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Classical Mythology

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CLA 2-216-2002

Wurzburg L 160, Side A
L to R: Helen and Paris, Andromache and Hector, and Hector's squire, Kebriones

Instructors:  John Gruber-Miller, 312 College Hall; phone: x4326; email:

David Strass, Writing Associate, 124 Cole Library; phone: x4509; email:

Michelle Holschuh Simmons, Arts and Humanities Consulting Librarian, 307 Cole Library; phone: x4452; email:

Class meetings: M-F 9-11:15 a.m. and 1-3 p.m.

Office Hours: M W F 11:15-12 noon and always by appointment.

Required Texts:

Robert Fagles, trans. Homer. The Iliad. Penguin, 1990.
Stanley Lombardo, trans. Hesiod. Works and Days and Theogony. Hackett, 1993.
David Grene and Richmond Lattimore, eds. Aeschylus II (Suppliant Maidens, Persians, Seven Against Thebes, Prometheus Bound). Chicago, 1956.
A.D. Melville, trans. Ovid. Metamorphoses. Oxford, 1986.
Susan Shelmerdine, trans. Homeric Hymns. Focus, 1995.
Naomi Iiuka. Polaroid Stories. Dramatic Publishing, 2000.


  • Introduction to the some of the most famous and most important myths, legends, and folktales of the ancient world.
  • Introduction to the literature of ancient Greece and Rome.
  • Understanding of how to read various types of literature and how to interpret myths, legends, and folktales.
  • Understanding of the relationship between ancient and modern myth, and why myths continue to speak to us today.
  • Opportunity to explore important human questions about divinity and humanity, life and death, female and male, rational and irrational, freedom and necessity, etc.
  • Introduction to college writing: brainstorming, coming up a thesis, drafting, organizing your paper, developing your ideas, developing stronger sentences, revising, and editing.
  • Ability to gather, use, and evaluate materials both from the library and the World Wide Web.

Course Format

In general, mornings will be devoted to examining and discussing the assigned texts we are reading. Getting used to Homer's oral style, the conventions of Greek tragedy, Ovid's wit and allusive style, and becoming familiar with the many gods and goddesses in Greek and Roman mythology can be challenging, but I will assist you with handouts and brief lectures to orient you. Along the way, we will be concerned with what it means to be a hero, both in ancient Greece and today, why mythology is concerned with creation, and finally, why myths are so susceptible to change and transformation, being told and retold.

Most afternoons, we will focus on topics related to writing and research, such as reading critically, writing strong thesis statements, or locating reliable sources on the internet or the library. Frequently, Cornell's Writing Associate, David Strass, or Cornell's Humanities Consulting Librarian, Michell Holschuh Simmons, will facilitate these afternoon classes.

Since this course is also an introduction to college writing, each day there will be some type of writing, such as in-class writing, a response paper to the assigned readings, an introduction to a paper, a draft of a paper, a revision of a paper, or editing for stronger sentences and clearer word choice. In addition, Mondays will be workshop days, in which we focus on your papers, learning to comment on each other's writing in a professional and courteous way. Throughout the course, you will learn to share and express ideas clearly and effectively, to collaborate, to critique others' ideas, and to give and receive criticism about your own ideas and writing.

Course Requirements

Class attendance and participation: We learn from many sources: our common readings, each other, our discussions, workshops, and our research. Since much of what we learn comes through sharing our ideas with others, it is crucial to the success of the course to come to class every day and to participate actively, collaboratively, and respectfully.

Response Papers: Three of the hardest things about writing well is choosing a topic, finding evidence from the text, and developing your ideas. Twice a week, I will ask you to write a 1-2 page response/discussion/reaction to the assigned reading. These papers are designed to help you choose a topic or question you have about the reading and to explore how this idea affects your understanding of the text. You may write about a particular scene, character, theme, image, or simile. Or you may wish to compare it to another part of the text, to another text we have read, or to your own personal life. You may answer one of the study questions or you may come up with your own idea. These response papers may even provide the springboard for one of your papers. They need not be polished essays, but they should focus on one topic and demonstrate that you have asked good questions about the readings and that you have supported your ideas from the text.
What They Are Not: What They Are:


Thoughtful and engaged with the text.

