Spring 2014 -
Undergraduate Course Description
Discipline and Number
1:00 PM - 2:15 PM
|Western Literary Tradition
Description of Course:
All major works of literature in the “western” tradition refer directly or indirectly to the great epic texts that are its foundation. The epic is the characteristic way in which a civilization tells its largest and most fundamental stories, encoding its own evolution and that of our species, and its central moral values, aesthetics, cosmology, political principles, and religious ideas. Epics appear all over the world and are represented in several major periods of Western history, often with strong references back to earlier epics. Over the centuries the epic has evolved, revealing layers of introspection and self-reference that are at first only implicit. Plato was not the only political philosopher to use the epic narratives as a mine of examples and a source of authority.
This course will follow the foundational “western” epic texts in the context of world epic in general, showing how epic is not just a “western” genre but a culturally universal human achievement, belonging to all peoples.
Desired Learning Outcomes:
1. To demonstrate in essay examinations a knowledge of the basic themes and plots of some major “western” epic texts in a culturally diverse epic context.
2. To demonstrate in discussion an ability to give an exegesis of such texts.
3. To express that knowledge and exegesis in clear English prose under time constraints.
John Milton: Paradise Lost, Norton Critical Edition
The Epic of Gilgamesh, trans. Stephen Mitchell, Atria Books
The New Oxford Annotated Bible, Oxford U.P.
Homer: The Odyssey, trans. Robert Fitzgerald, Farrar Straus
Virgil: The Aeneid, trans. Robert Fitzgerald, Vintage Books
Henry IV part 1 --The New Folger Library Shakespeare
Henry IV part 2 --The New Folger Library Shakespeare
William Wordsworth: The Major Works: including The Prelude, Oxford World's Classics
Herman Melville: Moby-Dick: or, The Whale, Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition
William Buck, trans.: Mahabharata, California U. P.
Dennis Tedlock, trans: Popol Vuh, Touchstone Books
Robert Cook, trans.: Njal’s Saga Penguin
Course Requirements/Evaluation Criteria:
This is an intensive reading course, with no term paper but weekly in-class short essay quizzes, which will test reading comprehension, offer an opportunity for imaginative readings, and provide a basis for class discussion. An optional term paper of 3-5 thousand words can raise but not lower the semester grade. Missing more than 2 quizzes will result in an F for the entire quiz portion of the grade