ENG 220: Mythology and Folklore-Honors, Fall 2019 (CRN 10905)

Section CAH:  Tuesday/Thursday, 8:30–9:45 am
  North Hall, Room 208

Brian T. Murphy

Bradley Hall, Y-16

e-mail: brian.murphy@ncc.edu

Schedule and Office Hours

Important Announcements and Updates

Tuesday, 3 December:
I have added two additional Extra Credit opportunities on the main page:

Museum Visit(s) (two points per museum)

Many of the museums in NYC are free to NYC residents or free at certain times. Consider the Metropolitan Museum of Art (free to NYC residents), the Onassis Cultural Center (free admission), the Brooklyn Museum (possibly  Free Fridays), the Frick Collection and the Morgan Library and Museum (both free on Friday nights), possibly the Asia Society.... Visit one such museum and find three (3) different mythological depictions to write about; that is, paintings, sculptures, and so on that represent a specific mythological character, creature, or event, preferably one we have read about and/or discussed. You may also visit a second, third, even fourth museum, and submit a different extra credit assignment with another three images or items.

Your response paper should be four to five (4-5) paragraphs, including one paragraph about the visit (where you went, when, with whom, overall impressions, and so on) and one paragraph for each of the three objects or images. For each of the three, you must include a description of the object, including its location, such as Gallery 160: Hellenistic Sculpture and Architecture: Third–First Century BC, and a connection to what we read or discussed. For example:

“The Birth of Venus” or “Nascita di Venere” by Sandro Botticelli, 1485, is a large (5′ 8″ x 9′ 2″) painting, tempera on canvas, and is located in Room 10-14 of the Uffizi Gallery, in Florence, Italy. In it the newly-born Venus stands nude in a giant shell, with Zephyr, the god of high winds, and Aura, the personification of a light breeze, blowing her towards the shore. At the right Hora, one of the Greek goddesses of the seasons, holds a cloak to cover her when she reaches the shore, either Cythera or Cyprus.* This represents one version of the birth of Venus or Aphrodite, as discussed in Leeming, “The Pantheons”: [quote the textbook here].

You may add a concluding paragraph if you wish.

Note: You must take pictures of all three, ideally each one from two different angles, and print them out and submit along with your response paper or email them to me.

*Adapted from “The Birth of Venus’ by Sandro Botticelli.” Joy of Museums: Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites. https://joyofmuseums.com/books-about-museums-art-history-and-historical-sites/  
Your paragraph will of course be original, that is, your own words and ideas. (Nor do I expect you to travel to Florence...)



Dr. Ruha Benjamin, Race After Technology*

Wednesday, December 4

12:30 PM

CCB 252/253


The Nassau Community College Cultural Program presents Princeton University Professor Ruha Benjamin talking about coded inequity and what to do about it. She argues that automation, far from being a sinister story of racist programmers scheming on the dark web, has the potential to hide, speed up, and deepen discrimination while appearing neutral and even benevolent. Presenting the concept of the “New Jim Code,” she shows how a range of discriminatory designs encode inequity by explicitly amplifying racial hierarchies, by ignoring but thereby replicating social divisions, or by aiming to fix racial bias but ultimately doing quite the opposite. Her latest book, Race After Technology, provides conceptual tools for decoding tech promises with sociologically informed skepticism. In doing so, it challenges us to question: Are emerging technologies reinforcing white supremacy and deepening social inequity? 

*Although Dr. Ruha’s speech does not directly connect with our class, I will still award extra credit if you attend this event and submit a one- to two-page personal response.

Also, I have decided to accept submission of the  Bonus Response Paper through next Tuesday, December 10:

By this point in the semester, you have read a large number of myths from various traditions, including examples of Cosmogony and Creation Myths, Flood Narratives, Trickster Tales, Hero Tales and the Heroic Quest, and Ragnarök and Apocalypse. Using specific examples from both western and non-western cultures, discuss how mythology reveals the ways in which people in different cultural traditions perceive and experience their lives.

Finally, I hope to return your research paper/project drafts on Thursday!



