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Comparative Mythology: Humanities 8

Summer, 2013 Sec # 8316

Emeritus 1519

Moonday, Tuesday, Wotansday Juno 17-Julius 24

10:00 am-12:50 pm

This course investigates myths representing diverse global cultures; introduces scholarly theories and methods of interpretation; compares and contrasts plot structures, themes and character types within and across cultures; and traces myth's relationship with religion and the arts.

4 Required Texts (available in

campus bookstore)

*Thompson, trans. ed, Comparative Mythology, LAD, 3rd Ed. *Kramer, Wolkstein, trans, ed., Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth *Graves, trans., The Golden Ass *Tedlock. trans. The Popol Vuh 2nd Ed. Student Learning Outcomes: 1. Analyze and critique a myth for its ideological content and values. 2. Identify the source of a myth and evaluate interpretive changes with respect to its function and purpose within a cultural context. 3. Distinguish the shared/universal aspects in a myth from its local particularities.

Professor Eric Thompson,, V.M. 527-4625, Office Hours: M: 1:00-2:00 pm; T: 9:00-10 am

Week 1 Mon. 6/17 Tue. 6/18

Definitions, Methods, Theories, Intro ANE Egyptian and Babylonian Creations Myths

Schedule Read Thompson 1-2 Read Thompson 3-4 Read Thompson 5-6 Review Read Inanna 1-2 Read Inanna 3-4 Read Ass Intro-6 Review Read Ass 7-10 Read Ass 11-15 Read Ass to end Review Read PV 1-2 Read PV 3 Read PV 4 Review Project: select medium Project work Project work

Wotan. 6/19 Canaanite and Israelite Creation Myths Week 2 Mon. 6/24 Tue. 6/25 Review, add Iranian creation, flood myths Unit Exam 1; Inanna, Lilith, mythic symbolism

Wotan. 6/26 Hieros-gamos; Exposition on Myth and Ritual, Sex and Death Week 3 Mon. 7/1 Unit Exam 2; The Greco-Roman Pantheon Tue. 7/2 Wotan. 7/3 Week 4 Mon. 7/8 Tue. 7/9 Eros and Psyche: Romance Mystery Cults; creation of and relationship with deities Excursion: Research, Interpretation, Exposition of Myth Unit Exam 3; Native American mythic themes

Wotan. 7/10 Video: Popol Vuh; Death and Afterlife Week 5 Mon. 7/15 Tue. 7/16 Human Sacrifice and Sacred Violence; Myths of Holy War and Conquest Unit Exam 4; The Trickster

Wotan. 7/17 Select Asian myths; Select contemporary living myths Week 6 Mon. 7/22 Semester Project Due Tue. 7/23 Select Scandinavian Myths; Review Wotan. 7/24

Final Exam

Attendance Policy: All students are expected to be in class for all 18 sessions and for

all the minutes from 10:00 am until 12:50 pm. There will be a 15-minute break in the middle of class. Coming late, leaving early, or going out and in during class are NOT okay. If you miss class because of an authentic, documentable reason (illness or death), or if you make personal, individual arrangements with the professor in advance in case of a known upcoming absence, accommodations can be made individually. OTHERWISE . . .

If you are absent OR LATE on the day of a Unit Exam you get zero for that exam; no make up exams will be given If you are late when a homework assignment, including the final paper, is due, it will be accepted at a 10 % penalty, but only on the same day as the due date If you sign up to give an oral presentation you must in class on time or get zero If you miss class for any reason, it is your responsibility to borrow anot her students notes to make up what you missed No assignments will be accepted by email unless a prior in-person arrangement has been made with the professor and then only for reasons of illness, injury or death If you miss an assignment given orally in class because you were absent or left early, I will not give it to you by email If any students absence from class equals 10 % of the total class minutes, (306 minutes--less than two class sessions) the student may be dropped from the class

Note: Its a summer class, and Im sure we all have parties to go to, vacations to enjoy and weekends to extend through Monday. But you have chosen to take a summer class, and all choices mean excluding the other options not chosen. Me too. I have to arrange my Forth of July plans (cant go to that family reunion in Idaho) because I signed up to teach a summer class. Choices. Not showing up at all is mostly just bad for you, but your need to ask whats going on or requests to make up points youve miss ed then involves inconvenience to others. Coming late or leaving early, however, is always disruptive to those around you. It screws up the flow, it is jarring and rude, and pollutes the sacred education space.

Assignments: Reading: Four books, all primary sources of ancient myths, are required and must be read
carefully and entirely. Doing well in the class will depend on doing the reading.

Exams: There will be four short unit exams and a final exam on the last day of class. The
unit exams will be a combination of multiple-choice, matching and short essay based on both reading and lecture for each unit. The final will be all multiple-choice and matching and based on the short unit exams.

Homework Assignments: Responses to questions about the assigned reading and

questions that arise during class discussion will be given about once per week as we go. They will be given ad hoc, when the Muses move me.

Semester Project: On Monday of the last week of class each student will submit an essay
or give a lecture on a topic partly of their choosing (see Rubric below).

Play: There will be opportunities, on a volunteer basis, to participate in theatrical

enactments of myths.

