Literature of the Western World 1, Fall 1998

From Gerald R. Lucas

LIT 3101.001 Literature of the Western World I
Fall 1998; Tuesday and Thursday 9:30 to 10:45 am; CPR-337

This course explores the genesis of western literary tradition, and its development through the Renaissance. We will focus on textual studies of the major genres of this period, epic and tragedy, and how those genres influenced later literary works. We will study the these works’ continuing contemporary relevance and influence on the history of Continental, British, and American literature, other literary traditions, and the arts in general. Major works covered will include Gilgamesh, The Old Testament (excerpts), the Iliad, the Odyssey, the Aeneid, and works by Sophocles, Ovid, and Dante, among others. Since any survey course has much more literature than one semester-long class can cover, we will attempt to cover only a couple works very well, rather than many works only cursorily. Also, this course will not address the pertinent British literature of this time; Beowulf, Gawain, and Chaucer should be studied in your British literature surveys.

Course Goals

  1. To develop and enrich the students’ knowledge of early western literature, its cultural, intellectual, philosophical, educational, socio-political-historical contexts, its continuing contemporary relevance, and its influence on the history of British and American literature, other literature, and the arts.

  2. To develop and enhance the students’ critical and analytical ability to read and understand the literature of these writers, their contexts and significance, through and variety of pedagogical strategies.

  3. To develop and enhance the students’ ability to think critically and creatively and to write and to speak effectively about literature.

  4. To develop an expanded and enlightened vision as to meaningful critical approaches to these writers and the western literary culture based on specific study of literary production and on a broad understanding of their significance to contemporary and later intellectual thought.

  5. To develop an appreciation for the diversity of ideals, values, perceptions, and expectations, exemplified not only within the texts of these writers and the societies reflected in their works, but also as represented by the course participants.

This course is beneficial for students wishing to enrich and deepen their knowledge of early western literature and how it influenced subsequent literary and cultural thought. It will be valuable for students with a variety of general and specific interests, e.g., literary and cultural contexts; social, educational, religious, political, philosophical, and intellectual history; generic development of various types of literature. This course is also essential for prospective teachers of English and American literature. This course will require active student involvement, close consideration of the primary texts, the compilation of a portfolio which meets the course standards and requirements, and the fulfillment of all other requirements as specified on the syllabus and under course policies.

Active Learning

Our study will attempt to emphasize creating a supportive classroom climate for active learning through a positive group building process. Since active learning is student orientated and may appear to involve risk-taking, the course will focus on establishing trust, confidence, and respect between the professor and students and among the students. To advance this climate and encourage the positive outcomes and benefactors of risk-taking, I will be clear, organized, current, and well-prepared, but flexible and personal. I will minimize the pain of student error making by separating learning from evaluating, and I will provide graduated and individualized risk-taking opportunities that will make learning worthwhile and exciting. Students will participate in this cooperative effort to build a supportive classroom atmosphere by coming to class on time and prepared with thoughtfully completed Reading/writing assignments, by asking pertinent questions and sharing experiences and viewpoints, by reaching out personally to the professor and other students, by showing cooperation and respect, and providing positive feedback to the professor and peers.

Projected Outcome

The projected outcome of this course is that, based on an enhanced knowledge of western literature’s progenitors and a broad understanding of their cultural contexts and subsequent importance, an expanded an enlightened vision will emerge as to meaningful approaches to early western literary discourse and tradition. Moreover, the course subject and approach is intended to

  • Nurture a general love for learning

  • Empower students with positive sense of competency and skill

  • Encourage a curious, investigative spirit and creative, independent thinking

  • Foster a deepened and expanded understanding an appreciation of literature as a humanistic discipline

Course Requirements

Required Texts

  • Hexter, Ralph. A Guide to the Odyssey. New York: Vintage, 1993.
  • Jacoff, Rachel, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Dante. Cambridge University Press.
  • Lucas, Gerald R. Literature of the Western World I Course Booklet.
  • Mack, Maynard, ed. The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces. Vol. 1. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1995.


The topics and Readings to be discussed are outlined on the Syllabus below. Each student must maintain and submit for evaluation a course portfolio. This portfolio will gauge your progress in the course and provide a record of your work on this important literature. The portfolio is a 3-inch, loose-leaf binder notebook with section dividers labeled: Writing, Journal Entries, Notes, Presentation Handouts, Group Work, and Miscellaneous Materials; additional sections may be added where appropriate. The portfolio will be assessed at designated times (see Syllabus) during the semester. All work from the portfolio submitted for review should be in a simple pocketed folder—this includes contract work; do not attach the work to the folder, just use the pockets.


