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Summer 2003
Myth and Meaning FOR 106
Professor: Janice Siegel, office STV 203F


10:25-1:15 MTWR
STV 308


REQUIRED TEXT: Morford and Lenardon, Classical Mythology 7th ed., Oxford 2003

GENERAL DESCRIPTION: This is an intensive course offering not only the basics of classical (Greek and Roman) mythology, but also of various interpretive theories of myth. Step One is for us to learn the stories from the primary sources (in translation from Greek and Latin) for classical mythology, i.e., the literature, art, archaeology and architecture of (mostly) ancient Greece. We will learn that unlike us, the Greeks did not consider mythology to be separate from science, philosophy, religion, or even politics – it was all wrapped up together, an integrated life view. Step Two will be to try to understand what these myths meant to the Greeks. Why was mythology such an integral part of their culture? And Step Three will be to figure out why mythology survived long after other aspects of Greek culture, including their polytheistic religion, fell away…to trace its influence in the art (painting, sculpture, decorative arts, music, dance, film, etc.) and literature of all the cultures in the western tradition in the ages ever since. When you are done with this course, you will wonder how you ever got along without it – not a day will pass by without your seeing the influence of Greek mythology in your own culture. The study of classical literature enriches are lives in many ways – this is just one.


1. To learn the myths of the Greeks and Romans: readings from primary literature.

2. To understand the myths of the Greeks and Romans: origins, nature, categories (myth, legend, folktale) and functions (e.g., aetiological, charter, etc).

3. To understand the representation of individual, cultural, political, and sexual identity in myth.
5. To learn about Greek myth in the context of Greek culture: topography, archaeological sites, history, religious festivals (e.g., the Olympics), the importance of competition

4. To become acquainted with some major theories of myth interpretation (e.g., myth in ritualism, structuralism, functionalism, feminist, psychoanalytic, etc.).

5. To recognize mythological themes in art, literature, music, film, cartoons.

6. To become familiar with correspondences between the classical myths and those of other cultures (e.g., Native American, Norse, Egyptian, African, etc.)


 You’ll be expected to have the “assigned reading” completed for that day’s class:

WEEK 1                                 

Monday, June 16                     Introduction                              catch-up later: pp 3-50

Tuesday, June 17                     Creation                                   chapter 3: 51-75

Wednesday, June 18                Zeus’s Rise to Power:               chapter 4: 76-107

                                                The Creation of Mortals

Thursday, June 19                    The Twelve Olympians:             chapter 5: 108-127

                                                Zeus, Hera, and Children

                                                The Nature of the Gods            chapter 6: 128-146

WEEK 2                                 

Monday, June 23                     Poseidon, Sea Dieties…           chapter 7: 147-156

                                                Athena                                     chapter 8: 157-169

Tuesday, June 24                     Aphrodite and Eros                  chapter 9:170-199

Wednesday, June 25                Artemis                                    chapter 10: 200-225

                                                Apollo                                      chapter 11: 226-256

                                                Hermes                                    chapter 12: 257-273

Thursday, June 26                    Dionysus                                  chapter 13: 274-306

                                                Demeter                                   chapter 14: 307-327

WEEK 3                                 

Monday, June 30                     Realm of Hades                        chapter 15: 328-353

                                                Orpheus and Eurydice              chapter 16: 354-369

Tuesday, July 1                        Mycenaean Saga                      chapter 18: 404-435

Wednesday, July 2                   The Odyssey                           chapter 20: 482-504

Thursday, July 3                       Perseus                                    chapter 21: 505-518


WEEK 4                                 

Monday, July 7                        Heracles                                   chapter 22: 519-547

Tuesday, July 8                        Theseus                                    chapter 23: 548-571

Wednesday, July 9                   Jason/Medea/Argonauts           chapter 24: 573-601

Thursday, July 10                     Roman Mythology and Saga     chapter 26: 623-663




1. Attendance is mandatory. And don’t be late. In this intensive summer schedule, missing one day is the same as missing an entire week of an ordinary semester. Miss one day, you will be grievously behind. Miss two days, you risk failure. Miss three days, you guarantee failure of the course. Class readings are only springboards for our class discussions. I will not waste class time going over facts, but discussing context and interpretations with you. Much of the course material you will be held responsible for will be presented in class via slides, films, etc. We have a smart classroom and we’ll use it! Daily quizzes will check to see that you did your homework. Don’t fall behind.

2. The good news is that class will be fun!

3. For every day’s class, come prepared. This means a) that you read the assigned pages and b) that you think about what you read. So please do come, be involved in class discussion, and enjoy yourselves.

4. Get into the habit of checking the class webpage every day: http://lilt.ilstu.edu/drjclassics. Then go to ISU CLASSES, MYTHOLOGY



Both the quiz average and the final project must fulfill a minimum standard. In other words, you need a passing grade in each to pass the class.

Quizzes: Because of the nature of our class, and the intense focus of every day’s work, there will be a small quiz EVERY DAY to keep you on task. You will be responsible for the plot of every tale in the reading, as well as keywords I will point out. The format will be a mixture of objective questions (true/false, multiple choice, fill-ins) and short answer. Your QUIZ grade will be an average of these daily quizzes.

Final Project: You will be required to hand in a final project for the course. The choice of your topic and medium of presentation is up to you. It must be well researched but also include interpretation unique to you. Topics could include following a particular mythological theme through time to see how its reception changed and why, comparing the ancient art concerning a theme to its presentation in modern art, tracing the classical influences in a modern piece of literature or a film, etc. You MUST have your topic approved before you start. I can help you attain the proper scope, and provide you with resources.

            Or, you can be creative and apply what you have learned to writing your own myth (if you like to write), or putting a new twist on an old myth in a poem or short story (recast it in terms of time and place, but keep the intrinsic themes) or creating your own piece of art (if you like to draw, sculpt, etc.), or film your own home movie. You can make a webpage, or a flash movie. The opportunities are endless. Again, your project MUST be approved before you begin.

You have to learn a bit about myth before you can choose your topic. Topic choices are DUE June 30 so I have time to approve them and get you headed in the right direction. I will hand out a FINAL PROJECT sheet with specific requirements (length, research expected, etc.) as the time approaches.