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Greek Mythology: Gods and Heroes in Texts and Contexts

Wednesday, March 23, 2016
Course topic: 

Course Description

What is Greek mythology? The answer to this question may seem obvious: It is the stories the ancient Greeks came up with to describe and explain their world. Sometimes these stories have a religious purpose, helping humans understand their relationship to the gods; sometimes they have a political purpose, narrating the origins of a city; sometimes they just tell a compelling tale to entertain an audience. These myths can be found in the art and literature of the Western world up to the present day. 

In this course, we will study this unruly mass of stories and analyze what they can tell us about the cultural and historical contexts in which they were created and flourished. We will focus on the stories of how the Olympian gods came to power; the battles that Heracles, Perseus, and Theseus fought against legendary monsters; and the struggles of Achilles, Odysseus, and other heroes of the Trojan War. We will also attempt to understand why Greek mythology has inspired so many creative tellings and retellings throughout the past two millennia. 

Donna Zuckerberg, Instructor, The Paideia Institute

Donna Zuckerberg received a PhD in classics from Princeton, where she taught courses on Greek literature, Homer’s Iliad, and classical mythology. She is editor-inchief of the online classics journal Eidolon, and she specializes in promoting the study and appreciation of the classical humanities.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Stephen Trzaskoma, R. Scott Smith, and Stephen Brunet, Anthology Of Classical Myth: Primary Sources in Translation (ISBN 0872207218)
(Required) Roberto Calasso, The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony (ISBN 0679733485)
(Required) Stanley Lombardo, The Essential Homer (ISBN 0872205401)
(Required) Helen Morales, Classical Mythology: A Very Short Introduction (ISBN 0192804766)
(Recommended) Euripides, Euripides V (ISBN 0226308987)
(Recommended) Sophocles, Sophocles II (ISBN 0226311554)
(Recommended) Aeschylus, Aeschylus I (ISBN 0226311449)