North Island College, Winter 2019

Meeting TimesM, W 11:30 am - 12:50 pm

Meeting PlaceTyee 202

Instructor: Dan Hinman-Smith

Office:  Village G6

Office Hours:  Thurs. 11:30 am - 12:30 pm; 2:30 - 3:50 pm (or by appointment)

Office Phone: 250-334-5000, Extension 4024

Web-Site: http://www.misterdann.com/

E-Mail: dan.hinmansmith@nic.bc.ca

Course Description

The secret of life, explains the sacred tavern-keeper Siduri in an ancient Sumerian epic, is that there is no secret.  "When the gods created man they allotted to him death, but life they retained in their own keeping," she tells the king Gilgamesh.  "Fill your belly with good things, dance and be merry, feast and rejoice.  Let your clothes be fresh, bathe yourself in water, cherish the little child that holds your hand, and make your wife happy in your embrace; for this too is the lot man. "  This course will in some ways defy the strictures of Siduri in returning to the questions that rest at the centre of world mythology.  Who are we?  Where do we come from?  Where are we going?  What is the nature of the cosmos?  What is the relationship between the individual, the family, the community and the transcendent?  How are life and death intertwined?  We will discuss such questions in a philosophical context but the thrust of the course will be to use an historical and comparative framework that analyzes particular mythic traditions.  Rather than attempt to encompass all of world mythology within a one-semester course, we will focus upon the myths of Greece, Mesopotamia, Northern Europe, Egypt, India and Mesoamerica as case studies.

Tentative Class Schedule

Week 1

Monday, January 7

a)  What Is Myth Discussion

b)  Course Introduction

c)  Video: "Theseus And The Minotaur"

Wednesday, January 9

a)  Lecture: Entering The Labyrinth -- The Myth Of Theseus And The Minotaur

Week 2

Monday, January 14

a)  Introduce CSI Delphi Assignment

b)  Student Mini-Presentations: Mythic Character Sketch

c)  Discussion: Of Ariadne's Thread And The Minotaur's Curse -- An Intensive Focus On The King Minos Legend

Reading Assignment Browse extensively in Ariadne's Thread and The Minotaur's Curse  Discussion Topic

Wednesday, January 16

a)  Lecture: Of Zeus And Jerry Springer -- The Olympian Pantheon (I)

Week 3

Monday, January 21

a)   Video: "Jason And The Argonauts"

Seminar Note DueMythic Character Sketch

Wednesday, January 23

a)  Discussion: Euripides' Medea

Reading Assignment:  Euripides, Medea (in Greek Tragedy, pp. 129-182).

Week 4

Monday, January 28

a)  Discussion:  Of Pandora's Box and Prometheus's Fire -- Gods And The Mortals

b)   Lecture: Of Zeus And Jerry Springer -- The Olympian Pantheon (II)

Reading Assignment:

Browse extensively in  Pandora and Prometheus Discussion Topic

Seminar Note Due:  Medea

Wednesday, January 30

a)  Discussion:  Sophocles' Oedipus Rex

Reading Assignment:  Sophocles, Oedipus Rex (in Greek Tragedy, pp. 69-128).


Week 5

Monday, February 4

a)  Video Clip: Charles Berkowitz to NIC Students on The Iliad and The Odyssey

b)   Lecture: Of Zeus And Jerry Springer -- The Olympian Pantheon (III)

Seminar Note Due:  Oedipus Rex

Wednesday, February 6

a)  Lecture: Sing Of The Wrath Of Achilles -- The Trojan War

Viewing Assignment:  Watch at least one of the following --

"Bacchus Uncovered: Ancient God Of Ecstasy," BBC, 2018.

"Venus Uncovered: Ancient Goddess Of Love," BBC, 2018.

"Greek Myths: Tales Of Traveling Heroes," BBC, 2010.

Week 6

Monday, February 11

a)  Class Cancelled:  Snow Day

Wednesday, February 13

a)  [If Time]  Video: Watch The Odyssey, Invitation To World Literature, Annenberg Foundation (30 mins.)

b)  ***C.S.I. Delphi Class Presentations

***First Half Portfolio Due (CSI Delphi and Titans and Olympians Worksheet)

***Family Day And Reading Break, February 18-22

Week 7

Monday, February 25

a)  Video: Watch Epic Of Gilgamesh, Invitation To World Literature, Annenberg Foundation (30 mins.)

b)  Lecture: Mesopotamian Mythology

Wednesday, February 27

a)  Lecture: The Way To Eternity -- Egyptian Mythology

Week 8

Monday, March 4

a)  Course Check-In

b)  Audio:  Listen to 10 minute reading of Epic Of Gilgamesh

c)  Discussion:  Epic Of Gilgamesh

Reading AssignmentEpic Of Gilgamesh

Audio Edition Epic Of Gilgamesh

Optional Listening Assignment"Epic Of Gilgamesh," In Our Time, BBC Radio Four (November 3, 2016).

Wednesday, March 6

a)  Lecture: Welcome To Middle Earth -- Norse Mythology (I)

Week 9

Monday, March 11

a)  Introduce Trip Of A Death-Time Assignment

b)  Discussion:  Yggdrasil

c)  Lecture: Welcome To Middle Earth -- Norse Mythology (II)

Reading Assignment:

Browse extensively in Yggdrasil Discussion Topic

Optional Listening Assignment"The Norse Gods," In Our Time, BBC Radio Four (March 11, 2004).

Seminar Note Due:  Epic of Gilgamesh

Wednesday, March 13

a)  Video:  "Ramayana -- The Epic" (98 mins.)

