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, the folktale and religious cult-worship, the hero is also present in most literary genres as a central protagonist who acts or is acted upon, and around whom the plot generally revolves. Literary genres determine the kind of heroes that arise, their internal traits and their mode of being in and acting upon the world. This semester we will be examining various types of heroes as they relate to their fictional worlds and to the genres they inhabit: the mythic hero, the tragic hero, the epic hero, the hero of romance, and variants of the romantic hero such as the Gothic and the Byronic. We will also be working with various kinds of literary criticism and theory, from Joseph Campbell and Northrop Frye to Hegel and Bakhtin. The course can also be read as a survey of certain aspects of the Western tradition from ancient Greek myth and tragedy, via Milton’s epic, down to nineteenth-century British and Russian romanticism. Throughout the semester we will be following on the heels of the hero Prometheus – rebel and trickster, who gifted humanity with fire and served as mentor to the human race. Prometheus is the prototypical hero, embodying the tension between human creativity and freedom and the constraints of a social or divine order. He has surfaced at different moments in Western history, from archaic Greece to Athenian democracy to modern Europe in the wake of the French Revolution. The crisis of the Promethean hero delineated by the European romantics allows us to ask what kind of hero – or antihero – is still possible in modern literature.
Books to be purchased at the Student Bookstore:
Hesiod, Theogony, trans. Richard S. Caldwell (Focus Classical Library) 0-941051- 00-5
Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound, trans. J. Scully and C.J. Herington, (OUP) 0-19-506165-9
Percy Bysshe Shelley, Shelley’s Poetry and Prose (Norton Critical Edition) 0-393-09164-3
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (Norton Critical Edition) 0-393- 96458-2)
Lord Byron, The Major Works (Oxford World’s Classics) 978-0- 19-953733-4
Mikhail Lermontov, A Hero of our Time (Penguin Classics) 0-140- 44795-4
All other materials will be made available electronically via bCourses.