Grading Unit Exams: 50 Points each, 200 points total. Homework Assignments: 100 points total. Length, content and number TBA Semester Project: 100 points Final Exam: 100 points 500 points possible

451-500 = A; 401-450 = B; 351-400 = C; 301-350 = D; 300 & below = F Notes on Assignments

All written work for this class that is homework --i.e. prepared outside of class and brought to hand in, must be typed, spell and grammar checked, and if more than one page, stapled (in college, staples are considered the students responsibility) Copying verbatim without giving credit is always a crime and will not be tolerated. This includes copying from another student, as well as copying from internet or print sources. Plagiarism or other forms of cheating will be prosecuted thus: first offence--zero for the assignment (in the case of two students in the same class, in the case of homework, both copier and copyee will get zero) AND a formal report will be filed with the Student Services. The second offence means automatic F for the course and another report. which will go on permanent record establishing the offender as a serial cheater. If you are not sure what plagiarism is, look it up and find out. You will never be in danger of committing it if you always do your own thinking and writing in your own words, and document your sources whenever you use sources. Always document your sources. Always, whenever you are using an idea you got from somewhere else, or are referring to, summarizing, or quoting from a text, you must give a citation. Always, always, always! I strongly prefer MLA form, but it is not required. If you dont know what this means find out on line, in the library or ask me.

Homework: Homework assignments will be announced during class and the

instructions will not be repeated for people who were not in the room to hear them unless by in-person arrangement with the professor for a valid reason. Homework assignments that are scrawled hastily in pencil on torn paper as I am collecting them will not be accepted (this happens a lot here!)

Semester Project:
Choose a theme (Creation, Trickster, Death, Sex, Food, Trees, Heros Journey, etc.) Select two myths covered in class, and one not covered in class, that exemplify the theme Explicate this theme by comparing, contrasting, and interpreting the myths--make general observations based on the specific details of the myths you are explicating. Select a medium: written or oral; either compose a 5-6 page essay, or design and prepare a 10-12 minute presentation


Mechanics (10 %): --no more than 2 grammar, or spelling mistakes per page --1 inch margins, 11-12 point type, at least 5 full pages --organized, logical progression of sentences and paragraphs --diction--word choice appropriate to meaning Research (30 %): --Works Cited page with at least one citation from every work on list in body of paper --Primary sources identified, listed and cited for all myths --Secondary sources identified, listed and cited for all myths --Precision of citations--citations are easy to find and actually say what you say they say --knowledge of cultural, historical, geographical context of myths Content Appropriateness (20 %): --three distinct mythic examples discussed --all examples fit the definition of myth --discussion demonstrates awareness of class content Thesis (20 %) --clearly stated, meaningful, falsifiable, defensible Argumentation (20 %): --thesis is defended and supported by logically valid and verifiable observations from the evidence in the sources

Mechanics (10 %): --organized, logical progression of ideas --a full 10 but not more than 12 minutes --helpful visual aids, movement, projection, annunciation Research (30 %): --Works Cited page given prior to presentation --Primary sources identified, listed and cited for all myths --Secondary sources identified, listed and cited for all myths --Precision of citations--citations are easy to find and actually say what you say they say --knowledge of cultural, historical, geographical context of myths discussed Content Appropriateness (20 %): --three distinct mythic examples discussed --all examples fit the definition of myth --discussion demonstrates awareness of class content Thesis (20 %) --clearly stated, meaningful, falsifiable, defensible Argumentation (20 %): --thesis is defended and supported by logically valid and verifiable observations from the evidence in the sources


Definition of Myth
There is no such thing as the true definition of any word (thats a fact of the messy reality that is language). But definitions can be more or less helpful. Words are tools, and definitions of words provide a sharper or duller tool depending on how effective they are. The English define comes from the Latin definio which means to mark out or set the limits of something (finite means limited). Drawing boundaries or limits necessarily involves identifying what is out as much as what is in the category. Definitions that are too broad cease to be helpful: a word that means everything means, eo ipso, nothing at all. So a good definition should be useful in setting apart what is NOT included. So, what exactly are the boundaries--limits--around our subject, when we do MYTHO-logy? For the purposes of this class, I give a working definition here that is: 1) informed by the work of professional scholars who study and write on myth (as opposed to popular culture); and, 2) it is somewhere between the extremes (some authors, e.g. Joseph Campbell, define myth as absolutely any story; other others, e.g. Micea Eliade define myths as only dealing with Gods and creation; I accept neither extreme) 3) it is one that is most useful for practical purposes, it seems to me. This is the definition that students will be asked to work with in doing assignments for the class. So . . . A myth is a 1) narrative, a story (i.e. it has a plot), that involves 2) divine beings, supernatural entities, and/or causes, and is 3) anonymous in origin, has, that is, evolved by collective transmission through time, and 4) held sacred (true) by a community--it is the basis of religious belief and ritual, ethnic or national identity, etc.), but is actually

