Seminar 1: Introductory
We’ll discuss how particular conceptions of the hero and narrative patterns are established in classical literature and later modified by modern writers. Theories of heroic literature developed by Joseph Campbell and Karen Armstrong will be examined.
Seminar 2: Odysseus
Selected short episodes from Homer’s The Odyssey will be studied and contrasted with Tennyson’s “Ulysses” to explore how the classical hero is established in Western literary tradition and then redefined by a nineteenth century British poet.
Seminar 3: Modern War
Brief selections from British poetry of World War One, demonstrating how the nature of modern “total war” has resulted in an antiheroic tradition which radically revises classical notions of war heroism. The film version of All Quiet on the Western Front will be examined.
Seminar 4: American Writers and the Classics
A study of how American writers have both utilized classical notions of the epic hero and offered new ways of picturing heroic experience consistent with the New World values. Robert Warshow’s “The westerner” and George Stevens’ film, Shane, will focus our discussions.
Seminar 5 Willa Cather: Old World / New World
A continuation with our work in week 5, it examines how Willa Cather’s My Antonia, is centered in two concepts of the hero, an Old World model deeply rooted in classical literature and a New World model centered in a uniquely American figure.
Seminar 6: Harry Potter’s Odyssey
We’ll examine how the Harry Potter novels offer a sharp critique of the radical individualism valorized by modern writers and utilize classical texts such as The Odyssey to imagine a compelling vision of restored community, a recaptured and revitalized “home.” We’ll read brief sections from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and study the film version.