CL 411.01 / Syllabus / Fall 2015-2016

CL 411.01 / Syllabus / Fall 2015-2016

CL 411.01 / Syllabus / Fall 2015-2016

Instructor: Matthew Gumpert


Introduction. An introduction to classical mythology, which we approach as (1) a canon of foundational cosmologies and theogonies; (2) a mode of sacred or allegorical truth; (3) a collection of performative rituals; and (4) a kind of literature. Classical mythology is characterized simultaneously by its adaptive flexibility and its remarkable stability. During the course of this semester we examine how classical myths have both changed and remained constant. We are particularly interested in the way mythology both depends on and remains tied to and yet distinct from the major classical literary genres: epic, tragic, and lyric poetry. We are also interested in the historically distinct ways in which myths have been understood. While following various myths through successive historical periods and distinct literary genres, additional readings will suggest some of the major critical approaches to mythology.

Course Materials. Three different readers are required for this course: 1.Homer, 2.Selected Texts, 3.Criticism; all will be available at Doğa Kırtasiye-Fotokopi.

Grading. Midterm 35%; Class Performance and Short Papers 25%; Final 40%

---Class performance is a large part of your grade, and includes preparation, participation, attendance, and various short response papers assigned during the semester. Note that participation is impossible if you do not have with you the text we are to cover that day in class.

---There is an in-class midterm and final exam for this course. The final exam will be comprehensive, covering all material from beginning to end of the semester. To be admitted to the final, the student must fulfill the attendance requirement.

Reading Schedule

Week 1 (28 Sept -)


Barthes, Mythologies; Plato, Republic 2; Phaedrus

Week 2 (5 Oct -)

From Mythos to Logos

Vernant, “The Reason of Myth”

Edmunds, “Introduction: The Practice of Greek Mythology”; Morford, “The Interpretation and Definition of Classical Myth”; Bidney, “Myth, Symbolism, and Truth”

Week 3 (12 Oct -)

Archaic Greek Epic I

Hesiod, Works and Days

Dossan, “The Eclipse of Solar Mythology”

Week 4 (19 Oct -)

Archaic Greek Epic II

Homer, selections from the Iliad and Odyssey

Versnel, “What’s Sauce for the Goose is Sauce for the Gander: Myth and Ritual, Old and New”; Raglan, “Myth and Ritual”

Week 5 (26 Oct -)

Homer, Iliad and Odyssey

Week 6 (2 Nov -)

Homer, Iliad and Odyssey

Week 7 (9 Nov -)

Ritual and Performance: Choral Poetry and Monody

Alcman, Partheneion; Pindar, Odes (Olympian 1, Pythian 4, 5, and 9); poetry by Sappho (Fr. 16), Alcaeus (“Helen,” “Helen and Thetis”), and Stesichorus (Helen, Palinode)

Henderson, “Ancient Myths and Modern Man”; Caldwell, “The Psychoanalytic Interpretation of Greek Myth”

Week 8 (16 Nov -)

Classical Tragedy: Myth and the Polis

Euripides, Helen; Bacchae

Lévi-Strauss, “The Structural Study of Myth”; Vernant, “The Society of the Gods”; Vernant, “The Myth of Prometheus”; Zeitlin, “The Dynamics of Misogyny”;

Week 9 (23 Nov -)

The Triumph of Logos: Philosophy, History

Herodotus, Histories (excerpts from Book 1 and 2); Plato, selections from Republic; Pépin, “The Platonic and Christian Ulysses”

Brillante, “History and the Historical Interpretation of Myth”

Week 10 (30 Nov -)

The Invention of Literature: Hellenistic Pastoral, Romance, and Criticism

Theocritus (“Helen’s Bridal Hymn,” “The Cyclops”), Apollonius Rhodius (Argonautica, excerpts from book 2 and 3); Callimachus, Aetia

Week 11 (7 Dec -)

The Hellenic and the Hebraic

Old Testament (Genesis 1-2, 22); Auerbach, “Odysseus’ Scar”

Week 12 (14 Dec -)

Near Eastern Epic


Edmunds, “Greek and New Eastern Myth”; Mondi, “Greek Mythic Thought in the Light of the Near East”; Gilgamesh, “The Setting of the Epic”

Week 13 (21 Dec -)


Louis Althusser, "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses"; Slavoj Zizek, The Sublime Object of Ideology

F 25 Dec: classes end