English 309 /WGST/MDST 368: Mythologies
Instructor: Dr. Jane Chance, English TTH 10:50-12:05
(Distribution Course) 117 Humanities
Description: This interdisciplinary course will introduce students to a variety of world mythologies and mythmakers, from the beginnings to the modern period. Designed to explore the relationship between a culture and its myths as expressed in specific literary or religious works, “Mythologies” offers a means of understanding cultural difference as well as the fundamental topics of human desire and aspiration (creation and birth, the purpose of life, heroic struggle against nature and death, the hope for rebirth, etc.). Included mythologies: Babylonian, Sumerian, Hindu, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Irish, Welsh, Old Norse, Anglo-Saxon, Finnish, Mayan, Hopi, and modern (Borges, Philip Glass).
Note: Graduate students can sign up for this course as an English Department Graduate Directed Reading.
(All books will be placed on reserve)
Inanna, Lady of Largest Heart: Poems of the Sumerian High Mesopotomia, by Enheduanna, ed. Betty de Shong Meador, Judy Grahn, University of Texas Press, 2001 ISBN 0-292-75242-3.
The Bhagavad-Gita: Krishna’s Counsel in Time of War, trans. Barbara Stoler Miller, Bantam, 1986 ISBN 0553213652 part of longer version of Mahabarata $5.35 BL1138.62 .E5 1986
The Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead, trans. Raymond O. Faulkner, ed. Carol Andrew, University of Texas/British Museum Press, 1990. ISBN 0292704259 $18.87
Hesiod, Theogony; Works and Days, trans. M.L. West, Oxford U. Press rpt., 1999, ISBN 0192839411, $8.95 PA4010 .E5 T5 1999
Ovid, Metamorphoses, trans. Rolfe Humphries Indiana U. Press, 1955; rpt. ISBN 025320001-6 $ PA6522.M2 H8
Early Irish Myths and Sagas, trans. Jeffrey Gantz, Penguin USA, rpt. 1982 ISBN 0140443975 $9.56 PB1421 .E27 1981
Beowulf: A New Verse Translation, trans. Seamus Heaney, Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2000 ISBN 0393320974, $11.30 PE1583 .H43 2000
The Kalevala, trans. Elias Lonnrot, Keith Bosley, Albert B. Lord, Oxford U. Press, 1999, ISBN 019283570X $11.96 PH324.E5B63 1999
The Saga of the Volsungs: The Norse Epic of Sigurd the Dragon Slayer (Penguin Classics), trans. Jesse L. Brock, Penguin USA 2000, ISBN 0140447385 $9.56 PT7287 .V7 E5 1999
Mabinogion (Penguin Classics), trans. Jeffrey Gantz, Viking Press, 1976 rpt., ISBN 0140443223 8.95 PB2363 .M2 G3 1976
Popol Vuh: The Sacred Book of the Ancient Quiche Mayans, trans. Adrien Recinos, University of Oklahoma Press, rpt.1991; ISBN 0806122668 $10.50 F1465 .P814
Book of the Hopi, trans. Frank Waters, Oswald White Bear Fredericks, Viking Press, 1985 ISBN 0140045279 $11.16 E99 .H7 W3 1977
Jorge Luis Borges, Labyrinths: Selected Stories and Other Writings, Norton, 1988 ISBN 0811200124 $ 9.56 PQ7797 .B635 L3 1986
James George Frazer, The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion, Penguin Putnam, 1996 ISBN 0140189319 $14.95
Joseph Campbell, Hero with a Thousand Faces, Princeton UP, rpt. 1972 ISBN 0691017840 $12.76 BL313 .C28 1972
Requirements: 1 short presentation/paper, 2 exams, and 1 longer paper/project.
I. Oriental and Asiatic Mythologies: Akkadian, Sumerian, Hindu
Aug. 28: Read: James George Frazer, The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion, on Magic and Religion (chaps 1-4); Sexes and Vegetation Myth--chaps 11-13; Balder and Fire festivals--chaps 61-63; Golden Bough/Nemi etc. chaps 68-69
Week 2: Babylonian/Sumerian
Sept. 2: The Epic of Gilgamesh: The Babylonian Epic Poem and Other Texts in Akkadian and Sumerian [2000 B.C] (Standard Version, in poetry), pp. 1-100 (12 tablets)
Sept. 4: Inanna, Lady of Largest Heart: Poems of the Sumerian High Mesopotamia, by Enheduanna, pp. 91-102, 117-136, 171-80
Week 3: Hindu
Sept. 9: The Bhagavad-Gita: Krishna’s Counsel in Time of War, part of the longer version of 6th book of Mahabarata (ca. 1200 B.C.), pp. 21-87 (1st-9th teaching)
Sept. 11: The Bhagavad-Gita, pp. 89-154 (10th-18th teaching)
II. Mediterranean and African Mythologies
Week 4: Egyptian
Sept. 16: The Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead (3000 B.C. –300 AD), pp. 27-36, 38-57, 64-67, 74-79, 90-100, 133-139, and 178-188
Sept. 18: Read: Joseph Campbell, Hero with a Thousand Faces (
chapters 1-3) Short Paper #1 Due
Week 5: Greek
Sept. 23: Hesiod, Theogony (late 8th c. B.C.), pp. 4-33
Sept. 25: Works and Days, pp. 38-61
Read: Joseph Campbell, Hero with a Thousand Faces (read chapters 4-6)
Week 6: Roman
Sept. 30: Ovid, Metamorphoses, books 1-5 (1st c. B.C.)
