CL 108/EN 108  Myth in Classical Literature

spring 2018

An introduction to Classical mythology through an examination of the diverse ways in which myth and legend are treated in the literatures of ancient Greece and Rome.

This course will help you develop:

- a deepened appreciation of literature

- an enhanced confidence in engaging with complex literary texts

- an increased awareness that works of literature are embedded in specific historic and cultural contexts

- an improved understanding of intertextuality, the connectedness of individual works within a literary tradition

- an improved ability closely to read literary texts

Please keep these goals in mind as you do the readings and the written work for this class.


Premise and things you should know:

This is not a mythology course as such.  Rather it is a literature course focused on how mythology is used in Classical literature.  If all goes well, along the way you will learn a good bit about Classical mythology, and you will also read a number of pieces of Classical literature that you might not otherwise have read.

This course assumes no prior knowledge of Classical mythology.  All readings will be done in English translation; no knowledge of Greek or Latin is required.

There is no textbook for this course.  All readings will be available on line and linked through the class website.  You may also use other translations of the assigned readings if you choose.

This course is organized in weekly modules.  All readings should be done before the start of each module.


Course outline:

1. Introduction:

a. nature of myth and legend

b. myth and religion

c. overview of major gods and goddesses

d. historical overview


2. Myth and Religion:

a. Hesiod, Theogony

b. Homeric Hymns to Demeter and Delian Apollo


3. Myth as Story Telling:

a. Homer, Iliad (excerpts)

b. Homer, Odyssey (excerpts)


4. Myth and Geography

a. Plato, Timaios and Kritias (excerpts)

b. Lysias, Funeral Oration (excerpt)

c. Strabo, Geography (excerpt)

d. Herodotos, Histories (excerpts)


5. Exploring the Human Condition:

a. Aiskhylos, Seven Against Thebes

b. Sophokles, Philoktetes, Trakhiniai and Elektra

c. Euripides, Helen


6. Myth, History and Ideology:

a. Euripides, Children of Herakles and Ion

b. Vergil, Aeneid (excerpts)


7. The Literate Myth:

a. Kallimakhos, Hymn to Artemis

b. Catullus, Hymn to Diana

c. Ovid, Heroides (excerpts)


8. Myth as Ornament:

a. Pindar, select Odes

b. Horace, select Odes


9. Myth at Play:

a. Apollonius of Rhodes, Argonautica (excerpts)

b. Ovid, Metamorphoses (excerpts)

c. Plautus, Amphitruo


10. Schoolbook Mythology:

a. Apollodoros, Library (excerpts)

b. Hyginus, Fables (excerpts)


The question:

For all of our readings the key question is “Precisely how is mythology used in this work?”  Whatever you are reading, keep this question in mind.


The work of the course:

I. There will be a reading assignment for most weekly modules. Assignments and study questions will be linked to the Course Schedules on the class website.  As part of most modules you will be asked to write a half-to full-page essay on a topic related to the study questions for that module.  The remainder of the class sessions will be devoted to discussion of the reading assignment and, when necessary, introduction of the next assignment.

II. There will also be a group oral report.

III. There will also be a two- to thhree-page written assignment involving the close reading of a selected text.

IV. There will also be a final essay, four to five pages in length.

The oral report, the close-reading assignment and the final essay will all be explained in greater detail in mid-March, and further information will be posted on the class website at that time.

There will be no other tests or written assignments.

The work load for this class is not exceptionally heavy but if can appear so if you leave all the reading to the last minute.  Break the weekly readings down into smaller units and spread the work out over two or more days during the week.



I. The average of the weekly essays will count for 60% of your semester grade.  In calculating this average I will drop your two lowest grades.

II. The group report will count for 10% of your semester grade.

III. The close reading assignment will count for 10% of your semester grade.

IV. The final paper essay will count for 20% of your semester grade.

You are expect to participate regularly in classroom discussions even though there is no grade for this.



There is no textbook for this course.  There are links to translations of all of the readings on the class website, but you may use other translations if you so choose.



According to the University’s Catalogue, “All students are expected to attend every class session.  The impact of attendance on grading is specified in the syllabus.”  You must attend class to write the required weekly essay (remember, though, that your two lowest essay grades will be dropped in calculating your final grade).  The weekly essay may occur on either day of the weekly module, depending on the structure of the module.


Academic honesty:

Please review the University’s policy on academic honesty at  You are, in fact, strongly encouraged to discuss all assignments, including the comprehensive final essay, with other members of the class.  The honesty policy should not be seen as limiting such discussions, but rather as guidelines for how to have them.  In particular discussion of an assignment should be separate from writing the assignment: co-written papers are unacceptable. 


Electronic devices:

You are expected to bring with you to class a laptop, tablet or other similar device for accessing the internet.  You will need such a device to consult the on-line reading assignments during class, and it will also be useful for tracking down background information and the like.  On the other hand,  their use in any way unconnected with class (checking Facebook, reading for another course, etc.) is unacceptable since it prevents you from making your full contribution to the class, it distracts other students, and it is just plain rude.  For the same reasons the use of a cell-phone, texting device or similar personal communications gear during class is also unacceptable.  Please turn all such devices off before class begins.



The website for this course is  

Professor Rosivach

DMH 126

office hours: Monday and Thursday 12:30 pm; Wednesday 9:00 pm

E-mail: If you have any questions on any topic related to class, e-mail me and I will answer your question as soon as I am able.  My e-mail address is:  If you have to communicate with me for any reason, I would prefer that you use e-mail, not voice mail.   If you do use voice mail, please do not expect me to return your call.


A note on the essays:

There will be no make-ups for missed essays, but remember that your two lowest grades will be dropped in calculating your final grade.  (back)