English 393Honors Seminar: The Epic Hero
Dr. Michael Bryson
Sierra Tower 832



Epic poetry involves the vast sweep of events that change worlds, often bringing one world to an end while attending the birth of another. Set in such times, epics are usually violent affairs, and the epic hero is a figure who cannot be safely contained within the warp and woof of everyday life, as the work of such heroes involves war, destruction, and a violent rejection and/or reordering of the conditions of the society out of which they arise. What is it about such figures, and such stories, that has demonstrated  such lasting appeal? This course will try to come to terms with what it means for us to define heroism in terms of violence, war, and death.

Discussion, student presentations, and a final research essay (12-15 pages).  


1) Each student will do an in-class presentation of 10-15 minutes on a theory or theorist of myth (from a list to be distributed by the instructor).

2) Each student will do a conference-style presentation of a preliminary version of their final research project. The conference length paper will be a maximum of 8 pages, will be distributed to the rest of the class, and presented in-class during weeks 14-15.

3) Each student will do a final research essay of 12-15 pages, ideally a more comprehensive version of the project presented in class.

When researching, excellent sources for journal articles include JSTOR (http://www.jstor.org/), Project Muse (http://muse.jhu.edu/), and Academic Search Elite (http://library.csun.edu/restricted/ebsase.scr). These databases must be accessed from the CSUN campus, or from off-campus with your campus email user name and password. Quotations from the works you deal with—and quotations from secondary sources—should follow MLA format.

The final project should be turned in at the end of Finals week.


Week 1: Introductions, start Miller, The Epic Hero (52-69)
Week 2:
Finish Miller, The Epic Hero (70-187, 370-387)
Week 3: Gilgamesh
Week 4: The Iliad 1-12
Week 5: The Iliad 13-24
Week 6:The Odyssey 1-12
Week 7:The Odyssey 13-24
Week 8: The Aeneid 1-6
Week 9: The Aeneid 7-12

Spring Break

Week 10: The Mahabharata
Week 11:
The Bhagavad-Gita
Week 12: Paradise Lost 1-6

Week 13: Paradise Lost 7-12
Week 14:
Research Presentations (5-6 papers of no more than 15-20 minutes reading length--8 pages, distributed to the rest of the class)
Week 15: Research Presentations (5-6 papers of no more than 15-20 minutes reading length--8 pages, distributed to the rest of the class)

(All books will be available at the Norris Center Bookstore.  Note: Obtaining and using the recommended editions is most important where a translator is noted.  If the work was originally in English, the particular edition recommended is less critical.)

1) The Epic Hero—Dean A. Miller
ISBN: 0801870941
2) Gilgamesh—Stephen Mitchell edition
ISBN: 0743261690
3) Iliad—Robert Fagels, trans.
ISBN: 0140275363
4) Odyssey—Robert Fagles, trans.
ISBN: 0143039954
5) Aeneid—Robert Fagles, trans.
ISBN: 0670038032
6) Mahabharata—William Buck edition
ISBN: 0520227042
7) Bhagavad-Gita, Barbara Stoler Miller translation
ISBN: 0553213652
8) Paradise Lost
ISBN: 0451524748

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