Sunday, 1 December:
I hope you have all had an enjoyable Thanksgiving and a productive break. On Tuesday we will begin looking at Folklore, specifically Kinder- and Hausmärchen, using as our focus Cinderella (Handout). Start by reading all of the variants (eight different versions of the story) in the packet. We will look at the ancillary materials (Bruno Bettleheim, Jane Yolen, and so on) Thursday.

Also, remember that both Response Paper 13 and your research paper/project draft are due on Tuesday!

Wednesday, 20 November:
Tomorrow we will look at other traditions of the end of the world, especially Cycles of Rebirth and Renewal. I think we should look at the Hindu tradition, specifically the concept of the Mahayuga or cycles of four yugas. (The Kali age is the fourth yuga.) We’ll also return to specific flood narratives as examples of this, so review the Greco-Roman, Mayan, and Incan tales in Leeming, 60-67.

I have also added an additional bonus topic to the main page, due Tuesday, 26 November, as follows:

By this point in the semester, you have read a large number of myths from various traditions, including examples of Cosmogony and Creation Myths, Flood Narratives, Trickster Tales, Hero Tales and the Heroic Quest, and Ragnarök and Apocalypse. Using specific examples from both western and non-western cultures, discuss how mythology reveals the ways in which people in different cultural traditions perceive and experience their lives.

This means there are five topic choices left, for those who do not have at least seven or eight completed.

Monday, 18 November:
As previously announced, tomorrow we will discuss Ragnarök and Apocalypse, focusing on Armageddon and the Last Judgment. Be sure to read Leeming, “The Apocalypse” (71-85) and Gaiman, “Ragnarök: The Final Destiny of the Gods” in Norse Mythology (Handout). You should be familiar with the versions of Armageddon represented in Christian, Muslim, and Norse mythology.  In addition, Response #11 is due.

See also, Revelation (King James version, complete) and The Book of Revelation by Clarence Larkin (1919) for the Christian Apocalypse, and Foster and Cummings, “The Twilight of the Gods” in  Asgard Stories: Tales from Norse Mythology and Keary and Keary, “Ragnarök, or, The Twilight of the Gods” in The Heroes of Asgard: Tales from Scandinavian Mythology for Norse legends.

Thursday we will look at other traditions of the end of the world, especially Cycles of Rebirth and Renewal, and then discuss Popular Apocalypses and Extinction Events next week.

Monday, 11 November:
Tomorrow we will discuss The Quest of the Holy Grail, and on Thursday we will watch at least part of John Boorman’s Excalibur.

Also, for those who might be interested in Akhnaten at The Metropolitan Opera but unwilling or unable to travel into Manhattan or to pay more than $30 per ticket, it will also be broadcast Live in HD in select movie theaters on Saturday, Nov. 23; find a theater here. And don’t forget, College Night at the Morgan Library and Museum is this Thursday.

As announced in class last week, tomorrow you may either submit one response paper that you missed, or resubmit one previously written for a better grade. In either case, you must also append one paragraph, explaining wither why you didn’t get it in on time before, or why your previous effort was not your best work. Response Paper 11 is due next Tuesday, the 19th. Note that there are only six (6) possible response papers left. Topics for all except the final reflective essay have been posted:

10) Due Thursday, 7 Nov.
Hero Tales and the Heroic Quest: The Holy Grail
I specifically left this one open-ended, so it is up to you. One student is writing about the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail; another is writing about the film Ready, Player One as a version of the Grail quest. (It helps that the protagonist's avatar is named Parzival!) I'm curious if anyone will consider writing about The Da Vinci Code, the novel or the film.

Explore the meaning/significance/current symbolism of the term, in whatever way appeals to you. Is it a universal symbol, or is it merely a cliché we use to refer to an attainable goal? So long as your response is thoughtful (and well written!) I will accept just about any approach here.

11) Due Tuesday, 19 Nov.
Ragnarök and Apocalypse
“Traditional” apocalypse narratives largely follow one of two patterns: one, the end of time, posits a radical break with history and the creation of a new, eternal kingdom; the other, circular rebirth, presents the apocalyptic event as one in a series of recurring cycles or patterns. Consider, for example, the difference between the Christian and Islamic tradition with that in Hindu and Mayan traditions. Why do some cultures posit a linear event while others present a circular pattern, and what does this particular form of cosmic history suggest about each culture and its sense of self?

