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Classical Mythology

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CLA 2-216B-2007

Odysseus and Circe
Odysseus and his men encounter Circe

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

Mariah Steele, Writing Consultant, 124 Cole Library; phone: x4509; email:

Jennifer Rouse, Arts and Humanities Consulting Librarian, 307 Cole Library; phone: x4466; email:

Holly Martin Huffman, Academic Media Consultant, 212A Cole Library, phone x4125; 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:

Stepahnie Dalley, trans. Myths from Mesopotamia. Creation, The Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others. Oxford, 1989.
Stanley Lombardo, trans. Hesiod. Works and Days and Theogony. Hackett, 1993.
A.D. Melville, trans. Ovid. Metamorphoses. Oxford, 1986.
Susan Shelmerdine, trans. Homeric Hymns. Focus, 1995.
Stanley Lombardo, trans. Homer. Odyssey. Hackett, 2000.
David Grene and Richmond Lattimore, eds. Greek Tragedies. Vol. 3 (Aeschylus Eumenides, Sophocles Philoctetes and Oedipus at Colonus, Euripides Bacchae and Alcestis. Chicago 1960.
Naomi Iizuka. 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.
  • Development of your ability to write well
  • Ability to gather, use, and evaluate materials both from the library and the World Wide Web.
  • Ability to create and design functional webpages.

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.

Some days, 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, or creating webpages. On these days, Cornell's Writing Associate, Mariah Steele, or Cornell's Humanities Consulting Librarian, Jen Rouse, or Cornell's instructional technology specialist, Holly Martin Huffman, will facilitate these classes.

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 are narrowing a topic, finding evidence from the text, and developing your ideas. These papers are designed to help you discuss important themes of the course. The questions posed can be broad, but in order to stay under the page limit, you will need to get right to the point, make hard decisions about what aspects to focus on and what to leave out, and find the most relevant passages to discuss in support of your conclusions.
What They Are Not: What They Are:


Thoughtful and engaged with the text.

Rambling without a clear focus.

On one main topic; coherent.

Timid, predictable, unimaginative

Willing to take risks, be playful, and be creative

2-3 pages of plot summary.

Only a paragraph.

2-3 pages of writing that makes an argument based on a close reading of the text



Response papers are always due at 9:00 a.m. on the day they are due. 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, include a title and indicate which draft (e.g., first, second, or final) you are submitting and the date submitted. Please submit your response paper in two formats: bring a hard copy to class and an electronic copy via email (subject line should be "response paper 1"). To insure anonymity, do not type your name on the first page of the paper, but (hand)write your name and date on the back of the last page. Thanks!

Restored lyre, British MuseumDrafting, Revising, and Workshopping papers are essential parts of the composing process--the same process that all good writers use. We'll spend some time reading and responding to each other's webpages. In peer workshops, we'll begin by examining a model paper to illustrate the process of critiquing a paper. We'll also discuss ways of responding to papers and webpages that are helpful for writers. Finally, we'll break up into small groups and read other students' writing. 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.

You will prepare a writing portfolio along with a 1-2 page analysis of your progress as a writer. In addition to the reflective essay, the portfolio should contain three response papers, one critique of a website/analysis, and your analysis Part 2B. Some questions to consider in the reflective essay: How have you improved as a writer? What do you wish you could have done different? What challenges did you meet both in your research and in your writing and how did you attempt to overcome them? What do you feel you still need to work on as a writer? Please include a hard copy of your papers with my comments. If you revised something, include both the first draft and revised version. Finally, please arrange the items in your portfolio in reverse chronological order (i.e. most recent to oldest).

Metamorphoses Project on the transformation of myth through time. In order to understand mythology in antiquity and its enduring relevance, groups of three students each will research one divinity or hero. More detailed instructions will be handed out later, but basically the project will involve the following steps:

  1. research (both in the library and on the WWW) and analysis of the various Greek myths concerning a particular divinity or hero;
  2. research (both in the library and on the WWW) and analysis of the various later transformations of myth concerning the same figure;
  3. creative project by the group showing their response to the divinity or hero they have researched. It may take the form of artwork, drama, music, story, video, etc. Ideally, it should engage one's mind, heart, and spirit.


  • Class preparation, class participation, in-class writing, workshops 10%
  • Response papers 40%
  • Metamorphoses Project 40%
  • Writing Portfolio (3 response papers, 1 analysis section from the Metamorphoses project, one peer review of someone else's work, and a self-reflective essay on your writing in the course) 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 one missed class period will harm your final grade. If you must miss class, please inform me ahead of time if at all possible.

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.

Accomodations for different learning styles: Cornell College is committed to providing equal educational opportunities to all students.  If you have a documented learning disability and will need any accommodation in this course, you must request the accommodation(s) from me as early as possible and no later than the third day of the term. Additional information about the policies and procedures for accommodation of learning disabilities is available on the Cornell web site at

Image Credit: Black-figure vase Boston 99.51 Side A: Odysseus and the sorceress Circe. Photograph courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston


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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