LIT 3101 satisfies a Gordon Rule requirement; therefore, a minimum of 6000 words must be written. Several impromptu writing assignments, e.g., out-of-class and in-class responses and “talking papers” prepared for class discussion, will be expected from time to time. Occasionally, or if I suspect some are not completing the assigned Reading, I will give short quizzes. Also see Course Contract below for information on how to satisfy this course requirement. All writing (unless done in class) must be typed using a 12-point font and printed on clean, white paper.


The journal should represent your critical and creative ideas and feelings about the literature read, ideas discussed, activities assigned, and all other aspects of the course. Each entry should be dated and kept in the portfolio. Topics for journal entries may occasionally be assigned, but often they will be chosen by the student and they should be no less than 600 words. All journal entries must be typed using a 12-point font and printed on clean, white paper. Entries will be submitted for evaluation at given times and may also be shared in class. Journal entries submitted for review should be in a simple pocketed folder; do not attach the work to the folder, just use the pockets. Also see Course Contract and Portfolio.


Since we cannot cover all the works in this time period that deserve our attention, each student will be responsible for Reading a single additional selection and preparing an oral and written presentation of that work for the rest of the class. The oral portions should be a brief, concise report that discuss the work’s importance in the western literary tradition. For specific details, see Course Presentation below.


All class notes, Reading notes, and personally made notes should be kept for reference. I recommend that you rewrite or type all class notes so that they are legible and orderly.

Class Participation and Group Work

Regular class attendance and active participation in classroom discussion and the class listserv are required. Some assignments will occasionally count for participation, e.g., in-class writing, electronic interchanges, and group work. Students are urged to participate energetically and meaningfully in all activities, projects, and discussions. All written materials from these activities must be placed in the portfolio. Any group work will only be done in class. Additional assistance can be obtained from the instructor during office hours or by appointment. A final class participation grade will be determined based on my assessment of students’ daily class participation and attendance; see “Grading” below. Also see “Class Time” under Course Policies.

Miscellaneous Materials

These materials may include relevant articles form current newspapers, journals, magazines, reports, etc., which relate to the works and authors studies in the course. Since this is a majors-only course, I especially encourage the Reading of literary criticism from current journals and scholarly monographs that address the literature and its historical setting. A minimum of three (3) items per work should be included in this section.


Various form of electronic discourse will be utilized by the class. Participation in the class listserv, glcomp-l, will be required. Specific assignments will be prompted by the instructor, usually in class. See Listserv below for directions on subscribing.


A final examination will be given to test your knowledge of the subject matter, your ability to synthesize this material, and your creativity and in going beyond the discussion and lecture. The final will include vocabulary, identification, and interpretation.


  1. 25% Complete course portfolio
  2. 25% Fulfilled Course Contract
  3. 25% One final essay exam including the Self-Assessment Form. Students may not take the final exam unless the Self-Assessment Form is completed (typed) and submitted the class period before the final exam.
  4. 25% Course presentation, student attendance, listserv participation, and meaningful, prepared class participation as specified on the Syllabus.

Course Policies

Attendance / Tardiness

Repeated absences will not be tolerated; no more than two absences (situation pending, see below) will be excused. For each additional absence, one whole letter grade (10%) will be deducted from the final grade. Each student is responsible for signing the attendance sheet during each class session. An arrival to class after fifteen minutes from the beginning of class is counted as an absence; two tardies of less than fifteen minutes will be counted as an absence. It is the student’s responsibility to discover what was missed in class and any assignments. I can best be contacted in case of contingencies via email. Only work missed during an excused absence may be made up; quizzes cannot be made up for any reason. The only absences that will be excused are hospital stays, doctor visits, family emergencies, and natural disasters. All of these excuses, excluding natural disasters, must be accompanied by appropriate documentation or they will not be accepted. Only written excuses will be considered by the instructor when attempting to excuse an absence. Students are encouraged to write the instructor, including appropriate documentation, immediately upon returning to request an excused absence. Excuses will be refused if they arrive more than a week after the absence. If the absence remains unexcused, work cannot be made up. This attendance / tardiness policy is non-negotiable and will be strictly enforced.