12) Due Tuesday, 26 Nov.
Ragnarök and Apocalypse
If cultural identity is bound up in and reflected by its myths, consider contemporary American myths of Apocalypse, especially as depicted in recent cinema. The world will end, or nearly so, due to alien invasion (Independence Day, War of the Worlds), asteroid impact (Deep Impact, Armageddon), disease (Contagion, Outbreak, The Last Man on Earth), environmental collapse (Waterworld, The Day after Tomorrow, 2012), machine uprisings (Terminator, 9, I Robot), nuclear war (On the Beach, The Day After, A Boy and His Dog), zombies (Dawn of the Dead, I Am Legend, World War Z)….. What do our ideas of apocalypse suggest about our hopes and fears, especially considering how our focus shifts over time?

13) Due Tuesday, 3 Dec.
According to Bruno Bettleheim, in The Uses of Enchantment, “Each fairy tale is a magic mirror which reflects some aspects of our inner worlds, and of the steps required by our evolution from immaturity to maturity” (309). Other than “Cinderella,” is this true of fairy tales in general? If so, is it somehow more true of fairy tales than of other forms of literature?

14) Due Tuesday, 10 Dec.
Consider the way in which the various versions of the Cinderella story present a society and its cultural values and beliefs.  What purpose and/or effect do these values and beliefs have? Focus especially on how men and women are depicted in each version: what norms or standards are presented for each gender, and how do these represent or reflect the texts’
socio-cultural milieu?

15) Due Date TBD.
Reflective essay(s).

Monday, 4 November:
As per my previous announcements, tomorrow and Thursday we will discuss heroes from Leeming, and push off The Quest of the Holy Grail until next week. However, Response Paper 9 is still due tomorrow, including presentations, and Response Paper 10 on Thursday.

Also, I have posted two additional Extra Credit opportunities on the main page yet again, Bacchae: Prelude to a Purge at the BAM Harvey Theater (Brooklyn Academy of Music) November 7―9 only and Akhnaten at The Metropolitan Opera November 8―December 7.

Finally, I have in mind a bit of mixing things up and disrupting the classroom…. We’ll see.

Wednesday, October 29:
As per my email, I will not be in class tomorrow. Instead, Professors Whitfield and D'Angelo have both agreed to be there in my stead. You will need to sign in and hand in your Annotated Bibliographies; there is also a folder of graded work (response papers and quizzes) to pick up. You will also view “The Hero’s Adventure,” an episode from Joseph Campbell and The Power of Myth.

You should also pick up a copy of the next reading packet, The Quest of the Holy Grail (excerpts), trans. W.W. Comfort. We will not discuss this on Tuesday, November 5. Instead, let's actually discuss Theseus, Herakles, Perseus, Jason, Orpheus and Eurydice, and Odysseus, as we were supposed to do, and push off the rest of the hero tales from Leeming to Thursday, Nov. 7. We will discuss The Quest of the Holy Grail the following week, on Tuesday, November 12. Note that this does not change the schedule of response papers, though: Number 9 will still be due next Tuesday, and 10 next Thursday.

Monday, October 28:
We will be focusing on Hero Tales and the Heroic Quest beginning tomorrow and continuing through Tuesday, November 12. The assigned readings for tomorrow are Leeming, “Hero Myths” (203-269) and Biallas, “The Heroic Task” (Handout). However, focus only on the following for now: Introduction (203-208), Theseus, Herakles, Perseus, Jason, Orpheus and Eurydice, and Odysseus. We will discuss Gilgamesh, King Arthur and Parsival, and The Quest of the Holy Grail (excerpts) (Handout, to be distributed) on Tuesday, November 5.

Do not forget that your Annotated Bibliographies are due Thursday, October 31.

Finally, I have posted two additional Extra Credit opportunities on the main page.

Sunday, October 20:
As announced in class, this week we will continue with  we will continue with Trickster Tales. For Tuesday, be sure to read Trickster Tales: Uncle Remus, Brer Rabbit, and Bugs Bunny (Handout), along with “The Trickster” (Leeming 156-168) and “Tricksters” (Biallas Handout) if you have not already done so.

Monday, October 14:
Remember that tomorrow we will begin Trickster Tales; be sure to read Leeming, “The Trickster” (156-168) and Biallas, “Tricksters” (Handout).

