E337 – Western Mythology

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Semesters Offered:

Prerequisite: One course in Literature.

Description: After considering the origins of myths and distinguishing among myth, legend, and folktale, this course considers the ancient near-Eastern antecedents of Greek and Biblical mythic themes, touching especially on Sumerian-Babylonian and Canaanite mythology and exploring such themes as creation of the world and human beings, development of hierarchies among gods, and adjustment by human beings to those hierarchies. A substantial portion of the course is then devoted to Greek mythology, where topics include chthonic religion and the Great Mother, Olympian religion and the patriarchy, and human responses to the established pantheon, where Hesiod and Homer serve as essential texts.

When the course turns its attention to the Bible, the emphasis falls, typically, on Genesis through Joshua and the Book of Job, though some attention is paid to New Testament matters as well. The course ends with a comparison of Germanic mythic themes to those found around the Mediterranean. Here Sturluson’s Prose Edda is the central text.