5) imaginatively constructed, not factually (historically or scientifically) true in the sense of not supported by evidence See the appendix in the text for some elaboration. This definition is compatible with many contemporary dictionaries. Compare, for instance, Websters [I have inserted comments in brackets]: [A myth] is a story [#1] that is usually of unknown origin [#3], and at least partially traditional [#3], that ostensibly [#5--look up ostensibly if you dont know what it means] relates historical events usually of such a character as to serve to explain some practice, belief, institution or natural phenomenon, and that is especially associated with religious rites and beliefs [#2, 4]. So then, what is not a myth? A single symbol or picture is not a myth. Neither is an axiom (a proverb, saying or factoid like, driving while talking on a handheld cell phone is as dangerous as driving drunk --the stuff dealt with by Mythbusters ). Symbols and axioms are not stories and therefore not myths (# 1). Fairy tales are not myths; scholars often distinguish them from myths on the point that they usually dont involve deities (# 2) and furthermore they are not sacred (# 4). Lies are not myths. Lies, as self-conscious deception fail criteria #3 & 4. Novels with a single named creator who gets royalties for the work (C.S. Lewis Narnia Chronicles, Tolkiens Lord of the Rings trilogy) are not myths (# 3). And the Big Bang Theory is not myth, though some myth textbooks treat it as a creation myth (Leeming, e.g.). While it is true that scientific theories sometimes turn out to be false, and that they involve imagination, they are nevertheless completely different things than myths (# 2, 3, and 5).

This is a small sampling illustrating Genres of Material (This is barely a scratch at the surface of whats available), in print. I. Myth: Ancient Primary Sources. There are several translations for most or all of these. I have given the information for translations that I favor. Carson, Ciaran. Trans. The Tain: A New Translation of the Tain Bo Cuailnge . Penguin, 2007. Cashford, Jules. Trans. The Homeric Hymns. Penguin, 2003. Dalley, Stephanie. Trans. Myths From Mesopotamia: Creation, The Flood, Gilgamesh and Others. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989. Graves, Robert. Trans. The Transformations of Lucius Otherwise Known as The Golden Ass. New York: Farrar, Strause and Giroux, 1951. Larrington, Carolyne. Trans. The Poetic Edda. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996. OFlaherty, Wendy Doniger. Trans. & Ed. The Rig Veda: An Anthology. New York: Penguin, 1981. Ovid. The Metamorphoses. Trans. Allen Mandelbaum. New York: Harcourt & Brace, 1993. Smith, John D. Trans. & Ed. The Mahabharata. London & New York: Penguin, 2009.

Sturluson, Snorri. Edda. Trans. Anthony Faulkes. London: Everyman, 1987. Virgil. The Aeneid. Trans. David West. London, New York, et al.:Penguin, 1991 Waters, Frank. The Book of the Hopi. New York: Penguin, 1963. II. Retelling of Myth, Dictionaries and the Like: Secondary Sources Cotterelle, Arthur. Oxford Dictionary of World Mythology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986. Davis, F. Hadland. Myths and Legends of Japan. New York: Dover, 1992. Graves, Robert. The Greek Myths. London & New York: Penguin, 1955, 1960, 1992 (Combined Edition.). Green, Roger Lancelyn and Michelle Paver. Puffin Classic, revised 2013. Hamilton, Edith. Mythology. Warner Books, 1942. III. Scholarship on Myth (Secondary Sources) Armstrong, Karen. A Short History of Myth. Edinburgh & New York: Canongate, 2005. Campbell, Joseph. The Hero With a Thousand Faces. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 2nd Ed, 1968. Colby, Frederick S. Narrating Muhammad's Night Journey: Tracing the Development of the Ibn Abbas Ascension Discourse. SUNY Press, 2008. Doniger, Wendy. The Implied Spider: Politics and Theology in Myth. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998. _____________ (OFlaherty). Other Peoples Myths: The Cave of Echoes. Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, republished w/new preface, 1995. Eliade, Mircea. The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion; The Significance of Religious Myth, Symbolism, and Ritual Within Life and Culture. Trans. Willard R. Trask. New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1959. _____________. Myths, Dreams and Mysteries: The Encounter Between Contemporary Faiths and Archaic Realities. Trans. Philip Mairet. New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1960. _____________. Myth and Reality. Trans. Willard R. Trask. New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1963. Hyde, Lewis. Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth and Art. New York: North Point Press, 1998. Kinsley, David. Tantric Visions of the Divine Feminine: The Ten Mahavidyas. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997. Leeming, David. The World of Myth: An Anthology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992. . Jealous Gods and Chosen People: The Mythology of the Middle East. Oxford, 2005. Patton, Laurel L., and Wendy Doniger, Edd. Myth and Method. Charlottesville and London: University of Virginia Press, 1996.

Thury , Eva and Margaret Devinney. Introduction to Mythology: Contemporary Approaches to Classical and World Myths. Oxford: Oxfrod University Press, 2012. There are scads of internet sources for myth. Use with discretion and skepticism. A very large amount of what is said about ancient myths on websites and in computer and video games is BS that people made up because they arent scholars, didnt do their research well, or just changed things to suit their purpose. There is, to emphasize the point again, A LOT of this on the internet. Exercise basic critical thinking skills when doing research.