Also, Response Paper 6 is due. The topic, already posted, is as follows:

Leeming states that often, tricksters are “working companions of the creator” but also “[work] to undermine the creation itself” (104); he also states that the trickster, such as Enki, “resembles culture heroes in that he teaches the people, whom he creates … the art of survival through agriculture and the social order” (157). Consider the trickster in both the stories presented by Leeming in this section and in other myths and legends: creator and subverter of creation, cultural hero and amoral child, “good” and “bad.” Why is the Trickster a near-universal figure, and why this dual nature?

Tuesday, October 8:
I have added another choice for Response paper 5, due Thursday, 10 Oct. Choose from one of the following:

A.  In “Questions to Consider,” David Leeming writes, “Can a single archetypal flood myth be derived from these many cultural dreams of the flood? What are the necessary details of that myth? How are these details significant?” (44). Considering both those flood narratives Leeming presents and others, define the elements of an archetypal flood myth; that is, what elements do all (or most) of the flood narratives include? Which are not universal, but at least relatively frequent? And which are not common to the archetype at all, but specific to a single tale or culture?

B.  Compare “Akallabêth: The Downfall of Númenor” in The Silmarillion (Handout) with the story of Atlantis as told in Plato’s Critias. Discuss the way that Tolkien draws on the Atlantis tradition but modifies it to suit his invented mythology. That is, compare and contrast “The Downfall of Númenor” and the legend of Atlantis. How are they similar, how do they differ, and why?

Monday, October 7:
Remember that we do not meet tomorrow: on Tuesday, day classes meet on a Monday schedule; Evening classes do not meet.

Because of my mistake in leaping from to Pantheons to Flood Narratives,  we are one day ahead of schedule. Let’s finish the stories of the deluge tomorrow, including those in Leeming but also Tolkien’s “Akallabêth” (Handout) and maybe the legend of Atlantis.

Starting on Tuesday, October 15, we will begin Trickster Tales.

Monday, September 30:
We’ll begin discussing Flood Narratives tomorrow, so be sure to read “The Flood” (Leeming 43-70), The Epic of Atraḥasis, ll. i.b135-iii.d7 (online), and Tolkien, “Akallabêth: The Downfall of Númenor” (Handout). We will begin with Atrahasis, Gilgamesh, and Genesis, as well as the Greco-Roman story of Deucalion and Pyrrah (the others will be for Thursday); you should be prepared to identify several elements common to these stories, as well as several ways in which they differ.

I will also return your Proposals/Research Topics tomorrow; as the assignment is worth 2.5% of your final grade, I evaluated them on a scale of 0 to 2.5, based on format, content, and writing. While I did not say No to any of them, I did specifically ask two or three students to meet with me to discuss refocusing or rethinking their approach. I would also be glad to meet with any other students with questions or concerns and will probably end the class a bit early to make time for meetings.

Finally, I have posted information about several additional Extra Credit opportunities on  the main page: two movies, Redoubt (a revision of Diana and Actaeon) and Ne Zha (a Chinese origin story adapted from The Investiture of the Gods  (封神演), and Hadestown, which is unfortunately prohibitively expensive. (Tickets start at $99-149!)

Wednesday, September 25:
We’ll continue discussing Pantheons tomorrow, so no new readings, just Leeming, “The Pantheons” (89-115) and Tolkien, “Valaquenta(Handout). I hope to look at the Egyptian and Indian pantheons, or at least touch on them, but we’ll see how things go.

Also, remember that Proposals/Research Topics are due. You must submit one page, typed, following the format specified in the assignment:

Topic: the specific topic selected from the list provided or one you have developed in consultation with the instructor.
Rationale: why you have chosen to research and write about this particular topic.
Focus: a narrowed form of the subject, and the issue or debate involved.
Opinion: your subjective opinion on the debate or issue.
Thesis: your opinion, worded objectively.

I have also posted Response Paper Topics for the next few weeks, up until Thursday, October 24. Remember you must submit at least ten (10) response papers, and at least one must be presented to the class.

