Tu/Th 11:00-12:30 102 Wurster Instructor: Harsha Ram

What is a hero? What are the origins of the hero as a cultural and literary construct? Originating in myth, folktale and religious cult-worship, the hero archetype has had an astonishing history stretching from ancient times to the Marvel and DC superheroes of today. Endowed with superhuman or exceptional traits, the hero originated as a bridge between the divine and the human. His life’s journey combines a quest for self-discovery with the fulfillment of a higher cause, from the cosmic workings of destiny to the realization of social justice. We will begin the course by exploring contemporary superheroes such as Superman, Spiderman and Wolverine, and then go back in time to explore the origins of the hero archetype. Our approach will be typological and genre-based. We will be examining mythic heroes such as Herakles, tragic heroes such as Oedipus, epic heroes such as Achilles, and modern variants of the romantic hero from Byron to Nietzsche.


Work required
Midterm: 20%                                   Final Paper: 30%

Final: 30%                                          Class Participation: 20%


Week 1: January 16

Tue.  From Hero to Superhero: An Introduction

Thu.  Superman, the Original Superhero


Week 2: January 23

Tue.  Marvel Comics: Spiderman

Thu.  Marvel Comics: Wolverine


Week 3: January 30

Tue.  The Mythic Hero: Theseus

Thu.  The Mythic Hero: Jason


Week 4: February 6

Tue. The Religious Hero: Krishna

Thu. The Religious Hero: Krishna


Week 5: February 13

Tue. The Religious Hero: The Buddha

Thu. The Religious Hero: The Buddha


Week 6: February 20

Tue. The Epic Hero: Gilgamesh

Thu. The Epic Hero: Gilgamesh


Week 7: February 27

Tue. The Tragic Hero: Oedipus

Thu. The Tragic Hero: Oedipus


Week 8: March 6

Tue. The Tragic Hero: Prometheus

Thu. The Tragic Hero: Prometheus


Week 9: March 13

Tue. The Picaresque Hero: The Golden Ass

Thu. The Picaresque Hero: The Golden Ass


Week 10: March 20

Tue. Between Romance and History: Ivanhoe

Thu. Between Romance and History: Ivanhoe


Spring Recess: March 26-30


Week 11: April 3

Tue. The Romantic Hero: Faust

Thu. The Romantic Hero: Faust


Week 12: April 10

Tue. The Romantic Hero: Manfred

Thu. The Romantic Hero: Manfred


Week 13: April 17

Tue. The Romantic Hero: Frankenstein

Thu. The Romantic Hero: Frankenstein


Week 14: April 24

Tue. The Übermensch: Nietzsche’s Zarathustra

Thu. The Übermensch: Nietzsche’s Zarathustra


Book List

Gilgamesh, trans. Stephen Mitchell (Free Press) 13 978-0-7432-6169-2

Oedipus the King, trans. Stephen Berg and Diskin Clay (Oxford UP) 13-978-0-19-505493-4

Prometheus Bound, trans. James Scully (Oxford UP), 13: 978-0195061659

The Golden Ass, trans. E.J. Kenney (Penguin Classics) 13-978-0-140-43590-0

Ivanhoe, by Walter Scott (Dover Thrift Editions) 13-978-0-486-43677-7

Faust, by J.W. von Goethe (Oxford World’s Classic), 13: 978-0199536214

Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley, (Norton Critical Edition) 0-978-0-393-92793-1

Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Friedrich Nietzsche (Penguin Classics) 0-14-044118-2

All other materials will be made available electronically