Introduction to Literature: Literary History: Myths Past and Present

Myths are some of the oldest and most enduring types of literature in the world, told for thousands of years and passed from generation to generation. In this course, we will explore the history of mythology from oral tradition to collected volumes, to modern adaptations such as TV shows, video games, movies, music, and more. We will use Homer’s The Iliad as our central text but will spend the majority of our time looking at the works that have branched from it, especially those that question the racial, gender, and sexual identities of these heroes and highlight silent characters to give them a new voice. We will look at works such as Madeline Miller’s 2012 romance novel, The Song of Achilles, Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Women,  the 2004 Brad Pitt film Troy, the Netflix show Troy: Fall of a City, and one man’s theory that Captain America is the modern Achilles. From there, we will begin to map the major themes, changes, and artistic styles of these adaptations so as to better understand how time, author intention, politics, gender, race, sexuality, and more play into the changes we see. Finally, students will be asked to find their own comparison of an “original” myth and its adaptation. In total, students will write 3 major papers and participate regularly in in-class assignments and conversation.

Some Questions to Consider:
• Why are myths told in the first place? What is it about mythology that compels us to tell the same stories over and over again?
• How do myths adapt to the modern age? How do the changes we see in these adaptations reflect our own standards of morality, society, art, and more?
• How have myths been misunderstood over time? What gets lost in translation? How might myths be used to propel certain agendas?
• Is there a difference between myth and religion? Are myths religious texts or works of fiction?

Possible Texts:
• The Iliad by Caroline Alexander
• The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
• The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
• Troy (Film)
• Troy: Fall of a City (Netflix TV Show)
• All other texts can be accessed on Laulima via link or PDF

Student Learning Objectives:
Students will be able to:

1. Students will improve their ability to ask questions of and to read, analyze, and interpret complex literary texts, using relevant literary terminology critically and creatively.
2. Students will augment their knowledge of how literature is organized by historical periods, genres, cultures, and cultural formations.
3. Students will improve their ability to express ideas by organizing, developing and supporting a description, analysis, or argument in written formats, within the conventions of academic writing.
4. Students will produce a significant amount of writing such that the course fulfills the requirements of its mandatory W Focus designation (i.e. 4,000 words).