ENGL478E - Selected Topics in English and American Literature before 1800: The Story of Troy: An Ancient Tale Told and Retold

The Trojan War is in many ways the prototypical war in western literature and society. This course examines how it has been used as a starting point for political and cultural claims and as a way of meditating on and dealing with issues raised during later conflicts, including those in which the U.S. is currently engaged. The course begins with a careful reading of the Iliad to insure familiarity with the basic elements of the story, and then examines ancient and modern retellings, to see the development over time and across cultures and genres of specific features of the original story and the addition of new elements in the stories. In the course of this examination, we will consider (a) how cultural and historical contexts determine how the story is understood, both in general and in its specific elements, (b) how this or any cultural narrative may be used by later generations or other cultures, and (c) the uses to which we put this text (and other texts from the past) for our own purposes. Course requirements include: short assignments, including at least one short paper; a longer paper analyzing a modern retelling; participation in online and in-class discussion; and a group project with presentation.


Two English courses in literature or permission of the department.