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 five 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. Exercises on Canvas will also teach you new skills that will help you better understand myth through the sciences of botany and astronomy.
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 philosophies and people within those cities held diverse views on social and cultural questions, just as the modern world is no monolith but enjoys instead 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. Rape is an especially frequent theme, and Greek myth treats it far more lightly than our society does. Greek and Roman art also often depicts the human form in the nude, especially the male form, so you will encounter depictions of genitalia, especially the male member, in vase paintings, sculptures, frescoes, mosaics, and other works of art.
Office Hours: in Miller Hall 122D every day from 2:30 to 3:30 PM.
Class Time and Location
This lecture meets every Tuesday and Thursday. The two sections meet as follows:
- Morning Section (23061): 8:00 AM – 10:10 AM in Academic West 204 (on the ground level, not the second floor)
- Noon Section (42062): 12:00 PM – 2:10 PM in Fraser Hall 201 (bizarely marked with a large, green "3," despite the fact that there is no "3" in "201" and the further fact that there is no room marked with a large, green "1" in the building, only "2," "3," and "4").
Each section covers the same material at the same pace. If you cannot attend your section one day, feel free to attend the other so long as chairs are available. Academic West 203 has 175 seats; Fraser 201 has 178 seats.
The first lecture is on Thursday, September 26, and the last on Thursday, December 5. The midterm and final examinations will be on Canvas, so there will be no final examination period or classroom. There is no lecture on Thursday, November 28 (Thanksgiving).
You will need a copy of any edition of Morford, Lenardon, and Sham's Classical Mythology. The University Bookstore carries the following:
Morford, M., Lenardon, R. and Sham, M. 2018. Classical Mythology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
ISBNs for all twenty-first century editions:
- eleventh edition (2018, current): 978-0190851644
- tenth edition (2013): 978-0199997329
- ninth edition (2010): 978-0195397703
- eighth edition (2006): 978-0195308051
- seventh edition (2002): 978-0195153446
You can use any edition—the stories that are thousands of years old have not changed in the last nineteen years.
The University bookstore has ordered the eleventh edition; I expect that they will charge about $90. Both Amazon and Barnes and Noble are charging $90. You can find older editions for much less, with some used copies going for $5. AbeBooks.com (a major online marketplace for used books) lists 114 copies available for a total of less than $5 (including shipping and handling). If you plan ahead and order your book during the summer, you can save a great deal of money—that should be worth a few minutes of your summer.
Because many people add into the course before the add-drop deadline (October 1), I have made the readings for the first two lectures 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.
The library also has a copy of the textbook (eighth edition) on course reserves.
Other readings will appear in the modules list from time to time to supplement Morford. They are required, and 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) 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 quarters. New students should enroll with the DAC office to receive accommodations.
The Student Health Center not only provides primary care services but 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 the Office of Student Life can coordinate arrangements with all of your professors for you, making your life easier.
Phone: (360) 650-3450
Don't commit academic dishonesty. See the University's Academic Honesty Policy and Procedure and explore the University's Academic Integrity website.
The readings for each class are listed below on the syllabus and on the modules list, which doubles as a course checklist to help you keep track of readings, quizzes, and assignments. You should read the day's readings before coming to class: the lecture will make more sense when you have read in preparation for class, and the lecture should in turn help clarify the reading. 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 read the longer assignments.
In class and on quizzes, I shall use the Attic Greek spelling, in the Greek alphabet, of names and Greek words. 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: Canvas is already set up to handle those automagically. 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, November 26. 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 sex and violence (albeit of the kind that passed the censors in 1959): students who find sex and violence disturbing them may freely skip Orfeu Negro 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 two hours 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 class for athletics, university-sponsored events, military duty, or religious holidays should inform me of absences in advance. That lets me excuse absences and add time to Canvas assignments for those students in advance. Within the first two weeks of class, give me a letter listing the games/matches/meets, events, military service, or holidays requiring absences for the quarter, so that I can plan ahead to help you stay on track. I like planning ahead.
The assignments category has two components: three workbooks that you can complete by yourself, and six discussion assignments that require you to write about Greek mythology and share your thoughts with your classmates.
Workbook assignments have their own modules in Canvas. While there may be many components to a workbook module, only the last one or two will be graded; the rest are there if you need the practice. They take the form of multiple-choice or matching assignments, with no time limit and with infinite attempts allowed. While the graded workbook assignments have suggested due dates to work them into the course where they seem to make the most sense, they remain open until the last day of exam week, so you are free to work on them all quarter, whenever you like. If you complete an entire workbook, you'll get a badge in Badges.
The earlier discussion assignments are more objective, asking you to give facts and an interpretation of those facts. Later discussion 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. In each discussion, you'll write a brief amount (fewer than 300 words, please) and post it to your discussion group, a small, randomly selected sample of the 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 instead, "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 someone says something that seems mind-numbingly stupid to you. On each discussion 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 (15%)
The midterm examination will cover the introductory material and the gods of divine myth. The examination is on Canvas, not in class, 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 for your section. The midterm examination has fifty questions; the time limit is one hour.
Final Examination (15%)
The final will focus on the material covered since the midterm: legends and the myths of Rome. The final, like the midterm, is on Canvas, not in class, so there is no need for you to come to a final exam period held in the classroom. Check the schedule below or the Final Examination page for the dates when the final examination becomes available. The final examination has fifty questions; the time limit is one hour.
Per University policy, no student may take a final examination before the final examination week. Because the examination is on Canvas, you do have the flexibility of taking it when and where you want during finals week, but you cannot take the examination earlier than the final examination week.
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 atus.wwu.edu/help-desk or firstname.lastname@example.org or (360) 650-3333.
For other questions, e-mail me at email@example.com or stop by my office during office hours.
Below you will find a schedule of all exams, quizzes, assignments, readings, lectures, and the film. You may find the Modules page easier to navigate, but the schedule below is strictly chronological.
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 snow cancels classes).
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.