal or family crisis, the Office of Student Life can coordinate arrangements with all of your professors for you, making your life easier.
The readings for each class are listed below on the syllabus and on the modules list. Each reading assignment is due in Canvas at 11:59 AM on a day that we have class, because you should read that assignment before class (which begins at noon). I have made sure that longer reading assignments (double chapters) are due on Tuesdays and shorter assignments on Thursdays, so that you have the weekend to work on the longer assignments.
In class and on quizzes, I shall use the Greek spelling of names and Greek words in the Greek alphabet, which we learn the first day of class. If you are unfamiliar with the Greek alphabet, you may wish to work through the optional (but recommended) Greek Alphabet Workbook on Canvas. You can work through those pages as often as you like; they do not count for or against you in the grades.
You should come to class. I realize, however, that sometimes Things Happen™, so you have two free, unexcused absences. After that, your absences need to be documented with a doctor's note or some other valid excuse to avoid losing points.
At the beginning of each class, you'll pick up a small slip of paper with a question on it. Usually this will ask you to write down what you find most interesting, most important, or most difficult to understand in the day's class: the point of these papers is to give me instant, daily feedback to help me improve future lectures. They also serve as a way of taking attendance.
I shall not take attendance on Tuesday, May 28. For that day I have scheduled a film, Orfeu Negro (in English: Black Orpheus), a classic Brazilian/French film (in Portuguese, with English subtitles) from 1959. This film contains violence, nudity, and sex: students who feel that they cannot emotionally handle such a shocking film may freely skip it and watch Disney's Hercules or another movie on their own to satisfy the writing assignment on myth in modern film. Personally, I would suggest making every effort to watch Orfeu Negro, which seems a much better way to spend an hour and three-quarters than watching Disney's Hercules. Nevertheless I shall not take attendance on that day, so students who prefer Disney need not worry about missing out on the attendance point for the day.
Athletes and anyone planning on missing classs for university-sponsored events or military duty should inform me of absences in advance. That lets me excuse absences and add time to Canvas assignments for those students proactively. Within the first two weeks of class, athletes should be able to give me a team letter listing all the games/matches/meets for the quarter, so that I can plan ahead to help them stay on track.
Discussion Assignments (20%)
There will be a number of discussion assignments for you to tackle. Some, especially the earlier assignments, are more objective, asking you to give facts and an interpretation of those facts. Later assignments become more subjective and creative, emulating ancient rhetorical exercises by which Greek and Roman students learned to make arguments from a variety of perspectives. These will serve both to adduce you to engage with the course material and to introduce you to ancient modes of writing.
In each discussion, you'll write a brief amount (fewer than 300 words) and post it to your discussion group, a randomly selected sample of your class. Others will be doing the same. They'll comment on your assignment, and you should comment on at least two other people's assignments. Make your comments meaningful — not, "Wow, I like this almost as much as I like kittens," but more like, "Wow, I hadn't realized that Hermes was acting as a psychopomp in book 24 of the Iliad; does that mean that Achilles is a personification of death?" The point is to get a conversation started about myth. Remember that in any conversation other people might express opinions that are different from yours, and that's okay: you should remain polite even when they say something mind-numbingly stupid. On each assignment, you'll earn up to six points for your initial post and two each for the two required comments, for a total of ten points in all.
Midterm Examination (20%)
The midterm examination will cover the introductory material and the gods of divine myth. The exam will be on Canvas, so you will be able to pick a time convenient to you to take the final. Check the schedule below or the Midterm Examination page for the dates when the midterm becomes available, when it is due, and when it ceases to be available.
Final Examination (20%)
The final will focus on the material covered since the midterm: legends of heroes and kings. The final, like the midterm, will be on Canvas, so there is no need for you to come to a final exam session held in the classroom. Check the schedule below or the Final Examination page for the dates when the midterm becomes available, when it is due, and when it ceases to be available.
If you have questions about how to use Canvas, first read the Canvas Guides for Students. If you still need help after that, contact the ATUS Help Desk at webtech.wwu.edu/atus/helpdesk or firstname.lastname@example.org or (360) 650-3333.
If you have questions about private matters like grades, e-mail me at email@example.com or stop by my office during office hours.
If you have more general, public questions about assignments, readings, and so forth, check the Course Questions discussion to see if anyone has already asked the question. If nobody has asked your question, ask it there so that everyone can see your question and my answer. That way, other students can profit from your initiative in asking useful questions.
Below you will find a schedule of all exams, quizzes, discussions, readings, lectures, and the film.
Boilerplate: This syllabus is subject to change. Changes, if any, will be announced in class. Students will be held responsible for all changes.
Reality: The Plan™ was carefully conceived. There will be no changes except under extraordinary circumstances (i.e. if classes get cancelled).
Canvas provides feeds to which you can subscribe, to keep all your course info in your favorite calendar program like Apple's Calendar or Microsoft Outlook. For details, see the Canvas Guide on subscribing to the Calendar Feed.
The syllabus page shows a table-oriented view of the course schedule, and the basics of course grading. You can add any other comments, notes, or thoughts you have about the course structure, course policies or anything else.
To add some comments, click the "Edit" link at the top.