Topic outline

  • Myth and Meaning

    Tuesday and Thursday, 11.30-12.50

    • Course Description

      No one can sensibly claim to understand myth. The category – ‘myth’ – resists definition. A vast amount of information, mostly in the form of narratives, has been assigned to it. We will be trying to come to terms with some of this information. Myths from around the world will be considered. A range of theoretical approaches will be employed. Ideology and the construction of meaning will be recurrent themes. The Greek mythical tradition will be explored in detail, especially in relation to religion, ritual and philosophy. After Spring Break the focus will be on myth in Latin literature.

      • Week 2 (Jan 29, 31)


        Myth and Meaning

        Claude Lévi-Strauss, Myth and Meaning (Paperback Edition), Toronto (1978)

        W. Doty, Myth: A Handbook, Alabama (2004), chps. 1-2


        Theogony and Works and Days 

        Hesiod, Theogony and Works and Days - NOTE: in the PDF text asterisks refer to explanatory notes which can be found at the end of the photocopy.

        Recommended translations: Stanley Lombardo, Read How You Want (2006); M. L. West, Oxford World’s Classics (2009)

        • Week 3 (Feb 5, 7)

          Structuralism and myth

          E. Csapo, Theories of Mythology, Indiana (2004), chp. 5


          Near Eastern myths

          'Introduction' and 'Hurrian Myths' in Harry A. Hoffner, Jr., Hittite Myths (Second Edition), Society of Biblical Literature (1991)

           ‘Atrahasis’ and ‘The Epic of Creation’ in Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, the Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others, tr. Stephanie Dalley, Oxford (1989)

          ‘The Baal Cycle’ in Simon Parker, Ugaritic Narrative Poetry, Society of Biblical Literature (1997)

          • Week 4


            Freudian myth analysis (Feb 12)

            E. Csapo, Theories of Mythology, Indiana (2004), chp. 3

            R. Caldwell, ‘The Psychoanalytic Interpretation of Greek Myth’, pp. 344-389 in L. Edmunds (ed.), Approaches to Greek Myth, Johns Hopkins (1990)

            Lillian E. Doherty, Gender and the Interpretation of Classical Myth, Duckworth (2001), pp. 46-67


            Myths from around the world (Feb 14)

            W. Doty, Myth: A Handbook, Alabama (2004), pp. 39-85

            Claude Lévi-Strauss, The Raw and the Cooked, tr. J and D. Weightman, Harper and Row (1969), chp. 1 - NOTE: You may, if you wish, read only the myths themselves and not the extra information supplied in the chapter. However, if you have the time, the extra information is highly recommended.

            Eva M. Thury and Margaret K. Devinney, Introduction to Mythology: Contemporary Approaches to Classical and World Myths (3rd edition), OUP (2013), chp. 10

            • 23:59, Saturday 16 February

              5-PAGE PAPER DUE – example topics:

              -      What is the best way to analyze myths? In defending your thesis you should analyze at least three myths.

              -      Why did Hesiod write Theogony and/or Works and Days?

              -      Analyze a myth or myth system in detail.

              • Week 5

                C. G. Jung and his legacy (Feb 19)

                Robert A. Segal, Theorizing about Myth, Massachusetts (1999), chp. 6

                C. Kerényi, Prometheus, Bollingen (1963), pp. xi-62

                Christine Downing (ed.), Mirrors of the Self, New York: St. Martin’s Press (1991), excerpts


                The Book of Job (Feb 21)

                The Book of Jobcopies in the bookshop and the library, or you can find various versions of the text on the internet.

                Recommended translation: Stephen Mitchell, Harper Perennial (1992) - in the bookshop.

                • Week 6

                  Bhagavad Gita (Feb 26)

                  Bhagavad Gita

                  Recommended translation: Stephen Mitchell


                  Myth and religion in Greece I (Feb 28)

                  Homeric hymns to Demeter, Apollo, Hermes and Hestia. There are multiple Homeric hymns to each of these divinities. The ones I'd like you to read are:

                  Hymn 2 to Demeter (;

                  Hymn 4 to Hermes (;

                  Hymns 24 and 29 to Hestia ( and

                  The version of the hymns on Perseus are a little archaic. There are plenty of other translations in library, if you want something more modern. Search the library catalogue for 'Homeric Hymns'.