Class Time

Since discussion and active participation are integral to the learning process, I encourage all type of dialogue and discourse. Therefore, time in class will be spent on discussion of Readings, student writing, and exercises with the occasional short lecture. As much as possible, this course will utilize an inductive, Socratic, dialogue approach, interactive, collaborative methods, as well as the traditional lecture format. Quizzes, practice essays, and lectures are designed to benefit the entire group while personal problems and concerns should be handled during the instructor's office hours.


No class time will be used for formal conferences; however, all students are encouraged to confer with me at least once during the semester to discuss progress. Appointments for conferences may be made at any point throughout the semester, or you may visit me at any time during my office hours. My regular office hours will be posted on my door.


Late work is not acceptable and will receive a zero. Allowing for a single contingency, one late assignment will be accepted with a ten (10) point penalty; this assignment cannot be more than a week late or it will not be accepted. It is the student’s responsibility to determine what specific work was missed as a result of an unexcused absence. Makeup work for unexcused absences will not be accepted. Quizzes cannot be made up for any reason. Plan ahead and turn in your work on time.

Course Books and Materials

Course books are integral parts of the class and should be brought daily. When Readings are assigned to be discussed in class, please bring a copy of the Reading with your Reading notes ready to participate in the discussion. Since this is a literature class, having your book at all times is integral. The Course Booklet contains valuable resource and reference material that you may refer to as you study the literature. The Course Booklet should be read thoroughly and brought to class daily.


Final grades will be based upon a traditional ten-point scale, see Table 1. For an explanation of letter grade distinctions, see Grade Descriptions. See individual classes for grade breakdowns. Students are not in competition with each other; each student will receive the grade s/he earns.


This course will strictly abide by University and departmental policy regarding Incompletes. An incomplete can only be given if a small portion of the course work is missing and the student is doing otherwise satisfactory work. “I” grades are not assigned automatically, but only upon consultation with me. The student has one semester to remove an “I” grade; otherwise it is changed to an “F.”

Library Research Days

At least two days during the semester are designated as library research days (see Syllabus). These days, as evident by the name, are assigned for library research and Reading on assigned topics relevant to the study of the course work. A report on what was accomplished during each library research day must be filed in the portfolio under “Journal Entries.” The specific time when class would normally be held must be spent in the library doing research or Reading.


Tape recording of classes is not permitted.


The Oxford English Dictionary defines plagiarism as “the wrongful appropriation or purloining, and publication as one’s own, of the ideas, or the expression of the ideas (literary, artistic, musical, mechanical, etc.) of another,” or “a purloined idea, design, passage, or work.” Plagiarism will result in automatic failure of this class and will be pursued to incite the utmost penalty for such dishonesty. Academic falsehood, in any form, will constitute class failure.


This syllabus represents the ideal schedule for our study this semester. Yet, like all best-laid plans, we will probably not be able to keep up with our agenda. Please be flexible and try to look and read ahead whenever possible. We will do our best to stick by this syllabus, but I will inform you verbally whenever there is a change in or an addition to an assignment. Getting these updates is solely your responsibility. Therefore, this syllabus is tentative and subject to change contingent upon the needs of the students and the professor, and dictated by time and other constraints which may affect the course. This syllabus reflects only an overview of the assigned Reading and other major course assignments. It does not indicate other specific class session assignments or activities.

Week 1: August 25 and 27


  • Course Introduction
  • Review course text
  • Homework: Internet Account (due 9/1); Course Contract (due 9/1); Buy Course Booklet; Complete Student Profile (due 9/1)
  • Reading: Course Booklet


  • Review course statement and syllabus, and Course Booklet materials
  • Homework: Internet Account (due 9/1); Course Contract (due 9/1); Complete Student Profile (due 9/1); Choose Presentation Work (due 9/1)
  • Reading: from “Genesis” (59-83)

Week 2: September 1 and 3


  • Collect Contract; Student Profile; Presentation Choices
  • Myth and Religion
  • “Genesis”
  • Reading: from “Job” (83-99)


  • “Job”
  • The Epic—formalist conventions
  • Homework: Journal 1
  • Reading: Gilgamesh (10-42)
  • Week 3: September 8 and 10


  • The Epic (cont.)
  • Gilgamesh
  • Reading: The Iliad (116-145: Introduction; Books I, VI, and VIII)


