Backgrounds of Western Lit

We will study a variety of
monumental Western texts, all “big” super-canonical names that you should know as an English major
or simply as a literate person. You will encounter enduring “people” such as
Odysseus, Job, Lancelot, Guinevere, Oedipus, Dante, Antigone, Daphne, Apollo,
Jesus, Penelope, Orestes, and so on. I am interested in the protean nature of
story, the way fictions change, evolve, and yet retain an identity across time
and culture, so we will consider certain key problems, such as the relation of
the self to physical and spiritual worlds, the problem of power, and the motif
of the quest as they work themselves out in what have become archetypal texts. You
may expect to read Homer (The Iliad), selections from the Old and New
Testaments of the Bible, Aeschylus (The Oresteia), Sophocles (two of the Theban Plays),
Sappho (poems), Aristophanes (Lysistrata),Catullus (poems), Dante (The
and selections from the Purgatorio
and Paradiso)
, and Malory (selections from Le Morte D’Arthur).

You will take three in-class mid
terms and a final exam and do a paired presentation to the class (probably).
Reading quizzes will be inflicted if necessary. We will read from separate paperback
texts available at the UH Bookstore or from any other source you prefer.  On-line versions are available, but they lack
notes and background, and you need to be careful with translation
quality/currency. You will also view on-line historical and cultural slides
relevant to the readings. This course fulfills a Diversification Literature
requirement and the English major’s Pre-1700 requirement.