Northern Illinois University
Classical Mythology: Honors FLCL 271H 3 semester hours
The honors component of Classical Mythology is intended to give students a deeper understanding
of the subject and its relationship to other academic areas such as art, music, and psychology. Each
student must complete a project that involves reading one or more pieces of Ancient Greek and/or Roman
literature in translation.
This module gives students an opportunity to view a production of an Ancient Greek or Roman drama on
a mythological subject through the use of a videocassette or DVD. It can also give students practice
in various computer skills.
Many Ancient Greek and Roman myths are the subjects of dramas, especially of tragedies. Since the
dramas were written for performance at religious festivals of the god Dionysus, students gain a deeper
understanding of the plays when they see a performance. The availability of videocassettes and DVDs makes
this quite easy.
As a mythology project, students must (1) read in translation an Ancient Greek or Roman drama,
annotating as they read; (2) view a performance of the play; and (3) take part in the required discussions.
All the students could read the same translation, or each could read a translation of his or her choice.
To find a translation, the student may wish to search the school library's catalogue for a printed version
or search the World Wide Web for an online version (see Module 1). Some sites allow printing. A good source
for translations is the Perseus Project (http://www.perseus.tufts/edu).
As the student reads, he or she notes
personal reactions, questions about the text or about ancient culture, and similarities to other works of
literature with which the student is familiar. The student must be careful to note the pages and/or lines to
which he or she is referring. A device like a C Pen (http://www.cpen.com)
that allows an individual to scan lines
to be input into a computer is ideal for annotating since it allows immediate viewing of the passage being
discussed. Students could annotate in the margins of books that they have purchased or in the margins of
computer printouts of plays.
To create an annotation from an online text, the student would do the following:
When the students have finished the annotations, the teacher should read them, answer all questions,
and comment on any misperception. Then, the students meet for a group discussion of their reactions and
questions as well as of important themes in the play.
Next, with the class, view a video of the play (even better, attend a live performance if that is
possible and affordable). The choice of the video version of the drama will depend largely on what is
available in the school library's audiovisual collection or in the collection of a local public library.
Videocassettes and CD-ROMs on subjects pertaining to classical studies can be rented or purchased from
Films for the Humanities & Sciences (http://www.films.com).
A production with little adaptation and with masked
actors in period costumes affords the students the opportunity to experience ancient drama as closely as
possible. An adapted production, especially one featuring the setting and clothing of another era, allows
students to note changes from the ancient version.
Rather than viewing a video of the drama or in addition to seeing the video, the students could do
readings from the play or put on their own production. Using a video camera, a student or the teacher
could film the performance.
In connection with this unit of work, the students might enjoy viewing Woody Allen's comedy,
Mighty Aphrodite, which features a chorus and employs several themes found in Oedipus Rex
- Open an online translation of the text in a word processor.
- Open a new, blank document in the word processor.
- Read through the translation; when a portion of interest is found, copy it onto the blank
document. Italicize the copied portion.
- Add annotations to the blank document.
- Print out the document with copied text and annotations to hand in to the instructor or
attach it in an e-mail.
This module could be used in a drama course. Since an Ancient Greek tragedy involves at least one major
moral or ethical issue, the module could be used in an ethics class. For example, Sophocles' Antigone
focuses on a belief of protesters throughout the ages-the right to engage in civil disobedience if one
is following a higher law. In addition to or in place of readings, the students could be assigned to visit
pertinent websites or to do an online search for such sites. Using the search engine Google, the student
types in key words such as civil disobedience protesters. One link to legal resources is the public legal
database FindLaw (http://www.findlaw.com).
If the school library subscribes to either Lexis-Nexis or Westlaw, the
teacher or student could request a librarian to do an online search on a particular legal question. Since
Antigone features a woman who is acting against stereotype, the tragedy is often discussed in
Women's Studies courses. An excellent online source for material on Ancient Greek and Roman women is