“I walk out into a Nature such as the old prophets and poets, Menu, Moses, Homer, Chaucer, walked in. You may name it America, but it is not America: neither Americus Vespucius, nor Columbus, nor the rest were the discoverers of it. There is a truer account of it in mythology than in any history of America, so called, that I have seen.” Henry David Thoreau

Stay in touch with your instructor
   email: wareht, phone: 388-6743
   F06 office hours: Mon. 3:30-4:30, Thu. 10:30-11:30, and by appt. (Humanities 214A)
Please come by my office hours, or email or call me to make an appointment, which can usually be arranged on short notice. Do drop by my office or email me as often as you like to ask questions about the readings or to run your ideas by me!
Contents and Navigation
  1. Aims and Methods of this Course
  2. Course Requirements and Grading
  3. Schedule of Readings
  4. Online References, Textbooks, Elec. Reserves
  5. Other (College) Policies

 Aims and Methods of this Course

Q. What do I, your teacher, intend to offer you in this course?


Q. To fulfil this opportunity, what activities will you, the student, engage in?


(By the way, these aims and methods also imply an ideal answer to the question, “Who is an A student in an introductory course on Classical Mythology?”)

 Course Requirements and Grading

Respect for the Course and the Class (including Attendance Policy)

Real civility and respect for our shared learning environment are more important than any college policy or professor's policy. I ask you to do your own thinking about what you must do to sustain this commitment. But certain conclusions are beyond doubt: Students should always be present on time, they should plan to be present through the entire class meeting (with bathroom breaks planned beforehand), their cellphones and iPods should be off (not texting or providing other distractions), their newspapers and so forth should be put away, and they should be paying attention and engaging as vigorously as possible in the course. Outside of class, students should take preparation seriously, on their own or in groups. Almost no one finds it easy to concentrate and do work, but you know as well as I do that you will feel a lot more satisfied if you make a plan, clear away the distractions, and just do it! If students do all this, success and enjoyment will take care of themselves. Attendance policies are merely rewards, and exams are merely motivations, for enjoying your opportunity to become more educated human beings. In this course, you should not often feel forced to do something odious, and I hope you will always feel free to consult me if the work is not as gratifying as it should be.

Attendance is mandatory. Regular, punctual attendance and completion of all assignments are the minimal requirements for passing this course. Any arrangements for absences or missed work must be agreed to in advance. Make-up quizzes and exams are only possible if approved in advance, and they will only be approved for a compelling reason beyond your control. I will check attendance in various ways: for example, calling roll, asking randomly chosen students to fill out a questionnaire, giving quizzes, and returning your work to you.


The exams will test your familiarity with, and understanding of, the assigned readings. Some questions will focus on details (important aspects of the plot, identification of the speaker or context of a given quotation, etc.), but many others will ask you about the bigger ideas and cultural significance of what you have read (themes and interpretations, the meaning of densely poetic passages, the relevance of key Greek cultural concepts, etc.). To answer both kinds of questions, you are expected to draw on your careful reading and your active engagement in the ideas and topics discussed in lectures.

Midterm Study Resources

Greek Alphabet Quizzes

The Greek alphabet has fewer letters than ours, and many of the Greek letters are quite similar to ours, or familiar from frats, sororities, math, and science! You can learn them with only a little effort, and these quizzes, in class on Wed. 9/13 and Wed. 9/20, will let you do that. The quizzes are supposed to motivate you to help your grade a little, but they can't hurt you much, so just have fun with this, as there's no cause to be intimidated.

One goal of this course is to give you an idea of what it is like to encounter, in the original Greek, the great literature you are reading in English translation. You won't learn the Greek language (you have to take Greek 100-101 and Greek 102 for that), so I will be providing all the necessary background for these exercises in appreciation—except for the little bit I ask of you, which is a passing familiarity with the letters.

Quiz 1 [with key] (W 9/13) covered alpha-mu; Quiz 2 [with key] (W 9/20) covered the whole alphabet. Presentation of the alphabet and practice words (PDF). (If you'd like to see more examples of Greek fonts and handwriting, see here.)

Grade Components

Midterm Exam 30%
Final Exam 40%
Alphabet Quizzes 5%
Attendance and Involvement in the Course 25%

Extra Credit Option

If you like, form a group of 3-5 students (smaller groups may be approved if time permits), and give an 8-15 minute presentation in class, explaining how the ideas and meanings of a modern published song, story, etc., help us better understand one of the ancient myths studied in this course, and vice versa. The modern comparison should be to something that is really part of your culture and life—popular music, film, and graphic novels will typically be more appropriate choices than Baudelaire, but there are no fast rules. You should make arrangements to present your audience with scanned images, audio or video clips, etc., as needed. The amount of credit will depend on how deeply you delve into the ancient and modern material to find relationships that are both convincing and interesting. There is a limit of one presentation per class meeting (first come, first served), and you must get your topic and proposed date approved by me a week in advance.

Schedule of Readings

Part One: Whom Gods Destroy
W 9/6 Introduction
F 9/8-M 9/11 Euripides, Hippolytus (with Introd. pp. ix-xi, xviii-xx, xxviii-xxxi, xxxv)
W 9/13-F 9/15 Hymn to Dionysus
Euripides, Bacchae (with Introd.)
Part Two: Woman, Death's Embrace
M 9/18 Hymn to Demeter
W 9/20-F 9/22 Sophocles, Antigone
Part Three: Searching, Suffering, Salvation
M 9/25-W 9/27 Sophocles, Oedipus the King
F 9/29-M 10/2 Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus
W 10/4Review
F 10/6Midterm Exam in SSCI 016
M 10/9-F 10/20Homer, Odyssey
Class meets in SSCI 016 on M 10/9.
Part Four: Mortality, Humanity
M 10/23-F 11/3Homer, Iliad
Part Five: The Pure Loud Tragic Music
M 11/6-F 11/10Aeschylus, Agamemnon
F 11/10 No class
M 11/13 Review
Tu 11/21, 8:30-10:30 a.m. Final Exam

Reference Tools

 Required Books

Electronic Reserves

 College Policies that Apply to this Course

Academic Honor Code

The Academic Honor Code requires your refusal to tolerate dishonesty in quizzes and exams (copying, using any aids, or communicating). In this course, it also requires you to maintain the integrity of the attendance policy (see above), by never covering for an absent classmate, or allowing others to do so. You may only collect an absent classmate's work after discussing it with me. The penalty for any violation of the Academic Honor Code will be, at least, a failing grade in the course.

All work submitted for this course must be your own. You may work with others in preparing assignments. If you ever have any question about the propriety of collaboration, please consult with me. The penalty for using ideas that are not your own, in any assignment, without proper attribution, will be, at least, a failing grade in the course.

Students are expected to uphold the Academic Honor Code. The Academic Honor System of Union College is based on the premise that each student has the responsibility to:

A full statement of Union's Academic Honor Code may be found in the Student Handbook (see pp. 27ff. = pp. 13ff. of 76 in this PDF). See also Union's statement on plagiarism.


It is Union College policy to make accommodations for individuals with disabilities. If you have any disability or special concern, please let me know what your needs are in order that they may be accommodated. All discussions will remain confidential to the extent permissible by law.

Students with disabilities needing academic accommodations must also: