Classics 432 A and C LIT 357 B
Classical Mythology in Film
Instructor: James J. Clauss, Department of Classics
Office: Denny Hall M262F (difficult to find); tel. 543-2266 (department office phone)
Office Hours: By appointment
- Fagles, The Three Theban Plays (Penguin)
- Hadas and J. McLean, Ten Plays of Euripides (Bantam/Doubleday/Dell)
Select Wikipedia articles
Read the material assigned for each topic (see below)
View and discuss the films. It is important that students view the movies in class, as I will explain.
Midterm due Sunday, October 31 at midnight (Canvas). Discussion during class (Monday, November 1).
Final projects due Wednesday, December 8, last day of class, at midnight (Canvas).
Final Examination due Tuesday, December 14, at midnight (Canvas). Discussion during exam time (Wednesday, December 15, 8:30-10:20).
Goals of the Course:
By studying major, in most cases authoritative, versions of ancient myths that were turned into films and comparing the ancient and modern renditions, students will be able to observe what modern cinematic narrators were drawn to and interested in achieving in their filmed versions of the myths and at the same time gain further insights both into the ancient stories and modern narratives. We shall focus on thematic differences and similarities, cinematic technique, and intended audiences, among other things, including how to read films as literary narratives. Finally we will explore in particular the mythological structure of the katabasis (see below), which plays out in the lives of every human being as well as many films.
Midterm and Final Essays
There will be two take-home exams, a midterm and final. The examinations will cover information and themes pertinent to the ancient stories and include several essays regarding their modern renditions. All information needed for these exams will be covered in class; there is no course book that will provide this. The exams should be uploaded to Canvas by midnight of the day before the exams. Class exam time will be spent in discussions.
The final project involves the creation of a cinematic myth, either by way of a written description of an imagined filmed version of an ancient Greco-Roman myth that the student would make if s/he were a director/screen writer/cinematographer in an 8 page paper (double spaced, 12 point type; I will provide a sample story) or by an original film (we will see examples of student films during the class). Final projects are due the last day of class. Examination of how the directors adapt ancient myths for their films will provide further models and inspiration for this project. A major take-away from the project is that students will experience firsthand how one goes about imagining and plotting a mythic narrative in a cinematic form, but also how to read a film from a directorial/screen writer’s perspective, a skill that is easily transferable to all films.
For further information on the films, please consult http://www.imdb.com.
Clash of the Titans (1981), Desmond Davis, Director; art director Ray Harryhausen, screen writer Beverely Cross
Edipo Re (1967), Pier Paolo Pasolini, Director
Hercules Unchained (1959), Pietro Francisci, Director
Medea (1970), Pier Paolo Pasolini, Director
Desire under the Elms (1958), Delbert Mann, Director
Iphigenia (1977), Michael Cacoyannis, Director
Orphée (1949), Jean Cocteau, Director
The Searchers (1956), John Ford, Director
Star Wars: Episode 4 – A New Hope (1977), George Lucas, Director
The Matrix (1999), Lana and Lilli Wachowski, Directors
Schedule of Films and Discussions
Week 1 Introduction
Week 2 Clash of the Titans Discussion
Week 3 Edipo Re Discussion
Week 4 Hercules Unchained Discussion
Week 5 Medea Discussion
Week 6 Midterm Desire under the Elms
Week 7 Discussion Iphigeneia
Week 8 Discussion Orphée
Week 9 Discussion The Searchers
Week 10 Star Wars Discussion
Week 11 The Matrix Discussion
Schedule of Readings
Week 2 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perseus Oedipus Rex (Fagles)
Week 3 Oedipus at Colonus (Fagles) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heracles
Week 4 Medea (Hadas) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jason
Week 5 Hippolytus (Hadas) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theseus
Week 6 Iphigeneia (Hadas) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agamemnon
Week 9 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Wars_(film)
NB On the days of discussion, the first half of class will focus on the movie seen in the previous class and the second half will be preparation for the next film. Please do the readings prior to the day they are mentioned in the schedule.
Grades will be based on the following:
Midterm Essays 35%
Final Essays 35%
Final Project 30%
Important UW policy-related things to know:
- The UW's Religious Accommodations Policy:“Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy (Links to an external site.). Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form (Links to an external site.).”
- The UW's Student Conduct Code: "The University of Washington Student Conduct Code (WAC 478-121) defines prohibited academic and behavioral conduct and describes how the University holds students accountable as they pursue their academic goals. Allegations of misconduct by students may be referred to the appropriate campus office for investigation and resolution. More information can be found online at https://www.washington.edu/studentconduct/."(Links to an external site.)
- Access and Accommodation: Your experience in this class is important to me. If you have already established accommodations with Disability Resources for Students (DRS), please communicate your approved accommodations to me at your earliest convenience so we can discuss your needs in this course.
If you have not yet established services through DRS, but have a temporary health condition or permanent disability that requires accommodations (conditions include but not limited to; mental health, attention-related, learning, vision, hearing, physical or health impacts), you are welcome to contact DRS at 206-543-8924 or email@example.com or disability.uw.edu. (Links to an external site.)DRS offers resources and coordinates reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities and/or temporary health conditions. Reasonable accommodations are established through an interactive process between you, your instructor(s) and DRS. It is the policy and practice of the University of Washington to create inclusive and accessible learning environments consistent with federal and state law.
- Academic Integrity: University of Washington students are expected to practice high standards of academic and professional honesty and integrity as outlined here:http://depts.washington.edu/grading/pdf/AcademicResponsibility.pdf (Links to an external site.)
- UW COVID face covering policy: UW COVID-19 Face Covering Policy
Elements of the Katabasis Motif
The journey undertaken by the hero leads to the realm of the dead (literal or figurative).
The traveler comes and goes, often at night and often through caves or over rivers, and frequently needs advice from a guide.
The region is forbidding, often in the control of a despotic ruler who commands frightening underlings.
One or more of those going with the hero on the journey frequently dies (a sort of sacrificial victim).
The purpose of the journey typically involves bringing back some important item, information or a person.
The hero effectively undergoes a death of the old self and rebirth into a new role.
The successful hero can attain one or more benefits apart from the purpose of the quest: power, knowledge, wisdom, courage, marriage, (re)integration into society, maturity, and/or the ability to face other quests in the future.