This Course is Expired

Greek Mythology

This course will explore these fascinating tales from the past and attempt to make sense of them.
University of Oxford University Offices Wellington Square Oxford ,OX1 2JD United Kingdom
(4418) 65270000

Course at a Glance

Mode of learning : Online - Instructor Lead(LVC)

Domain / Subject : General/Others

Function : General

Trainer name : Dr Stephen P Kershaw

Starts on : 10th Sep 2014

Duration : 10 Weeks

Difficulty : Advanced

About the course

What are Greek myths? How can we interpret them? Why are they still so powerful? How much history do they contain? How do they differ from legends and fairy tales? Who told them and why? Did the Trojan War really happen? What might lie behind the tales of Odysseus and the Cyclops, Prometheus, Perseus and Medusa, or the myth of Atlantis?

Are the myths damaged history, allegories, or reflections of the inner workings of our minds? By going back to the original texts (in translation), and the analysis of ancient works of art, this course will exlore some of these fascinating tales from the past and evaluate various ways in which scholars have tried to make sense of them from antiquity to the present day.

Course Aim

This course aims develop an understanding of the presentation, content, and context of some of the major Greek myths, and of ways in which these might be interpreted.

The course will:

  • Seek to gain a knowledge of some on the most important mythical tales to come down from antiquity;
  • Analyse the different contexts and media in which Greek myths are narrated;
  • Attempt to understand and assess different ways in which these tales have been interpreted from antiquity to the present day;
  • Endeavour to develop skills of observation and analysis with further applications in study, work and leisure, and provide an interesting, enjoyable and relevant course of study.

Assessment methods

Assessment for this course is based on two written assignments - one short assignment due half way through the course and one longer assignment due at the end of the course. Students will have about two weeks to complete each assignment.

Teaching methods

  • Guided reading of texts
  • Group discussions of particular issues
  • Questions to be answered in personal folders

Teaching outcomes

By the end of the course you will:

  • Have a general overview of some of the major Greek myths, along with the culture of the world of of the Greeks gained through a variety of types of literary and archaeological evidence;
  • Have grasped the nature of the evidence pertaining to Greek myths and the problems of interpretating this;
  • Have developed an awareness of the differences and similarities between the ancient Greek civilisation and our own, and of the influence of Greek mythological tradition

By the end of the course you will have gained the following skills:

  • The ability to assess the context and importance of varying types of evidence
  • An ability to think laterally across a range of issues, to see how different types of evidence interrelate, and to have an awareness of the potential diversity of response to any given problem
  • The facility critically to discuss issues and evidence in a clear, balanced, and effective manner

Course eligibility

Course Requirements

This course is delivered online; to participate you must to be familiar with using a computer for purposes such as sending email and searching the Internet. You will also need regular access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification.

Recommended reading

To participate in the course you will need to have regular access to the Internet and you will need to buy the following textbooks: Kershaw, S.P.,A Brief Guide to the Greek Myths (London, Robinson, 2007) ISBN 1-84529-512-7 (published in the USA by Carol & Graf, ISBN-13: 978-0-78672-069-9). March, J., Cassell’s Dictionary of Classical Mythology. (London, Cassell, 2001, paperback edition), ISBN: 0-304-35788-X. OR Kershaw, S.P., Penguin Dictionary of Classical Mythology (London, Penguin, 1991) ISBN: 01405123559

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Course Content

This course covers the following topics:

  • Myths and mythology
  • Homer's Iliad, Troy and the historicity of myth
  • Homer’s Odyssey, allegory and comparative mythology
  • Hesiod: the origins of the Gods and the world
  • Sophokles' Oedipus Rex, Freud and the psychoanalysis of myths
  • Hidden meanings: Medusa and Prometheus
  • The Labours of Herakles: myth, art and ideology
  • Jason and the Argonauts
  • Structuralism and beyond
  • Plato and the myth of Atlantis We strongly recommend that you try to find a little time each week to engage in the online conversations (at times that are convenient to you) as the forums are an integral, and very rewarding, part of the course and the online learning experience.


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