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Kamran Scot Aghaie, Chair CAL 528 | 204 W 21st St F9400 | Austin, TX 78712-1029 • 512-471-3881

Summer 2003


Unique Days Time Location Instructor
86965 MTWThF
11:30 AM-1:00 PM
wag 201

Course Description

The Middle East and Europe have straddled the crossroads of trade and ideas, ever since the rise of the earliest river cultures (the Fertile Crescent and the Nile) in the Middle East and the arrival of Indo-Europeans in Europe. This course offers a comparative introduction to the evolving heroic cultures of Europe and the Middle East before Christianity and Islam. Through textual readings from the rich literary traditions of particular languages and cultures, Egyptian, Greek and Latin, Celtic and Norse, Sumerian and Babylonian, Hittite and Iranian, we will concentrate on tracing the socio-cultural and religious evolution of the area. Core heroic values will be traced in the context of shame culture vs. guilt culture, kin-loyalty, fame and song, taboo and the sacred, and oral continuity. We will be using the panorama of primary records and narrative protagonists (Beowulf and Norse saga heroes, CúChulainn and Medb, Achilles and Odysseus, Clytemnestra and Agamemnon, Gilgamesh and Enkidu, Inanna/Ishtar and Dumuzi, Isis and Osiris, Romulus and Cyrus the Great) as a comparative springboard for addressing wider issues of religious and social ideals and cultural change. The ethnohistorical, poetic, legal, and religious traditions that underlie and connect the various civilizations of the region will be explored in depth. Comparative connections with cultural neighbors (e.g. Sanskrit-speaking India) will be particularly emphasized, on the poetic, social, mythological, philosophical, and literary-linguistic levels. No mastery of particular languages is presumed or required. Literary, poetic and religious texts from the beginnings of writing and storytelling will serve as documentary starting-points, to illuminate the rise, eclipse, and cross-fertilization of civilizations. Considerations of culture, art, community and language will be set against broader questions of diversity, change, and cultural / linguistic divides. This is a course with a SUBSTANTIAL WRITING COMPONENT.

Grading Policy

Grades for the course will be distributed as follows: Participation in class activities and discussions: 25 %; 2 x 4-page written analytic essays (on documents/readings of your choice): 25 %. 1 take-home quiz: 25 %; 1 x 6-page researched report (± optional brief oral presentation), and initiative: 25 %; 4 unexcused absences from class will mean that no grade will be given for the course.


1. TWO BOOKS: • Davies, Vivian, & Renee Friedman. 1998. Egypt Uncovered. Stewart, Tabori & Chang/British Museum. • Puhvel, Jaan. 1989. Comparative Mythology. Johns Hopkins UP. 2. REQUIRED COURSE-PACKET: AVAILABLE AT I.T. COPIES (M.L.K./19th St., 1 block east of Guadalupe); Hours: M-F 8-6, Sat. 10-2. Bring this syllabus when you go to I.T., as proof of participation.


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