Professor Radcliffe G. Edmonds III

Office: Thomas 245

Office Phone: 526-5046

Taylor  B

T 1:00-4:00

Office Hours: MWF 2:30-3:30

or by appointment


Required Texts: 

Brisson, Luc, Plato the Myth Maker

Calame, Claude, Myth and History

Gantz, Timothy, Early Greek Myth (2 vols.)

Graf, Fritz,  Greek Mythology

Lincoln, Theorizing Myth

Palaephatus,  On Unbelievable Tales, trans. Stern


Recommended Texts:

Apollodorus,  The Library (trans. Frazer)

Hesiod, Works & Days and Theogony, trans. Lombardo

Ovid,  Metamorphoses, trans. Melville


Course Description:   

            The myths of the Greeks have provoked outrage and fascination, interpretation and retelling, censorship and elaboration, beginning with the Greeks themselves.  We will see how some of these stories have been read and understood, recounted and revised, in various cultures and eras, from ancient tellings to modern movies and undergraduate textbooks.  We will also explore some of the interpretive theories by which these tales have been understood, from ancient allegory to modern structural and semiotic theories.

            The student should gain a more profound understanding of the meaning of these myths to the Greeks themselves, of the cultural context in which they were formulated.  At the same time, this course should provide the student with some familiarity with the range of interpretations and strategies of understanding that people of various cultures and times have applied to the Greek myths during the more than two millennia in which they have been preserved.


Course Requirements: 

Class participation: 

            Each week's assignment will include both the primary ancient texts and some secondary interpretations.  Each student should come prepared with two or three questions or ideas regarding the ancient texts for the day.  In addition, one student will be assigned to write and present a one page reaction for each of the secondary readings for the week.  Such reactions should consist, not of a summary of the selection, but rather of points of agreement and disagreement and of questions for further discussion.  Part of each class will be spent in close reading of the primary text selected for the week, so each student should be prepared to translate any part of the text assigned.  All readings not in the required course books will be available through the Course Documents on Blackboard.

Written Assignments: 

            There will be one long final paper for the course on one myth, selected and defined by the student, and its interpretations.  In addition,  there will be several short (4-6 pages) written assignments designed for the students to demonstrate their understanding of specific interpretive strategies covered in class.  These projects will require out of class research in addition to the readings assigned for the class. 

Week 1 Introduction to the Study of Mythology


·               Graf, Introduction

·               Edmunds, Introduction

·               Lincoln, Preface, ch.1 & 2

·               Detienne, Creation of Mythology ch. 1-5

·               Snell, From Myth to Logic



Week 2 Mythology Case Study: Oedipus


·      Apollodorus III.iv.1-vii.7

·      Sophocles, Oedipus Rex

·      Homer (handout)

·      Stesichorus (in Burnett)

·      Hamilton, Royal House of Thebes

·      Levi-Strauss, The Structural Study of Myth

·      Propp, Oedipus in the Light of Folklore

·      Freud on Oedipus

·      Vernant, Oedipus without the Complex

·      Burnett, Jocasta in the West

·      Peradotto, Oedipus and Erichthonius

Primary Reading:  Sophocles OT 695-1072



Week 3 The Collectors - Mythographers and Mythology, Folklore and variants


·      Palaephatus (with Stern's introduction)

·      Heraclitus the Paradoxographer (in Stern)

·      Konon (4, 16, 23, 24, 33, 44, 45, 49)

·      Apollodorus, Bibliotheke (with Frazer's notes)

·      Henrichs, Three Approaches to Greek Mythography

·      Hansen, Ariadne's Thread

·      Gantz, Early Greek Myth, Preface

·      Stern, Heraclitus the Paradoxographer

Primary Reading: Palaephatus and Apollodorus - selections



Week 4 Ovid's Metamorphoses of Myths - Myth as plots for literature


·      Fulgentius

·      Hyginus, Poetic Astronomy Book II

·      Parthenius

·      Ovid Metamorphoses

·      Graf, Myth in Ovid

·      Bullfinch, Preface & Introduction

Primary Reading: Ovid, selections



Week 5 Myth and Allegory


·      Hesiod, Theogony

·      Plato Euthyphro (4b-6d) pp. 2-5, Rep. 378a (377b-378e), & Aristophanes Clouds (c. 1300-1450)

