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Michael Stoff, Director 305 East 23rd St, CLA 2.102, (G3600) Austin, TX 78712-1250 • 512-471-1442

Fall 2005

T C 357 • Orpheus & Orphism in Literature, Art, & Music-W

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
42665 TTh
11:00 AM-12:30 PM
WAG 208

Course Description

By his singing, Orpheus, the legendary poet/musician of the Greeks, could herd trees, calm wild beasts, and effect cures. But more than just a poet, he was hero (one of the Argonauts), lover, teacher, philosopher, and savior. He was author of a sort of shadow literature, alternative versions of established hymns and texts that subordinated the very myths they came from. To some early Christians, he was even a Jesus-surrogate. But of all his adventures, his trip down to and back from the Underworldthe katabasis and anabasis undertaken to rescue his wife Eurydice, but ruined by his looking backhas been the favorite for Orpheus-users. And this element continues to inspire artists. Consider two new plays in New York: in October, at the HERE Arts Center in Orpheus, a rock star by that name engages the Queen of Hell in a battle-of-the-bands for his brides life. And in March, at Theater Manhattan, a husband named Mobile is so upset by dreaming that his wife is in Hell that, on waking, he subjects his perfectly well wife to an agonizing examination of their marriage...a looking back that loses her. Both plays are fresh, very different, and both come from the Underworld Descent of Orpheus. That trip, in various more or less modern manifestations, is what this class will examine.

About the Professor Douglass Parker is Professor of Classics. His B.A. is from Michigan, his Ph.D. from Princeton. He has taught at Yale and UCalifornia/Riverside, has been a visiting professor at Dartmouth and Michigan. He has been at Texas for a very long time...since the Fall of 1967. He was honored for undergraduate teaching at Cal/Riverside in 1957, and for graduate teaching at Texas in 1985. He has been a Fellow of the Hellenic Center and of the California Institute for the Creative Arts, and a Guggenheim Fellow. He rarely thinks of himself as an academic, but rather as an itinerant trombonist who took a wrong turn about 1946; he's been known to venture the opinion that man's highest achievement is jazz improvisation. He has published on bebop and on Tolkien. He is known for his verse translations of ancient comedies from Greek and Latin, especially of Aristophanes' Lysistrata, first performed in 1964 and still on stage somewhere. He's a ham actor, and appeared yearly in Shakespeare here, when we did that sort of thing in the 1970's. He dotes on incongruity, teaching courses in "Serendipity," "Improvisation," "Fragments," "Labyrinths," "Oz," and "ParaGeography" (his own invention). He writes poetry (sessions of "Zeus in Therapy") and prose (detective stories based on odd Latin syntax). He is devoted to his department and university, and serves them as a functioning example of antiquity.

Grading Policy

This course has a substantial writing component. Essay 1 (4-6 pp.): 15% Essay 2 (4-6 pp.): 15% Parody paper (6-8 pp.): 25% Presentation (min. 8 pp.): 25% Production of presentation: 20%


Literature: Salman Rushdie, The Ground Beneath Her Feet Russell Hoban, The Medusa Frequency Plays: Jean Anouilh, Eurydice Tennessee Williams, Orpheus Descending Two film versions: Lumet, Fugitive Kind; Hall, Orpheus Descending Poems: Rilke, Sonnets to Orpheus Ashbery, Syringa Items in Geoffrey Miles (ed.). Classical Mythology in English Literature: A Critical Anthology Operas: Monteverdi, Orpheus Gluck, Orpheus and Eurydice Offenbach, Orpheus in the Underworld Birtwistle, The Masks of Orpheus Birtwistle and Hoban, The Second Mrs Kong Films: Jean Cocteau: one of the three Orpheus films, probably Orphée Marcel Camus, Black Orpheus Robert McGinle, Shredder Orpheus John Ford, The Searchers


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