English 255—Introduction to Literature: Heroes and Antiheroes
Dr. Michael Bryson
Sierra Tower 832

Course Description: What makes a man or woman a hero? Military conquest? Physical strength and courage? Or are quieter, less flashy traits the most important ingredients in heroism? What makes an antihero? Is rebellion against authority all that is required, or is antihero just another word for exciting villain? This course will ask these questions of a diverse group of readings drawn from West and East, and from the 17th century BCE through the 20th century CE. The goal of this course will not be to come up with a unified field theory of heroism/antiheroism so much as it will be to bring our assumptions about heroism to light, analyze them in relation to stories that present alternate models, and maybe—just maybe—adjust or expand our definitions of heroism and antiheroism.

This version of the course is conducted wholly online, in an asynchronous mode. This means a few things:

  • The “lectures” for this course are in written form, enhanced with links to outside content, images, and occasional videos. (You will find them in the weekly modules, along with each week's readings.) Most of the lecture notes are more-or-less exact transcripts of the lectures I have delivered for previous in-person versions of this course. A few of the later lecture notes are adaptations of material I have written and published on these works (though the notes for the two novels at the end have been shortened for concision).
  • I have also included links to some of those previous live lectures as extra resources, though their video/audio quality sometimes varies, and I do not have working versions for all of the material we will cover, so consider the video lectures that I am sharing with you to be “over-and-above” resources. They are not captioned, for example, but the lecture notes represent their content well.
  • All “office hours” will be held virtually, via email. In other words, there is no set time to come in and ask me questions, but questions are encouraged, and I will get back to you with the best answers I have within 24 hours (and usually sooner). If you are having difficulty with the material, tell me. I’ll do the best I can to explain things more clearly, or answer any questions you have.
  • However, I will not serve as a pre-grade reviewer for written work like the midterm and final. That’s the kind of help you can get more efficiently from the CSUN Writing Center, which offers online consulting services.

Texts (provided by instructor in pdf or epub form with each course module, but print copies can be ordered through the campus bookstore, or elsewhere online, using the ISBN numbers to locate the exact edition referred to below):

Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, the Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others
ISBN-13: 978-0199538362
The Iliad: (Caroline Alexander, Translator)
ISBN-13: 978-0062046284
The Odyssey (Emily Wilson, Translator)
ISBN-13: 978-0393356250
The Greek Plays: Sixteen Plays by Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides
ISBN-13: 978-0812983098
Aristophanes' Lysistrata: A Dual Language Edition
ISBN-13: 978-1940997971
The Bhagavad-Gita
ISBN-13: 978-0553213652
The Bible: New Revised Standard Version
ISBN-13: 978-0195283808
Henry V
ISBN-13: 978-0143130246
The Tragedy of Mariam
ISBN-13: 978-1904271598
Paradise Lost
ISBN-13: 978-0872206724
Jane Eyre
ISBN-13: 978-0141441146
The Master and Margarita 
ISBN-13: 978-0143108276

1) Six reading quizzes, with two attempts at each, distributed via Canvas on the Mondays of weeks 2, 5, 7, 10, 12,  and 15. These will be  due by 12 PM the Tuesdays of the following week, and you will have 60 minutes from starting each attempt at the quiz to finish it. If you miss doing the quiz, there is no make-up—so don't miss doing the quiz. Each will be worth 100 points, for a total of 600 points (60% of the grade for the course). Pro tip: I am also providing study questions as a preview of each quiz. Use those as a way of going back through the lecture notes and the readings before attempting the quiz.
2) Midterm essay exam (500 words in response to one of five questions I will provide)—200 points (Prompt distributed via Canvas on 10/12, due due via Canvas submission at 12 PM on 10/20)
3) Final essay exam (500 words in response to one of three questions I will provide)—200 points. (Final prompt distributed via Canvas on 12/7, due via due via Canvas submission at 4 PM on 12/15)

For assignments 2 and 3 above, I am not focusing only on the quality of your prose (though bad writing will make a bad impression). I am also looking for the quality and attention of your reading, and in 500 words, you have very little time to convince me of that quality. Get right to the point, and use your own words (see below).

Statement on Academic Dishonesty:
Plagiarism is a serious offense that will be treated seriously. Please read the CSUN policy here.  And just so you know, Canvas makes this kind of thing very easy for instructors to find. Don't do it. It isn't worth it.

Course Grade Scale;
A     925-1000
A-    900-924
B+   875-899
B     825-874
B-   800-824
C+  775-799
C    725-774
C-   700-724
D+   675-699
D     625-674
D-   600-624
F     0-599

Weekly Preview:

Week 1 (8/24): Introductions; Myths from Mesopotamia: The Epic of Creation (Enuma Elish), The Bible: Genesis 1-3

Week 2 (8/31): Myths from Mesopotamia: Atrahasis, The Bible: Genesis 6-9; Myths from Mesopotamia: Gilgamesh; Quiz 1 (distributed via Canvas at 12 PM) 

Week 3 (9/7): No Reading Assignments, Labor Day

Week 4 (9/14): The Iliad, Books 1-3, 6-7; Books 16-17, 22, 24

Week 5 (9/21): The Odyssey, Books 1-2, 4.620-847, 5-6, 8-11; Books 16-17, 19, 21-24; Quiz 2 (distributed via Canvas at 12 PM) 

Week 6 (9/28): The Greek Plays:  Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound; Sophocles, Antigone

Week 7 (10/5): The Greek Plays:  Euripides, Medea;  Aristophanes, Lysistrata; Quiz 3 (distributed via Canvas at 12 PM) 

Week 8 (10/12): The Bible: Judges 19-21, Ruth; The Bhagavad Gita (Midterm prompt distributed via Canvas on 10/12 at 12 PM and due via Canvas submission at 12 PM on 10/20)

Week 9 (10/19): William Shakespeare, Henry V 

Week 10 (10/26): Elizabeth Cary, The Tragedy of Mariam;  Quiz 4 (distributed via Canvas at 12 PM)

Week 11 (11/2): John Milton, Paradise Lost, Books 1-2; John Milton, Paradise Lost, Books 3-4

Week 12 (11/9): John Milton, Paradise Lost, Books 5-6;  Quiz 5 (distributed via Canvas at 12 PM)

Week 13 (11/16): Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre, Chapters 1-20

Week 14 (11/23): Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre, Chapters 21--38

Week 15 (11/30): Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita, Chapters 1-18; Quiz 6 (distributed via Canvas at 12 PM)

Week 16 (12/7): Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita, Chapters 19--32 and Epilogue (Final prompt distributed via Canvas on 12/7 at 12 PM, due via Canvas submission at 4 PM on 12/15)

The Humanist (Re)Turn 
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