                  R. C. T. Parker, On Greek Religion, Cornell (2011), chps. 1, 3

                  Lillian E. Doherty, Gender and the Interpretation of Classical Myth, Duckworth (2001), chp. 1

                  Jean-Pierre Vernant and Janet Lloyd (trans.), Myth and Thought among the Greeks, Zone Books (2006), chp. VI

                  Ken Dowden, The Uses of Greek Mythology, Routledge (1992), chp. 7

                  • Week 7

                    Myth and religion in Greece II (Mar 5)

                    In addition to the readings set for Feb 28, please read the following:

                    Homeric Hymn to Apollo (

                    W. Burkert, Greek Religion, trans. John Raffan, Harvard (1985), pp. 143-9, 156-61

                    Heroes, ideology (Mar 7)

                    William Hansen, Classical Mythology, Oxford (2004), pp. 189-196

                    E. Csapo, Theories of Mythology, Indiana (2004), chp. 6

                    W. Burkert, Greek Religion, trans. John Raffan, Harvard (1985), pp. 203-211

                    W. Burkert, Structure and History in Greek Mythology and Ritual, California (1979), chp. IV

                    • Week 8

                      Pindar 1 (Mar 14)

                      Pindar, Olympian OdesNemean Odes

                      Recommended translation: Frank J. Nisetich, Johns Hopkins (1980)

                      Frank J. Nisetich, Pindar's Victory Songs, Johns Hopkins (1980), pp. vii-ix. 1-12, 21-31, 40-55, 71-4

                      Pindar 2; myth and natural philosophy in Greece (Mar 12)

                      Pindar, Olympian Odes (esp. 3, 6, 10), Nemean Odes (esp. 1, 3-8) Pythian Odes 1 and 9

                      Brad Inwood, The Poem of Empedocles: A Text and Translation with Commentary (Revised Edition), Toronto (2001), frs. 1-13

                      David Gallop, Parmenides of Elea: a text and translation with an introduction, Toronto (1991), fr. 1

                      Jean-Pierre Vernant and Janet Lloyd (trans.), Myth and Thought among the Greeks, Zone Books (2006), chps. XVII-XVIII

                      • Spring Break

                        • 23:59, Sunday 31 March

                          5-PAGE PAPER DUE – what is a hero? – or choose your own topic.

                          • Week 9

                            Catullus – the long poems, especially 64 (Apr 2)

                            Catullus, Poems 61-68

                            Suggested translation: G. Lee, Oxford World’s Classics (1998)

                            [Apollodorus], Epitome 1.7-11 (on Theseus and Ariadne) - text at:

                            Optional: Euripides, Medea

                            Response: what is the relationship between the description of the coverlet and the frame in Catullus 64?


                            Eclogue 4, Georgics 1 (Apr 4)

                            Entries on Virgil and Roman history in Hornblower and Spawforth (eds.) Oxford Classical Dictionary3, Oxford (1996) - no need to read the section about the Aeneid in the Virgil entry.

                            Virgil, Eclogue 4, Georgics 1

                            Recommended translation: C. Day Lewis (Eclogues and Georgics), Oxford (1966). Fairclough is also ok and can be found on Perseus:

                            Eclogue 4 at

                            Georgics at

                            • Week 10 (Apr 9, 11)

                              Georgics 2-3

                              Virgil, Georgics 2-3


                              Georgics 4

                              Virgil, Georgics 4

                              J. Griffin, Latin Poets and Roman Life, Chapel Hill (1985), ‘The Fourth Georgic, Virgil, and Rome’, also in Greece and Rome Vol. 26, No.1 (1979), pp. 61-80 (on JStor)

                              • Week 11

                                Orpheus and the Georgics (Apr 16)

                                C. Segal, Orpheus: The Myth of the Poet, Johns Hopkins (1989), chps. 1 and 2

                                C. Perkell, The Poet’s Truth: A Study of the Poet in Virgil’s Georgics, California (1989) chp. 3 – online:


                                Rilke's Orpheus (Apr 18)

                                Don Paterson, Orpheus: A Version of Rilke, Faber and Faber (2006)

                                • 17:30, Sunday 21 April

                                  5-PAGE PAPER DUE –

                                  Select a topic. Come and see me if you're struggling to pin one down.

                                  • Week 12

                                    Metamorphoses, 1-4 (Apr 23)

                                    Ovid, Metamorphoses, Books 1-4


                                    Metamorphoses, 5-8 (Apr 25)

                                    Ovid, Metamorphoses, Books 5-8

                                    • Week 13 (Apr 30, May 2)

                                      Metamorphoses, 9-11

                                      Ovid, Metamorphoses, Books 9-11


                                      Metamorphoses, 12-15

                                      Ovid, Metamorphoses, Books 12-15

                                      Horace, Odes, 1.12; 3.4, 11, 27

                                      • This topic

                                        17:30 Sunday 5 May

                                        DRAFT OF FINAL PAPER (TEN PAGES): what is myth? OR as you like.

                                        • Week 14

                                          Myth and the modern world (May 7)

                                          Candace Slater, 'Myths of the Rain Forest/The Rain Forest as Myth', in Gregory Schrempp and William Hansen (eds.) Myth: A New Symposium, Bloomington: Indiana UP (2002)

                                          Robert L. Ivie, 'Distempered Demos: Myth, Metaphor, and U.S. Political Culture', in Schrempp and Hansen

                                          Nicolas Bourriaud, The Radicant, New York: Lukas & Steinberg (2009), pp. 177-188

                                          • 12:00 (midday), Monday 13 May

                                            FINAL PAPER DUE