Freshman Clusters

Cluster 30A,B,CW
Neverending Stories: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Myth

Lecture Schedule: Monday and Wednesday | 2:00 P.M. - 3:15 P.M.
Faculty: Stephanie Jamison | Indo-European Studies, Coordinator
Sara Burdorff | English
Olga Yokoyama | Linguistics
Librarian: Julie Glassman | Powell

This course offers a wide-ranging approach to the study of myths—traditional tales that feature gods and goddesses, heroes and heroines, the origins and ends of things, and the dynamic exploration of fundamental cultural values.Paying particular attention to Indo-European mythologies (Celtic, Classical, Germanic, and Indic) and the longest-lived attested narrative patterns and motifs, from ancient Mesopotamia to contemporary movies, our course will explore the contents, contexts, and significance of myths both ancient and modern.

Mythology has been studied from folkloristic, anthropological, literary, historical, psychological, and linguistic perspectives.Students in the course will be introduced to the ways in which these and other disciplines have contributed to our understanding of the tenacity and pervasiveness of myth in human cultures.Class assignments will challenge students to develop rigorous definitions of "myth" and other forms of traditional narrative; to learn about and apply scholarly tools that have been developed to help us grasp the similarities as well as differences among different myths and mythological traditions; to sample the rich variety of mythmaking media, from oral and written to gestural, musical, and visual; and to gain insight into the protean quality of myth—how it can adapt to different audiences, circumstances, and ideologies.

Among the topics to be covered:

  • The Concept of the Hero, from Gilgamesh to Superman
  • Homer, the Ramayana, and Other Epic Traditions
  • Myth at the Movies
  • Myth and Political Institutions/Movements
  • Powerful Speech: The Semantics of Muthos
  • Tricksters and Culture Heroes
  • The Storyteller and Her/His Muse


Course Format

There will be two lectures every week, and a two-hour discussion section.In addition, films reflecting the tenacity and impact of myth in modern popular cultures will be screened on some evenings.

Spring Seminars

Seminars will address some of the following topics:

  • Mythological and Modern Heroes
  • Structural Approaches to the Study of Myth
  • Myth into Epic
  • Popular Film Genres as Laboratories for Myth
  • Gender and Myth
  • Myth and History

Foundation Area General Education Credit

Upon completion of all three quarters of the cluster, students will satisfy 4 GE course requirements:

  • 2 in Foundations of the Arts & Humanities (Literary and Cultural Analysis; Philosophical and Linguistic Analysis)
  • 2 in Foundations of Society & Culture (1 in Historical Analysis; 1 in Social Analysis)