Fall 2010 - Undergraduate Course Descriptions

Turner Fred
Discipline and Number
LIT 3300 Section 501
M Time 7:00 PM - 9:45 PM
Course Title
Western Literary Tradition

Description of Course:

HUMA 3300.502 The Western Literary Tradition : Epic
Frederick Turner
Fall 2010 Mon 7:00-9:45 pm

The epic is the characteristic way a civilization tells its largest and most foundational stories, which encode its central moral values, 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.

Frequent themes of epic include the hero, the quest, the fall, the beast-man, the journey to the land of the dead, the founding of a city, tragic kin conflict, struggles between authority and insurgency, lawful community and lawless nature, internal and external threats to autonomy, and secular and spiritual claims. Epic is thus profoundly concerned with issues of freedom and liberty: how can a human being liberate himself from his own inner limitations, his fate, his enemies, even his friends? And what burdens, responsibilities, and necessary constraints come along with each new access of freedom?

Required Texts:

We will be reading works such as the following:
Gilgamesh, the Mahabharata, the Bhagavadgita, the biblical books of Genesis and Exodus, Homer’s Odyssey, Virgil’s Aeneid, Beowulf, The Song of Roland, Dante's Inferno, Milton’s Paradise Lost, Shakespeare’s Henriad (Richard II, Henry IV 1 and 2, Henry V), the Mayan Popol Vuh, Njal’s Saga, The Saga of the Volsungs, Wordsworth’s The Prelude, Melville’s Moby Dick, Eliot's The Waste Land, and Frederick Turner’s Genesis.

Course Requirements/Evaluation Criteria:

Grades will be based on in-class written assignments and class participation.

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