Lessons and Reading List


Lesson 1.

"Genesis takes us from the point where language is magical, in the first six days of creation, to the destruction of Babel, where language is gibberish
outside of its small local spheres of influence."

 Lesson 1: Genesis          Readings: Genesis 1-3 (creation story), and also Genesis 11 (Tower of Babel) 
 creativity and its limits, the nature of language, the inspiration of literature, and other topics 


Lesson 2.

"The original tragedy of the Greeks is the story of the animal killed on the hunt--
which is also the quest story of the suffering hunter who identifies with the slain animal,
like Heracles in the victim lion's skin." 

 Lesson 2: The Voyage of Odysseus          Reading: Homer, Odyssey 8.469 - 11.362 (Odysseus' voyage, part 1) 
 the origin of literature, cave art, sacrifice, Hellenic hero rituals 


Lesson 3.

"Words in the Iliad are described as 'winged.' They're alive.. . . 
They  have extraordinary power to make things happen."

 Lesson 3: Magic Words in the Iliad          Reading: Homer, Iliad 1 & 2 (the anger of Achilles) 
 gods in the Homeric Songs, Homer's descriptive skill, nested stories 


Lesson 4.

"Achilles' parents aren't living together, except in Achilles. Like human body and spirit, 
they're not even found on the same plane of reality!"

 Lesson 4: The Mission to Achilles          Reading: Homer, Iliad 9 (the mission to Achilles) 
  the heroic choice, gods and mortals, parents and children in Homer 


"The marriages of men to mermaids are sorrowfully short, ending with the return
of the beautiful spouse to her native place in the sea. The image reflects life
emerging out of primordial chaos and soon returning to it again."

 Lesson 4 optional supplement page: Peleus and Thetis 
  legends of Achilles' parents and childhood 


Lesson 5.

"The shield of Achilles from center to rim is an image of the entire world, presented
from the astonishing point of view of one who is completely outside and beyond,
like an astronaut looking down on our planet."

 Lesson 5: The Hero Patroklos          Reading: Homer, Iliad 15.592 - 19.424 (death of Patroklos) 
 Patroklos the double, Homeric warfare, the amazing shield and armor of Achilles 


Lesson 6.

"The old cult of Zeus grew its membership as well as its territorial control around the Mediterranean  through conquest, raiding and forcible abduction of women."

Lesson 6: And so they buried Hektor         Reading: Homer, Iliad 20-24 (death and ransoming of Hektor)   
rape, the cult of the Zeus-men, the social message of the Iliad 


Lesson 7.

"The Odyssey continues the story beyond the grave. The dead man returns 
to confront his survivors and successors."

Lesson 7: The Return of Odysseus          Reading: Homer, Odyssey 13.185 - 19.604 (Odysseus' homecoming)  ghosts, hero shrines, the cult of Odysseus 


Lesson 8.

"Imagine at Ithaca a hero shrine where visiting 'suitors' from the region came to dine 
and  be 'killed' by a beggar-priest with an antique bow of horn so that they could enter
the City of Dreams . . ."

Lesson 8: City of Dreams          Reading: Homer, Odyssey 20-24 (massacre of the suitors)
  literary interpretation, allegory, multiple personality disorder, a shrine to Odysseus? 


Lesson 9.

"Against the heroic background of fear and reverence for the dead, the modern archaeological dig 
looks like a secular parody, a hero ritual stripped of its spirituality and significance."

Lesson 9: Homer in Hades          Reading: Plutarch, Life of Alexander the Great (the great Homeric king)
 some uses and abuses of Homer in archaeology, criticism, politics, and poetry 


Lesson 10.
"The great changes in literature, as in other fields, have been driven by technology. The invention of the alphabet, mechanical print, and electronic text divide literary history into four major ages."

 Lesson 10: Technology and Literature          Reading: optional readings on the origin of writing in the west 
 Homer's "oral" style, origins of writing in Greece, the four ages of literature 


Lesson 11.
"In his art Plato disposed of the physical theater altogether, and he substituted in its place
a low-budget, manuscript or read-only form, the Platonic dialogue."

 Lesson 11: Socrates gets busted          Reading: Plato, Euthyphro 
 the dual consciousness, Plato and Aristotle, Greek tragedy and the literary dialogue, Socrates 


Lesson 12.
"Plato holds particular interest for us in the study of literature because we can see so clearly 
how he used his art. He was the founder of a cult, and he composed literature to promote it." 

Lesson 12: Socrates at trial          Reading: Plato, Apology 
 Plato's Academy, Socrates as scapegoat, Socrates as victim of comic slurs 


Lesson 13.
"Different people have different personal thoughts about what values should be, but that doesn't mean  that any of them are right, or that values don't exist, or that values are relative."

 Lesson 13: Socrates in Jail          Reading: Plato, Crito 
 Socrates' heroic choice, values, the students of Socrates 


Lesson 14.
"The powers of literature were obvious to the Hellenes because they recognized that mental activity is infectious. It is copied or imitated from other people or imagined characters."

 Lesson 14: Immortal Socrates          Reading: Plato, Phaedo 
 Imitation of Socrates, Socrates and Daedalus, Theseus, summary of Greek literature 


Lesson 15.

"Greek and Hebraic literatures show important similarities in early historical times. 
Both were performed as spiritual  possession. The performers played god (or goddess) . . ."

 Lesson 15: Acts of God          Reading: New Testament, Book of Acts 
 Hellenic & Jewish prophecy, Paul and early Christianity, Luke


Lesson 16.
"In an age when scholastic philosophers treated Christianity as if it had been invented
so that they would have something to dispute about, Francis simply performed Jesus.
He was the gospel without the book."

 Lesson 16: The Second Coming      "Reading" (no text):  School of Giotto, Life and Miracles of St. Francis 
 painting and imitation of Jesus, literary saints lives, Assisi 


Lesson 17.
"Natural selection and sexual selection explain (among others things) why representational art 
should take war and love as characteristic subjects."

 Lesson 17: Romance          Reading: Chretien de Troyes, The Knight of the Cart 
 medieval romance, sex and violence in literature, the aesthetic tastes of our genes 


Lesson 18.
"The Middle Ages marks a transition in description of the self. Motives driving
human behavior begin to be identified as controllable internal emotions,
feelings, urges or impulses toward sins and virtues."

 Lesson 18: Dante and the Medieval Invention of the Self          Reading: Virgil, Aeneid 1-4 
 ancient versus medieval descriptions of the self, Carthage and Rome, Dante and Virgil 


Lesson 19.
"Dante tried to remove his own misery via fantasy journey from hell to paradise,
verse by verse  through many months of deeply focused meditation, but he claims that unhappy readers following his mental exercise also can face and overcome depressions.


Lesson 19: Hell      Reading: Dante's Inferno
Dante describes the varieties of unhappiness:
compulsions, malice, and the brain







Copyright  2003, 2004, 2005