Week 10

Monday, March 18

a)  Guest Lecture:  Japanese Mythology

Wednesday, March 20

a)  Discussion: Ramayana

b)  Finish Slides:  Egyptian Mythology

Reading Assignment:

Ranchor Prime, Ramayana

Week 11

Monday, March 25

Class Cancelled

Wednesday, March 27

a)  Introduce Final Exam

b)  Lecture: Of Smoking Mirrors And Feathered Serpents -- Aztec Mythology

Seminar Note Due:  Ramayana

Week 12

Monday, April 1

a)  Final Exam Review

Wednesday, April 3

a)  Video: "Joseph Campbell And The Power Of Myth"

b)  Video: "Popol Vuh," Invitation To World Literature, Annenberg Foundation (27 mins.)

Week 13

Monday, April 8

a)  Discussion: Popol Vuh

b)  Lecture:  Theorists Of Myth

Reading Assignment:  Tedlock, Popol Vuh.

Wednesday, April 10

a)  Discussion: Theorists Of Myth -- Carl Jung

b)  ***Trip Of A Death-Time Mini-Presentations And Discussion

Reading Assignment:

Browse extensively in  Theorists Of Myth -- Carl Jung Discussion Topic

***Trip Of A Death-Time Brochures Due (printed copies please)

Week 14:  Final ExamSaturday, April 13, 1:00 pm (Tyee 204)


Dutta, Shomit, ed.  Penguin Classics: Greek Tragedy.  New York: Penguin Classics, 2004.

Epic of Gilgamesh, trans. N.K. Sanders.  London: Penguin, 1972.

Prime, Ranchor.  Ramayana: A Tale Of Gods And Demons.  New York: Mandala, 2004.

Tedlock, Dennis.  Popul Vuh: The Definitive Edition Of The Mayan Book Of The Dawn Of Life.  New York: Touchstone, 1996.


Letter of Introduction


First-Half Portfolio


Trip Of A Death-Time


Seminar Notes


Class Participation


Final Exam









a)  Letter of Introduction (1%)

Who are you? Where are you from? What are your interests? Why are you taking this course? Do you have any questions, concerns, or suggestions as we start the course? Write two or three informal paragraphs for the second class of the semester to introduce yourself to me.

b)  First-Half Portfolio (24%)

The First-Half Portfolio will include the C.S.I. Delphi assignment (80%) and the Titans and Olympians worksheet (20%).  Individual volumes of the Titans and Olympians volume are on reserve in the NIC Library while the worksheet itself can be downloaded from the Assignments page of the HIS 135 web-site.

c)  Trip Of A Death-Time (15%)

You will design three separate brochures advertising tourist trips to three different mythic afterlives.

d)  Seminar Notes (25%) [5 different short seminar notes in total]

Seminar notes are one+-page commentaries upon the major course readings.  Your choice of seminar notes are due in connection with any five of the six core discussion readings (Mythic Character Sketch; Medea; Oedipus Rex; Epic Of Gilgamesh; Ramayana  and Popol Vuh).  Hand in or e-mail me your seminar notes before or during the week that follows our seminar discussion.  Please send me your electronic files in .doc, docx or .rtf format and label your files so that I can identify both you and the reading by the file title.  If you complete more than five seminar notes, your best five will be counted, and you will also receive a small bonus for #6.

The purpose of the seminar notes is to provide you with the opportunity to organize your thoughts after each of the common major readings.  This exercise is also designed to facilitate analytical group discussion on our seminar days.  The notes need not be formal in style but should be at least a page in length and should highlight key themes from the reading.  Although you should write concisely, it is fine if some of your seminar notes are more than two pages in length.

Rather than being graded on a letter scale, the seminar notes will be evaluated on a check, check-plus, and check-minus basis:

Check:  A fully satisfactory seminar note (7.7/10, B)

Check-Plus:  A strong note that offers particularly strong analysis and/or a well-developed commentary upon the text (9.2/10, A)

Check-Minus:  A weak seminar note that does not successfully engage with the reading (6.2, C)

Particularly outstanding seminar notes may receive a Check-Plus-Plus (10.0/10, A+)

e)  Class Participation (15%)

The class participation grade will be based upon attendance; pre-class preparation; and the willingness to contribute thoughtfully to full-class and small-group discussion.  Although attendance is not required, I will take roll, and those who are not in class regularly will receive a poor grade for this component of the course.  I would like to encourage a classroom environment in which all are eager to share their ideas and in which lectures are accompanied by thoughtful dialogue.

Assigning class participation grades can be quite arbitrary.  When I assign participation grades at the end of the semester, I place each student in one of three following categories:

1)  Regular class attendance and excellent class participation.

2)  Regular class attendance and  fully satisfactory class participation.

3)  Irregular class attendance and preparation.

Those in Category 1 receive top participation grades.  Those in Category 3 receive poor participation grades.  Those in Category 2 are most likely to receive no specific participation grade but rather have the 90% total for their written work pro-rated to a 100% scale (in some cases the participation component may help a Category 2 student's final grade but in no instance will it lower the final grade).  Thus,  shy students are not penalized for class participation so long that they attend faithfully and I need only to distinguish between strong, satisfactory and weak participation rather than attempt to make fine distinctions.

f)  Final Exam (20%)

The Final Exam will ask you to write short essays analyzing paired mythological terms. A detailed preparation sheet will be handed out in advance.

A Note On Plagiarism

Everything that you hand in should be your original work unless otherwise indicated.  Violations of this policy may result in failing an assignment or the course in its entirety.  Please talk to me if you have any uncertainty  about what is permitted here.

Welcome To The Course



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