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, Guenevere, 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), Dante (THE INFERNO and selections from THE PURGATORIO and THE PARADISO), and Malory (selections from LE MORTE D’ARTHUR).

There will be three in-class mid terms, a presentation on an image pertinent to the course, and a final exam. Reading quizzes will be inflicted if necessary. We will read from paperback single texts; you will 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.