Skip Course Information

Course Information

Instructor Info:Alan Hodder
Office Extension x5354
Term: 2013S
Meeting Info: Tuesday Thursday
12:30 PM - 01:50 PM Franklin Patterson Hall (FPH) 102
12:30 PM - 01:50 PM Franklin Patterson Hall (FPH) 102

In the fourth century BCE, Plato anticipated the popular derogatory conception of myth by dismissing it as an imaginative fabrication--pseudos, "a lie." Throughout Western history, however, and particularly since the rise of Romanticism, thinkers from various disciplines have viewed the stories of antiquity in more constructive terms. What is "myth"? Deliberate falsehood or a veiled truth? Is it a term applicable to or recognizable in non-Western cultures also? What is the relationship between myth and history, myth and literature, myth and religion, myth and art, myth and ideology? These are some of the questions this course is designed to address. 

Course Objectives:

The objectives of the seminar are threefold. We will begin by familiarizing ourselves with some of the earliest traditional formulations of the mythologies of ancient Greece, India, and northern Europe. Subsequently, beginning in the fifth week, we will examine a range of major theoretical approaches to the study of myth from the nineteenth century to the contemporary period. Since myth has been a subject of considerable interest for thinkers from a wide array of disciplines, we will examine the work of leading theorists in anthropology, sociology, history of religions, philosophy, psychology, and literary and cultural theory. Theorists to be considered will include Müller, Frazer, Durkheim, Malinowski, Lévi-Strauss, Freud, Jung, Campbell, Eliade, Frye, Doniger, and Barthes. Finally, through assigned readings, class and online discussions, papers, projects, and oral presentations, students will have the opportunity to develop in depth their own interests in the study of myth.

Evaluation Criteria:

(1)  Participation in seminar discussions and online discussion board

(2)  Participation in two class presentations

(3)  Mid-term paper (4-5 pages) due in class February 28

(4)  Research  essay (8-10 pages) due on Mon., May 6, by 4 pm

Please Note: A student with more than four unexcused absences during the semester will not receive a final evaluation for the course.

Additional Info:

Teaching Assistant: Sarah Jenkins will be serving as the T. A. for this class. She may be contacted at <>.

Required Reading:  The following texts, listed in order of use, are available for purchase at Amherst Books, 8 Main Street, Downtown Amherst.  All other texts are available on the course website and on reserve at the Hampshire College Library.

 Alan Dundes, Sacred Narrative: Readings in the Theory of Myth (California)

Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty, Hindu Myths (Penguin)

Snorri Sturluson, The Prose Edda (Penguin)

Otto Rank,  In Quest of the Hero (Princeton)

Carl G. Jung, Jung on Mythology (Princeton)

Claude Levi-Strauss, Myth and Meaning (Schocken)

Joseph Campbell, Hero With a Thousand Faces (Princeton)

Mircea Eliade, Myth and Reality (Harper)

Roland Barthes, Mythologies (Farrar, Strauss, Giroux)