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Martin Kevorkian, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Spring 2009

E 379N • Classical and Biblical Backgrounds in English and American Literatures-- HONORS

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
34555 MWF
11:00 AM-12:00 PM
PAR 103
Birkholz, D

Course Description

This seminar-style, participation-heavy course will examine a selection of the key classical and biblical texts that together comprise the vital background to English and American literature. In the tradition of the exegetical practices out of which modern literary analysis grew, our approach will be intensively text-based, but it will also be interdisciplinary-not to mention conceptually expansive. This means considering our famous and influential works not only on their own terms and in their initial social, historical, and intellectual contexts, but-also and morever-examining the ways which these texts have been received and responded to, critically and artistically, across the many generations since. We shall find that despite their status as foundational and sometimes sacred texts, their meanings, far from being stable, have been perennially subject to change, repackaged in ways that speak to highly various social, political, and cultural settings.

Students should expect considerable attention to the writing process in all its steps, and will acquire a set of critical tools (writing, reading, research, and analytical skills) that will enable them to approach classic texts in new and original ways. No prior experience with early literary study is expected, but student engagement, enthusiasm, and self-direction are highly desirable.

Grading Policy

Paper I: Classical (4-6+ pp.; some research, prospectus & draft required) 25%
Paper II: Biblical (4-6+ pp.; some research, prospectus & draft required) 25%
Paper III: Self-Directed Research Project (choice of text from across English and American literature; research, prospectus, draft & presentation required; 6-8 pp.) 30%
In-Class Performance (semi-formal writing, discussion, engagement, process work) 20%
On-time Attendance (every absence beginning w/#4 will reduce grade; NC at #9) Required
On-time Completion of Reading, Writing & Feedback Assignments Required


Selections from the Classical period will include some (but not all) of the following: Homeric and Virgilian epic; Ovid's Metamorphoses; lyric poetry by Sappho, Catullus, and Pindar; plays by Aeschylus, Euripides, Sophocles, Aristophanes, and Plautus; historical extracts from Herodotus, Thucydides, Caesar, Tacitus, and Plutarch; and satire by Petronius and Apuleius. Biblical-era selections will include Genesis, Exodus, Job, The Song of Songs, one or more Gospels, Acts, Revelation, and others to be determined, in addition to apocryphal, exegetical, and devotional texts. We shall also examine, together, some representative later pieces that engage with our early texts, and students will individually select English, American or other "modern" texts (i.e. post-classical/biblical) for analysis during the third section of the course.


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