  • Homer
  • The Iliad
  • Homework: Journal 2
  • Reading: The Iliad (146-218: Books IX, XVIII, XIX, XXII, and XXIV)

Week 4: September 15 and 17


  • The Iliad
  • Reading for 9/17: Hexter’s Guide (Introduction); begin The Odyssey


  • Begin The Odyssey: Critical Approaches
  • Homework: Journal 3
  • Reading for Week 5: The Odyssey (219-49: Books 1-3); Hexter’s Guide (Books 1-3)

Week 5: September 22 and 24

  • The Odyssey: Heroic Culture
  • Homework: Journal 4
  • Reading for Week 6: The Odyssey (250-319: Books 4-9); Hexter’s Guide (Books 4-9)

Week 6: September 29 and October 1

  • The Odyssey
  • Homework: Journal 5
  • Reading for Week 7: The Odyssey (319-384: Books 10-14); Hexter’s Guide (Books 10-14)

Week 7: October 6 and 8

  • The Odyssey
  • Homework: Journal 6
  • Reading for Week 8: The Odyssey (384-451: Books 15-19); Hexter’s Guide (Books 15-19)

Week 8: October 13 and 15

  • The Odyssey
  • Homework: Journal 7
  • Reading for Week 9: The Odyssey (452: Books 20-24); Hexter’s Guide (Books 20-24)

Week 9: October 20 and 22


  • The Odyssey
  • Homework: Finish 1st-half semester’s writing


  • Introduction to Greek Tragedy
  • Items Due
    • Option Two: Essay 1 due
    • Option Three: Bibliography and Prospectus due
    • Option Four: Explications 1-3 due
    • Option Five: Project Prospectus due
  • Homework: Journal 7
  • Reading: Sophocles Oedipus the King (585-631)

Week 10: October 27 and 29


  • Oedipus
  • Greek Tragedy and Beyond
  • Presentations: Aeschylus Prometheus Bound; Sophocles Antigone; Euripides Medea


  • Conclude Tragedy
  • Introduction to Roman Literature
  • Myth and the Epic
  • Presentations: Aristotle Poetics; Plato The Symposium
  • Homework: Journal 8
  • Reading for Week 11: Ovid The Metamorphoses (1065-1091)

Week 11: November 3 and 5


  • Ovid
  • Presentations: Plato The Republic Books 1-5; The Republic Books 6-10
  • Homework:
  • Reading for Week 12: The Aeneid (997-1065: Books I, II, IV, VI, VIII, and XII); Begin Dante


  • Library Research Day: No class
  • Homework: Journal 9

Week 12: November 10 and 12


  • Library Research Day: No Class


  • Virgil and the Roman Epic
  • Social and National Heroism
  • Presentations: Apuleius The Golden Ass; Petronius The Satyricon
  • Homework: Journal 10
  • Reading for Week 13: Dante The Divine Comedy: Inferno (Cantos I-XX: 1692-1773); Essays from Jacoff as assigned

Week 13: November 17 and 19


  • Dante
  • Presentations: The Song of Roland; Augustine Confessions
  • Homework: Journal 11
  • Reading: The Divine Comedy: Inferno (Cantos XXI-XXXIV: 1777-1829); Essays from Jacoff as assigned

Week 14: November 24 and 26


  • Dante
  • Presentations: The Thousand and One Nights; Boccaccio The Decameron
  • Reading: The Divine Comedy: from Purgatorio (1829-1850); Essays from Jacoff as assigned


  • Dante
  • Presentations: Cervantes Don Quixote Part I; Don Quixote Part II
  • Homework: Journal 12
  • Reading: The Divine Comedy: from Paradiso (1850-1868); Essays from Jacoff as assigned

Week 15: December 1 and 3


  • Conclude Dante
  • Presentations: Machiavelli The Prince; Petrarch’s Sonnets
  • Homework: Self Assessment
  • Reading: Catch up on Reading


  • Course Review
  • Prepare for Final Exam
  • Self Assessment Due
  • Presentations: Rabelais Gargantua and Pantagruel Book I; Gargantua and Pantagruel Book II
  • Homework: Journal 13

Exam: December 8

  • Items Due
    • Option One: Five Journal Entries due
    • Option Two: Essay 2 due
    • Option Three: Research Essay due
    • Option Four: Explications 4-6 due
    • Option Five: Project due