·      Sallustius

·      Olympiodorus on Plato's Gorgias 47

·      Cornutus

·      Heraclitus, Homeric Allegories

·      Laks, Provisional Translation of the Derveni Papyrus

·      Graf, ch. 4 & 8

·      West, Hesiod’s Theogony

·      Dawson, Pagan Etymology and Allegory

·      Hadot, Ouranos, Kronos, and Zeus (Plotinus 3.5.2,;;;

·      Most, The Fire Next Time

Primary Reading: Olympiodorus on Plato's Gorgias 47.3-4; Cornutus 7, 17, 35; Heraclitus 1, 21-25


Variants Assignment due



Week 6 Myth as Primitive Science or History


·      Euhemerus

·      Cicero, De Natura Deorum 2.49-80

·      Graf, ch.  1 & 2

·      Lincoln, History of Myth (ch.3, 7)

·      Modern Mythology selections:

·      Fontenelle

·      Heyne

·      K.O. Müller

·      Grimm

·      Max Müller

Primary Reading: Diodorus Siculus, selections



Week 7 Myth as Primal Religion


·      Porphyry, Cave of the Nymphs

·      Plutarch, De Iside et Osiride

·      Modern Mythology selections:

·      Vico

·      Herder

·      Creuzer 

·      Schlegel

·      German Romanticism

·      Nietzsche, Birth of Tragedy

·      Eliade, Sacred & Profane

Primary Reading: Porphyry, Cave of the Nymphs



Week 8  - spring break




Week 9 Myth and Ritual


·      Graf, ch. 5

·      Frazer, Golden Bough

·      Gaster, Thespis

·      Harrison, Themis

·      Fontenrose, Ritual Theory of Myth

·      Versnel, What is Sauce for the Goose

·      Dowden, Myth and Religion

·      Faraone, Playing the Bear

Primary Reading: Homeric Hymn to Apollo, Brauron testimonia



Week 10 Myth and Psychology


·      Freud, Totem and Taboo

·      Campbell, Hero with a Thousand Faces

·      Jung, The Psychology of the Child Archetype

·      Kerenyi, Prolegomena

·      Caldwell, Psychoanalytic Interpretation of Greek Myth

·      Doty, Cosmological Human Body

·      Doty, Psychological Approaches

Primary Reading: Olympiodorus on Plato's Gorgias 44, 46


Interpreter Assignment due



Week 11 Myth and History


·      Thucydides

·      Herodotus Book I 1-91

·      Pindar, Pythian Odes (IV. 1-70, 246-299; V; IX. 1-79)

·      Cyrene selections

·      Herodotus IV.144-159

·      Diodorus Siculus VIII. 29

·      Pausanias X.15.6-7

·      Scholiast to Pindar Pythian IV

·      Foundation Oath SEG 9.3

·      Calame, Myth & History

·      Graf, ch. 3 & 6;

Primary Reading: Herodotus IV.144-159; Pindar, Pythian IX





Week 12 Case Study - Pandora and Prometheus


·      Hesiod, Theogony and Works & Days

·      Vernant, At Man's Table

·      Zeitlin, Signifying Difference:  The Case of Hesiod's Pandora

·      Plato, Protagoras

·      Plotinus Ennead 4.3

·      Olympiodorus 48.6 

·      Zosimus of Panopolis on the Letter Omega

·      Hawthorne

Primary Reading: Hesiod



Week 13  Myth and Tradition


·      Tolkien, On Fairy Stories

·      Plato, Statesman

·      Plato, Timaeus/Critias

·      Vidal-Naquet, Athens and Atlantis

·      Brisson, Plato the Mythmaker

·      Segal, Greek myth as a semiotic and structural system

·      Burkert, The Logic of Cosmogony

Primary Reading: Plato's Critias



Week 14 Presentations & teaching mythology

·      Hamilton

·      Powell

·      Morford & Lenardon


draft of final project due



Week 15 – Conclusions: myth and scandal, myth and interpretation, myth and ideology


·      Detienne, Creation of Mythology

·      Barthes, Myth Today

·      Lincoln, Epilogue

·      Most, From Logos to Mythos

·      Calame, The Rhetoric of Muthos and Logos


Final Project due at end of finals