This course explores various world mythologies and their influences on modern literatures and helps students understand and articulate the role of mythology in forming ethnic/national/cultural identity—and vice versa. It introduces students to critical theories that focus on mythology and archetype as tools for literary analysis and to basic ideas of comparative mythology. Students read excerpts of Indian, Chinese, African, Native American, and Norse mythological or legendary texts, each followed by contemporary works which engage with and draw on their respective mythological themes and content, by Indian, Chinese, Nigerian, Kiowa, and Icelandic authors and poets. The semester culminates in an in-depth reading of Neil Gaiman's American Gods, a novel that engages deeply with concepts of mythology, archetype, cultural identity, and the effects of belief and changing values on mythology.
This course also introduces students to a specific type of literary and cultural critical theory and gives students the chance to practice close reading techniques, literary analysis, participation in a literature seminar, and consistent reflection on their reading and thinking. Additionally, the final exam activity for this course requires students to write an abstract of their final paper, present a short verbal summary of their argument, and respond to questions about their paper from their peers and instructor.
After this course, students should be able to:
define "mythology" and "archetype"
understand and articulate the cultural and social uses of mythology
understand and articulate the role of mythology in forming ethnic/national/cultural identity—and vice versa—and recognize that ethnicity/nationality/culture are not synonymous
see and describe the effects of mythology and folk tales on contemporary works of fiction and poetry
articulate how mythology has adapted to cultural change and how it functions in modern discourses
have better insight into how certain mythologies are embedded into American culture and identity particularly and how that might differ from other global cultures
move beyond simple euhemerism in their approach to mythology
analyze fictional and poetic texts using the lens of archetypal/mythological literary criticism
better understand and use close reading techniques
participate confidently in a literary seminar course format
compose an annotated bibliography
write a clear, effective thesis statement
write a 6-8 page literary analysis paper which incorporates primary and secondary sources
write an abstract
verbally present and defend a literary analysis argument and address questions about it from their peers