Rambling without a clear focus.

On one main topic.

1-2 pages of plot summary.

Only a paragraph.

1-2 full, letter-sized pages of writing, asking good questions, and pushing the ideas as far as you can.


Legible or typed.

Response papers are always due at 9:00 a.m. on the day they are due.

Restored lyre, British MuseumDrafting, Revising, and Workshopping papers are essential parts of the composing process--the same process that all good writers use. Each week you will write a draft, then meet with either myself or the Writing Associate, and then turn in a revised draft. In addition, each week we will hold a peer workshop, class periods in which you'll read and respond to each other's papers. In peer workshops, we'll begin by examining a model paper to illustrate the process of critiquing a paper. We'll generate ideas for turning the draft into a solid finished product. We'll also discuss ways of responding to papers that are helpful for writers. Finally, we'll break up into small groups and read other students' papers. In the process, you'll learn to read and respond to each other's work and hopefully apply the same techniques to critique and revise your own writing.

Early in the block, you will sign up for date to submit one of your drafts ahead of the due date so that we can use it as a model paper. Model papers are always due at 7:30 a.m. on the workshop day. You should email the paper to me ( and to the Writing Associate, David Strass ( as a MS Word attachment. This is an opportunity to get a lot feedback on your work and help you produce a better, finished paper.

You will complete three Papers. The first two (4-5 pages each) will focus on the ancient texts, using quotations from them as supporting evidence. The last one, part of the Metamorphoses Project, is a comparative one in which you will compare a modern version of a myth with the ancient one we have read in class. In addition, in order to understand the modern version of the myth, you will learn to access reference works and secondary literature in the library and on the WWW. All papers should be typed, double-spaced, Times or Times New Roman, 12 point font. Sources should be documented in MLA format. Please include page numbers. On the first page indicate which draft (e.g., first, second, or final) you are submitting and the date submitted.

The Metamorphoses Project is designed to show the continuing relevance of myth through time. This project will be a combination of individual essays and group presentations which will trace the transformations of specific mythic figures from antiquity through the present. Each group, comprised of three to four students each, will choose a mythic figure and each member will be responsible for writing a 5-7 page essay discussing this figure in a particular piece of literature, art, music, theater, or film created since the ancient world. Each group will workshop each other's papers. Finally, each group will then use the individual essays to create a class presentation on the transformation of their mythic figure from antiquity to the present. We will discuss the projects in detail the first week of class. For more information, click here. Proposals will be due on the 2nd Wednesday. A list of secondary sources is due the 3rd Wednesday. Individual essays and critiques are due on the 4th Monday. The final two days of the course will be reserved for presentations.


  • The writing process (in-class writing, drafting, revising, model papers, workshops) 10%
  • Response papers 20%
  • Three papers 60%
  • Metamorphoses Project group presentation 10%


Attendance: Since our class format is based primarily on discussion and workshops, it is essential that you come to class every day, prepared and ready to participate actively. Any absence after two missed class periods will harm your final grade.

Drafts and Model Papers: Learning how to revise papers is an important element of becoming a successful writer, and peer workshops are an important element in honing your reading and writing skills. The failure to submit a full-length draft when due, submit a model paper when due, or attend a peer workshop, will automatically result in a grade of C or below for that particular paper.

Deadlines: no late work will be accepted. If an emergency or illness occurs, please let me know immediately so that other plans can be arranged.

Academic Integrity: According to the Cornell College Student Handbook, plagiarism is "is the act of taking the work of another and presenting it as one's own, without acknowledgement of the original source." In other words, using others' ideas, words, even sentence structure, without crediting them is a serious academic offense. Plagiarism also includes writing a paper for another person, borrowing or buying an essay and submitting it as your own, or paraphrasing an article but forgetting to document it. Click here for Cornell's policy on Academic Honesty.

Cornell College
600 First Street West
Mt Vernon, IA 52314

John Gruber-Miller
(319) 895-4326

Maintained by: Classical Studies Last Update: July 15, 2008 8:39 am
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