LLT 321      Comparative Mythology        Spring 2019

Edwin Carawan, Siceluff 115 -- Office Hour: 1:15 MWF,1pm TTh

phone: 836-4831.... ECarawan@missouristate.edu


Objectives: This course is an investigation of the common patterns and social causes of myth-making. The guiding theme of our study will be Violence and Order: we focus on the way myth seems to justify the practices of religion and early law as originating in some 'killing-in-exchange' (sacrifice or retribution).

            Readings are divided into two units: (1) Creation and the Cosmos; and (2) the Hero's Quest.  With so wide a scope, we shall have to be selective. For primary material, Greek myth is central because it is so fully preserved. For comparison we focus first upon the most ancient sources, Sumer and Babylon, with a brief look at Egypt; we then turn to the relatively recent but remarkably primitive remains of Norse saga and related Germanic legend. Parallel to this last set of readings we will sample and discuss a representative work of modern mythography: Walter Burkert's Structure and History,  an influential model tracing the roots of mythmaking back to defining violence in early human society.


Reqirements: The course grade will consist of 2 components: (a) Quizzes and in-class exercises (total 50%), (b) Essays and/or Final Exam (25% each) --  The quizzes are largely short answer, matching and brief identification (See Practice for Quiz 1 linked below).  The option of submitting a second Essay in lieu of the Final is reserved for those who have an A-average (90 or above) after Quiz 4; outline must be approved.

    Readings should be completed for the assigned date, and basic comprehension will be measured by in-class exercises. The essays reflect upon common and contrasting elements in two or more traditions; 4-5 pages suggested. (Essay guides below).

The Final is largely review: short answer on basic terms, discussion of broader themes.

            Integrity: Any request for make-up or rescheduling of tests should document reasonable need. Any academic dishonesty will be subject to sanctions (as listed in Student Academic Integrity, p.4) proportionate to the work: zero on quiz; course F on essay; XF on Final.      

            Special considerations: We strongly support University policies to accommodate students with disabilities and to prevent or remedy discrimination of any kind. If you have a concern or special need, please advise the instructor.   In regard to disabilities, you may also contact Disability Services (836-4192) http://www.missouristate.edu/disability; regarding discrimination, the Equal Opportunity Officer (836-4252) or go to http://www.missouristate.edu/human/eoaa.htm.


Texts:   Thorkild Jacobsen, The Treasures of Darkness (1976 = TD);    

Lombardo, The Essential Homer (2000);   HRE Ellis, Gods and Myths of Northern Europe (=MNE)

Burkert, Structure and History in Greek Mythology and Ritual. Additional materials provided in class and online.

Recommended: J. Byock trans. The Saga of the Volsungs ;  Burkert, Homo Necans;  Wm. Ian Miller, Eye for an Eye.    




Jan. 15 ... Preface: ..... sketch of Creation stories

Unit I.  Creation and the Cosmos -- Intro: Goddess and Shaman 

Jan. 17 ... TD  3-25:  Sumerians and discovery of the Sacred ...  

  rough timeline for Greece and Near East 

Uruk Vase.  Map of  Mesopotamia ... Main sites


Jan. 22 ... TD 26-73:  Inanna and Death of Dumuzi  

Jan. 24... Treasures ch. 3-4 (77-116)  TD 77-91:

Gods as Rulers (stele of Naramsin)  Enki World  An & Co (family tree)

Enlil and Ninlil    Atrahasis


Jan. 29  ... Treasures ch. 4, cont. TD  95-143:

The Sumerian Pantheon  Rising ...

'Enki and Ninhursag (in Dilmun)'        Adapa

Sumerian Creation?


Jan.31 ... TD 146-64, Rise of Personal Religion


Feb. 5 ... Quiz 1 


Feb. 7 ... TD 167-191 = Enuma Elish     

Hittite and other parallels;  

Hesiod, the Greek Theogony (main text)

Succession Myths compared ... Zeus vs. Typhon


Feb. 12 ... Egyptian Myths of Creation    

... Egyptian Cataclysm, Greek  'Ages of Man'  

& Atrahasis (TD 116-21);  Myths of Man's Doom

Lot's Daughters (another Cataclysm survived) 

Plutarch’s late and much contaminated On Isis

Feb. 14 ... Review and Perspective    ...Horus vs. Seth


Feb. 19 ... Quiz 2   


Feb. 21 ... Gilgamesh & Co.= TD 195-219 (Guide)


Feb. 26 ... Enkidu and the Netherworld (excerpted)

Egyptian Tale of Two Bros.

Jacobsen's Epilogue


[Feb. 28 ... Essay Outline is due; Mar. 7 essay is due

             Essay 1: Creation-- Violence and Order   ]


Unit II. The Hero's Quest (continued)  Timeline


Feb.28-Mar. 5... End of the Iliad (16-24)= Homer 153-240

Mar.  7 ... Odyssey  9-13   Competing Tales in Bk 11

--Spring Break, Mar. 11-15--

Mar. 19 ... Odyssey 16-18       

Mar. 21  ... Odyssey  19-24     Review and discussion


Mar. 26 ... Quiz 3


Mar. 28... Norse Myth I (NME chh, 1-2)  Background

Gylfaginning 1-34  Outline  Otter's Ransom



Apr. 2 ... Norse Myth II (NME chh. 3-4)

Thor & Thrym              Thor & Loki compared


April 4 ... Norse Myth III  (NME chh. 6-7)

Gylfaginning  38-50  (Siring of Sleipnir, Journey to Utgard,

Baldr & Ragnarok)


April 9 ... Volsunga Saga 1-18 (Byock 35-65)  Guide

              5th c. Background: Volsungs and Burgundians

             [focus on chh. 11-18:  Volsunga Saga 11-15...16-18 ]

April 11... Volsunga Saga 19-32 (Byock 65-92)

Volsunga Saga 19-22.  ..                      23-27              

            (Guide2)   28-32


April  16 ... Quiz 4 

   (Spring holiday Apr.18)


April 23 ... Burkert ch. 1: defining Myth

April 25 …      Burkert chh. 2-3  --  Ritual and Scapegoat

April 30 …      Burkert chh. 4-5

            Goddesses & Guys      Attis &  Adonis        Telepinus & Friends


May 2 …         Review and Discussion (this section will not meet May 7-9)


Final Guide     ---        Summary of Recent Readings

            OR  Essay 2       Journey Beyond


Final Exam (or Essay due)  Thurs.  May 16, 1:15 pm