Wednesday, September 18:
To wrap up the week, let’s discuss the following tomorrow:

Hesiod, Works and Days ll. 1-201, esp. 106-201

 Ovid, Metamorphoses I, ll. 1-603 (through “The Iron Age” and “The Giants’ War”)

Tolkien, “Ainulindalë: The Music of the Ainur” from The Silmarillion (Handout)

We’ll also have a quiz on these readings; let’s say basic questions such as what are the Five Ages of Man, who is Ilúvatar, who are the Valar,  and so on.

I have also posted additional Extra Credit opportunities to the main page: workshops at the NCC Center for Educational and Retention Counseling. I don’t suppose anyone in this class needs to attend a workshop on note-taking or studying, but the opportunities are there nonetheless.

Friday, September 13:
In addition to the readings in your textbook and handouts, please be sure complete the following for Tuesday’s class:

 Leeming, “Prometheus” and “Pandora” (171-174)

 Genesis 3, 5

 Hesiod, Works and Days ll. 1-201, esp. 106-201

 Ovid, Metamorphoses I (through “The Iron Age”)

 The Epic of Atraḥasis, ll. 1-247

As a reminder, we will have a guest speaker on Tuesday. I have also posted the additional Extra Credit opportunity to the main page. 

Monday, September 9:
For Tuesday's class, be sure to complete the readings listed on the syllabus: Leeming, “The Creation” (15-42); Gaiman, “Before the Beginning, and After” (Handout); and Tolkien, “ Ainulindalë: The Music of the Ainur” (Handout). This week we will focus on cosmological myths, while next week we will focus more closely on the creation (and fall) of human beings.

In addition, topics for Response Papers #2, 3, and 4 have all been posted. Response #2 is due on Thursday, although you may submit it tomorrow if you wish; the topic is as follows:

According to Leeming (16), Charles Long’s Alpha: The Myth of Creation identifies five archetypes of creation: ex nihilo, chaos, world parent, emergence, and earth diver creation myths. As we look at the creation myths from numerous cultures and different eras, we do see that certain themes or elements repeat, and that these categories, while overlapping, do apply, at least to those discussed by Leeming. Why do so many different cultures share these common motifs or ideas? That is, what does this indicate about the nature of myths or about humans and human culture?

Finally, there may be a quiz tomorrow, so be sure you are familiar with at least the five archetypes of creation and the Greek, Norse, and biblical accounts of creation.

Wednesday, 4 September:
The packet of readings for Biallas, Myths: Gods, Heroes, and Saviors has an error: “Myth and Religion” contains two copies of pages 24-25 from the text. I have emailed a copy of the correct page 7 for your handout, featuring pages 26-27 from the original text. I have also updated and posted the relevant section online.

Tuesday, 3 September:
As per the syllabus, you should read both  Leeming, “Introduction: The Dimensions of Myth” (1-8) and Biallas, “Myth and Religion” in the handout you received today. If you are unable to get the textbook in time to read the introduction to Leeming's book before Thursday, you may read it online, here.

Monday, 2 September:

Just a last-minute reminder that classes begin tomorrow, Tuesday, September 3.
We will meet in North Hall, Room 208, at 8:30 AM.


Tuesday, 13 August:

  I have added the first Extra Credit opportunity to the main page:

The Lightning Thief
Longacre Theater,
220 W 48th St,
New York, NY 10036

20 September 2019―5 January 2020
(Opens 16 Oct. 2019)

Ticket prices and schedule not yet available.


 Tuesday, July 30:

 The Academic Calendar for Fall 2019 has finally been posted. Consequently, both the main page and syllabus have been updated. Note: the most current version will always be available online, and changes will always be posted here as well as announced in class.

 Thursday, July 25:

 The main page and syllabus have both been updated for the Fall 2019 semester. In addition, textbooks have been ordered through the NCC Campus Store; however, you are encouraged to purchase them from wherever they are least expensive. We will be using the following:

Leeming, David. The World of Myth: An Anthology, 3 ed. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2018. 978-0190900137. (Available starting at $22.46 at Amazon.com)
Note: The second edition of The World of Myth is also acceptable, and substantially less expensive: $13.00 at Amazon.com.*

*Prices listed at Amazon.com do not include shipping, and are accurate as of original posting date only; no guarantees of prices or availability are express or implied§.





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