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Module QXE-3105:
Reading Myth

Module Facts

Run by School of Languages, Literatures, Linguistics and Media

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Prof Andrew Hiscock

Overall aims and purpose

  1. This module is designed to respond to the popularity of cross-chronological, cross-generic modules (such as Literatures of Troy), and to complement the existing opportunities in the School of English to explore comparative literary studies and to build upon knowledge bases gained at level 2.
  2. This module will offer students a wider understanding of the composition, production and consumption of texts in very different social contexts.
  3. This module will pay particular attention to the development of critical concepts of genre and will allow the student to reflect upon the undertakings of epic poetry, tragedy, the novel, narrative poetry and science fiction.
  4. This module is designed to enable students to develop a critical vocabulary and informed literary opinion about canonical and non-canonical texts.

Course content

This module will take as its focus the textual response to inherited mythic structures: how myth may be perceived in theoretical terms as a proairetic discourse; how it establishes affinities with certain genres (e.g. epic, tragedy, romance); and how in more contemporary cultural debates it has been problematised by expectations of falsehood. The seminar programme will range from Ancient Greek representations of myth (e.g. Medea) to medieval accounts of Scripture in dramatic narrative (e.g. Abraham and Isaac) and to varying accounts of saints’ lives. In the early modern period attention may be devoted to the changing importance of ancient mythologies in literary narrative. In the more contemporary periods, options will change from year to year, but may include explorations of such pervasive constructs as the Founding of Empire (Kipling, Lessing), The American Dream (Capote, Fitzgerald, Highsmith) and The War on Terror (Buchan, Fleming, and Porter’s Empire State).

2018-19 Seminars 1. Epic: Homer Odyssey 2. Homerism: poetry (Tennyson/Walcott) & Atwood Penelopiad 3. Platonism & Neo-Platonism: Platonic writings; Milton’s Comus and Marvell’s poetry 4. Medea: Euripides Medea, Seneca Medea, Ovid Heroides (letter xii) 5. Classical Drama: Euripides – The Bacchae and Ion 6. Biblical: medieval drama – Noah & Abraham and Isaac 7. Shakespearean: Venus & Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece 8. Orientalism I: Dryden Aureng-Zebe; Johnson Rasselas 9. The Saint: medieval & early modern Thomas à Becket; Eliot Murder in the Cathedral 10. The American Dream: Capote Breakfast at Tiffany’s; Highsmith The Price of Salt 11. Orientalism II: Ambler Journey Into Fear; Fleming From Russia with Love. 12. Reading Week

Bibliography Primary Ambler Journey into Fear (London: Penguin, 2009). Atwood The Penelopiad (London: Canongate, 2008). Capote Breakfast at Tiffany’s (any edition) Dryden Aureng-Zebe (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press – Regents Restoration Drama Series, 1971) Eliot Murder in the Cathedral (any edition) Euripides The Bacchae, Ion and Medea (any editions of these plays) Fleming From Russia With Love (any edition) Highsmith The Price of Salt (any edition) Homer The Odyssey, trans. E. V. Rieu (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2003). Johnson Rasselas (any edition) Milton Comus (or A Mask Presented at Ludlow Castle 1634) (any edition) Shakespeare Venus & Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece (any editions)

Assessment Criteria


Typically, work graded D- to D+ (or 40 to 49) will show many of the following qualities: • Unsure and lacking in confidence when discussing ideas • Referring to the subject in question in a superficial manner • Making an effort to provide fairly balanced answers • Some points in the argument irrelevant to the topic • Little evidence of background reading • Some uncertainty over language and syntax • Strengths and weaknesses fairly balanced; occasionally clumsy and unimaginative • In creative work: superficial • Not succeeding in mastering the requirements of the medium


Typically, work graded B- to B+ (or 60 to 69) will show many of the following qualities: • Discusses ideas adeptly • Most of the arguments about a specific field are well-aired • Displays knowledge of the subject in question; the answer is relevant • Shows analytical and clear thought • Gives evidence of relevant reading • Shows accuracy in expression with mastery over language. • A few minor errors here and there. • Signs of creative thought deserve a higher position within the class • In creative work: shows signs of originality, having understood the requirements of the medium • Plans of well-balanced and full answers, despite some gaps


Typically, work graded A- to A** (or 70 to 100) will show many of the following qualities: • Discusses ideas with confidence and precision • Demonstrates maturity and sophistication • Displays deep knowledge of the subject in question; the answer is totally relevant • Shows independent, analytical and clear thought • Gives evidence of substantial and relevant reading • Shows great accuracy in expression, displaying total mastery over all aspects of the language • Shows occasional signs of brilliance and originality of thought • In creative work: displays considerable originality • Command over medium; may have potential for publication/production

Learning outcomes

  1. enhanced understanding of the diversity of literature produced from antiquity to the twenty-first century.

  2. enhanced appreciation of the diversity of material cultures in evidence across the course of Western literature.

  3. enhanced research skills with reference to textual analysis.

  4. enhanced skills to exploit library collection, most particularly with reference to the classical collection and pre-modern collections in Modern languages.

  5. enhanced experience of textual interpretative strategies

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
EXAM Essay 2 45
INDIVIDUAL PRESENTATION Presentation and discussion leader 10
ESSAY Essay 1 45

Teaching and Learning Strategy

  1. One two-hour seminar per week for 11 weeks
  2. One one-hour study group per week for 11 weeks
Study group 11
Private study 167

Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
  • Management - Able to utilise, coordinate and control resources (human, physical and/or financial)
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others
  • Leadership - Able to lead and manage, develop action plans and objectives, offer guidance and direction to others, and cope with the related pressures such authority can result in

Courses including this module

Optional in courses: