HONR 268E Gods, Demons, and Mythology in the Ancient Near East and Egypt
Wednesday, 2:00-4:30 p.m.
Dr. Mark Cohen, Lecturer in University Honors
The main objective of this course is to provide students with an opportunity to analyze and appreciate how our earliest recorded societies struggled with religious, philosophical, and social concepts fundamental to the functioning of all ancient and modern societies. Students will read and evaluate primary source material (albeit in translation): mythological and religious texts of the Egyptians, Phoenicians, Hittites, Sumerians, Babylonians, and Assyrians.
Students should benefit from this opportunity to (1) become familiar with literature which had a direct, major effect upon subsequent cultures in India, northern Africa, the Near East, and classical Europe; (2) discuss and appreciate social and religious concepts fundamental to all societies; (3) obtain or improve skills necessary for reading and evaluation primary source material.
The class will consist of assigned readings, organized according to four major aspects of society's relationship to the world: (1) the origin of the universe; (2) the creation of humanity; (3) the basis for agricultural seasons; and (4) the divine origin of human institutions. Students will be expected to prepare a short paper each week, based on an assigned theme directly related to their analysis of the assigned readings. The papers will then be presented the following week, with the reactions of fellow classmates to the ideas presented. In addition, two extended written assignments will compare two of the four above-listed areas of investigation with the responses of other past or present cultures to the same human concerns.
For the final examination, the student will be presented with an ancient mythological work not previously read for class. The student will utilize the analytical approaches developed in class to analyze and discuss the significance of the myth.
G.S. Kirk, Myth: Its Meaning and Functions in Ancient and Other Cultures
B.R. Foster, From Distant Days: Myths, Tales, and Poetry of Ancient Mesopotamia
S.N. Kramer, Mythologies of the Ancient World
Packet of material prepared by the instructor which will include Hittite, Canaanite, and Egyptian myths in translation unavailable in anthologies