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Course Description

Academic Year 2020-2021 • Grade 8 and above • Literature Sequence

Western Literature to Dante

An extensive exposure to the literature of ancient and mediaeval times, from scripture through mediaeval epic and romance, this tough but engaging course is unlike any other you are likely to find. It requires a large amount of reading, while exploring its themes and problems at a fairly high level, weighing what is alien and what is familiar to us in cultures separated from us by long stretches of history. It also serves as an introduction to classical literature for those who want to pursue Greek and/or Latin seriously beyond the mere rudiments of the language. It has also been taken on several occasions by adults, who are more than welcome to participate if they behave themselves.

Taught continuously since 1996, this course has often been cited by graduating seniors as their favorite class in the literature sequence; many of them have continued to study classics or mediaeval literature in college. It is occasionally supplemented by a Western Literature to Dante II course, which covers (mostly) the same time period, but goes through a completely different body of literature.

Course Website: Western Literature to Dante

Sections and Teachers

Section 1:

Instructor: Bruce McMenomy

Starts: August 31, 2020
Ends: May 31, 2021

Monday 1:00 PM to 2:30 PM ET

Tuition: $550.00



Prerequisites

None, though World Literature or a preliminary mythology course may be advantageous.

Recommended background

None; a strong interest in the subject area and a willingness to read extensively - for a number of hours each week - are required to make a success of the course. It is not, however, conducted at such depth that the average student cannot handle it reasonably comfortably, provided only an ability to read reasonably well.

Textbooks and Materials

This textbook is required:

Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature , Authors: Erich Auerbach, Willard R. Trask (tr.)

ISBN: 0691160228

Best sources: Scholars Online Bookstore


This textbook is required:

Ten Greek Plays in Contemporary Translations , Authors: Levy Lind

ISBN: 0395051177

Best sources: Scholars Online Bookstore

Other information: Please use this edition for the plays it includes; other translations will cause confusion in class.


This textbook is required:

The Aeneid (Penguin Classics) , Authors: Virgil, David West

ISBN: 0140449329

Best sources: Scholars Online Bookstore

Other information: Please do not resort to other translations; they tend to cause confusion in class.


This textbook is required:

The Consolation of Philosophy [Edition 2], Authors: Anicius Manlius Severinus Bo√ęthius, tr. Victor Watts

ISBN: 0140447806

Best sources: Scholars Online Bookstore


This textbook is required:

The Holy Bible: New International Translation , Authors: Various, NIV Commission (tr.)

ISBN: 0310906520

Best sources: Scholars Online Bookstore

Other information: You need some translation of the Bible for this course, preferably a reasonably modern one; it need not be this edition or even this translation. I value the New International Version for its literal accuracy, though its language tends to be rather stiff and sometime slanted; the King James Version, while beautiful and a work of genius in its day, is laden with numerous pitfalls for the modern reader. The Revised Standard Version is reasonably sound, if you can get it; the New Revised Standard Version is riddled with politically motivated compromises of every sort. Other options would be the Jerusalem Bible or the New English Bible.


This textbook is required:

The Iliad (Penguin Classics) , Authors: Homer, Robert Fagles

ISBN: 0140445927

Best sources: Scholars Online Bookstore

Other information: Please do not resort to other translations; doing so makes referring to pages impossible, and creates unnecessary storms of opinion relating to translated forms. You may get any other edition of the Fagles translation required, though.


This textbook is required:

The Nibelungenlied: Prose Translation , Authors: Anonymous, A. T. Hatto (tr.)

ISBN: 0140441379

Best sources: Scholars Online Bookstore

Other information: Please do not resort to other translations of this work; they tend to create confusions in class.


This textbook is required:

The Odyssey (Penguin Classics) , Authors: Homer, D. C. H. Rieu, Peter V. Jones, E. V. Rieu

ISBN: 0140449116

Best sources: Scholars Online Bookstore

Other information: Please do not resort to other translations; they are likely to create confusion in class.


This textbook is required:

The Portable Dante , Authors: Dante Alighieri, Mark Musa (tr.)

ISBN: 0142437549

Best sources: Scholars Online Bookstore

Other information: Please do not resort to other translations of this: it tends to create confusion in class. In addition, many other translations of Dante's Divine Comedy are very stilted and awkward, creating tonal and dictional problems of their own.


This textbook is required:

The Saga of the Volsungs (Penguin Classics) , Authors: Anonymous, Jesse L. Byock

ISBN: 0140447385

Best sources: Scholars Online Bookstore

Other information: Please do not resort to other translations if possible: it tends to create confusion in class. (The translation by William Morris and Eirikr Magnusson is very archaic in diction and hence quite difficult for many students to read.)


This textbook is required:

The Song of Roland (Penguin Classics) , Authors: Anonymous, Glyn S. Burgess (tr.)

ISBN: 0140445323

Best sources: Scholars Online Bookstore

Other information: Please do not resort to other translations if possible; they tend to cause confusions in class.


This textbook is required:

Western Literature to Dante: A Parents' Guide [Edition 3], Authors: Bruce A. McMenomy

ISBN: 1448601290

Best sources: Scholars Online Bookstore

Other information: This is a handbook I have prepared for parents who have enrolled for the course, or who are considering it. It gives a complete rundown of course elements, pedagogical goals, study techniques, and background material on each unit to help parents evaluate the course's suitability or to guide their children through it.


This book is recommended but not required and its use is optional:

Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes , Authors: Edith Hamilton

ISBN: 0446607258

Best sources: Scholars Online Bookstore

Other information: Not required, but encouraged for those who have no background in mythology: have this read over the summer.


This book is recommended but not required and its use is optional:

The Story of King Arthur and His Knights (Dover Storybooks for Children) , Authors: Howard Pyle

ISBN: 0486214451

Best sources: Scholars Online Bookstore

Other information: Not required, but students who have no background in the Arthurian tales may benefit from reading this through before the second half of the course.


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Classes start August 31, 2020. Enroll by August 20 to attend orientation to avoid late enrollment fees.


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