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Martha G. Newman, Chair BUR 529, Mailcode A3700, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-232-7737

Summer 2003

R S f365 • Heroic Cultures of Europe and the Middle East-W (Area II)

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
87695 MTWThF
11:30 AM-1:00 PM
WAG 201

Course Description

Course number may be repeated for credit when the topics vary.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, Hittie 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 sage heroes, CuChulainn and Medb, Achielles 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 divilizations 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.

Grading Policy

Grades for the course will be distributed as follows:

  • Participation in class activities and discussions: 25%
  • 1 take-home quiz: 25%
  • 1 x 6-page researched report (optional oral presentation), and initiative: 25%
  • 3 x 4-page written analytic essays (on documents of your choice): 25%

The evaluation of your performance is mainly based on your oral participation in discussions, as well as three analytic essays and a final reserached report. Identical levels of expertise among the whole group are not expected. this means participation is discussions, and keeping up with all the readings, counts as much towards a grade as your researched report, 3 written analyses and take-home quiz. We'll be looking at a lot of material this summer. READ EVERYTHING YOU CAN FIND! 4 unexcused absences from class will mean that no grade will be given for the course.


No textbooks to be bought. COURSE-PACKET: AVAILABLE AT I.T. COPIES (MLK.19th St., 1 block east of Guadalupe); Hourse M-F 8-6, Sat. 102. Bring this syllabus when you to to I.T. as proof of participation.


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