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Course Overview

This semester-long elective allows students to take an in depth look at the incredibly fascinating and strangely enduring world of mythology. Instead of focusing on the myths of one culture or another, we will take on the role of comparative mythologists, tracing mythological similarities across cultures and continents. However, that does not mean we won’t take some time to explore the myths of particular regions. We will engage with these mythologies by reading classical texts; completing creative projects both individually and collaboratively; and doing research on student-selected topics. Course objectives include: exploring mythology as a world-wide phenomenon and analyze the way myths have shaped the modern psyche; becoming familiar with mythological archetypes and their role in modern culture and literature; learning how to conduct comparative analyses of literary texts, both via discussion and in writing; engaging in academic discussion and improve both formal and informal interpersonal communication; effectively conducting Internet research and organize findings into intriguing presentations; and learning to work independently and collaboratively on both short and long term projects, utilizing effective organizational and communication techniques.

Course Content

Unit 1: The Monomyth and the Hero’s Journey

Throughout the school year the students will be exposed to as many different world myths as possible. Rather than focus on one type of mythology or another, Comparative Mythology asks students to explore themes, archetypes, and concepts that run across many cultures. For our introductory unit, the students will learn how to do comparative analyses, explore creation myths, and become familiar with the mythological hero. They will also get to know Blackboard and all the various tools at their disposal. Major skills for the unit include close reading techniques; crafting viable arguments; comparing and contrasting characters, concepts, and themes; working collaboratively with peers; interpersonal communication skills; and critical and creative thinking. Texts for this unit include a variety of creation myths; myths that follow the exploit of mythological heroes; and excerpts from Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces.

Unit 2: Gods and Goddesses

During this unit students will explore the pantheons of several different cultures, including Greek, Roman, Norse, Indian, African, and Native American. Each week of this unit will feature the gods and goddesses of a specific culture and corresponding readings and activities. Throughout the unit students will be working on a long term project that illustrates their understanding of a cross section of gods and goddesses, culminating in a presentation. Major skills for this unit include creative and critical thinking; close reading techniques; working collaboratively with peers; and executive functioning skills such as organization, self-regulation, and prioritizing. Texts for this unit come from a variety of sources, including Edith Hamilton’s Mythology, Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology, and various websites focusing on mythology.

Unit 3: Comparative Mythology Final Projects

The final unit is going to be completely student-driven. That means that the students will decide upon the topics, and they will lead our last two live classes. The instructor will have activities for the students to do every week, but the students themselves will get to choose what they’re studying. With assistance from the instructor, the students will work in small groups to come up with a topic, find suitable readings for their classmates, and prepare a 20 minute presentation that includes an activity for the class. While most of the students’ energy for these last five weeks will be spent on these projects, they will also be reading excerpts from mythological literature. Major skills for this unit include working collaboratively with peers; executive functioning skills; public speaking and presentation skills; and self-reflection. Texts for this unit include myths from our mythology textbooks, excerpts from The Odyssey, and student-chosen readings on project topics.