Oct. 2: Ovid, Metamorphoses, books 6-10 Exam #1
III. Northern European Mythologies: Irish, Anglo-Saxon, Finnish, Old Norse, Welsh
Week 7: Early Irish
Oct. 7: Early Irish Myths and Sagas (8th c.): “The Wooing of Étaín” (pp. 39-59); “The Wasting Sickness of Cú Chulaind” (pp. 153-78)
Oct. 9: “Bricriu’s Feast” (pp. 219-255)
Week 8: Anglo-Saxon
Oct. 14: Mid-Term Break
Oct. 16: Beowulf (9th-10th c.)
Week 9: Finnish
Oct. 21: The Kalevala (10th c.?): The First Väinämöinen Cycle (cantos 1-10, pp. 1-119)
Oct. 23: The Kullervo Cycle (cantos 31-36; pp. 432-96); The Marjatta Cycle (canto 50; pp. 649-667)
Oct. 28: The Saga of the Volsungs: The Norse Epic of Sigurd the Dragon Slayer (13th c.), pp. 35-109
Week 11: Welsh
Nov. 4: Mabinogion (13th c.): “How Culhwch Won Owen”;“The Dream of Rhonabwy” (pp. 134-191)
Nov. 6: “Peredur Son of Evrawg” (pp. 217ff)
Week 12: Quiché Maya
Nov. 11: Popol Vuh: The Sacred Book of the Ancient Quiché Maya (16th c.), TBA
Nov. 13: Popol Vuh, TBA
Week 13: Native American
Nov. 18: Book of the Hopi (16th c.), Part 1: The Myths of Creation of the Four Worlds, pp. 3-23 and Chap. 13 of Pt. 2: “Commentary: The Hopi Clan” (pp. 113-122)
Nov. 20: Book of the Hopi (16th c.), Pt. 4: “ The History: The Lost White Brother,” chap. 1: “The Coming of the Castillas” (pp. 251-58); Chap. 3, “Arrival of the Americans,” (pp. 270-78); Chap.9, “The Indian Reorganization Act” (pp. 314-21); chap. 10: “The Flag Still Flies”(pp. 322-28); Chap. 11: “Recommendations and Prophecies” (pp. 329-38).
Week 14: South American
Nov. 25: Jorge Luis Borges, Labyrinths (1956-60): “The Garden of Forking Paths,” “The Circular Ruins,” and ”The Library of Babel” (pp. 45-58)
Nov. 27: Thanksgiving Vacation
Dec. 2: Borges, Labyrinths: “The Theme of the Traitor and the Hero” (pp. 72-76) “The Secret Miracle” (pp. 88-94); “The House of Asterion” (pp. 138-40); “Borges and I” (246-48)
Dec. 4: Project/Paper Due
Exam #2 (or Final)
Pick some aspect of the mythology to be discussed and present significant features of it to the class. Note: this need not be the same as whatever text is being discussed. There may be more than 1 presentation any one day. For your paper, try to focus on the text as a site for contestation and as narrative.
Final Paper (8-10 pp.): Write (create) a mythology of your own, making sure you understand (by the end of the semester) how a mythology might be defined. You might want to write a gloss explaining how your mythology works within the comparative mythologies we have explored in the course.
Office: 501 Fondren Library
Office Hours: 4-5 TTH and by appointment
1. Any student with a documented disability needing academic adjustments or accommodations is requested to speak with me during the first two weeks of class. All discussions will remain confidential. Students with disabilities will need to contact Disability Support Services in the Ley Student Center.
2. Any student with a disability requiring accommodations in this course is encouraged to contact me after class or during office hours. Additionally, students will need to contact Disability Support Services in the Ley Student Center.
3. If you have a documented disability that will impact your work in this class, please contact me to discuss your needs. Additionally, you will need to register with the Disability Support Services Office in the Ley Student Center.