This course introduces five foundational literary works, organized around the theme of the returning hero, that have profoundly shaped Western cultural imaginations: Homer's Odyssey, Virgil's Aeneid, Dante's Inferno and Purgatorio, and Joyce's Ulysses. Following the successes and failures of the heroes and villains in these works provides insight into the values that mattered most to the four distinct civilizations they represent (Archaic Greece, Ancient Rome, Medieval Italy, and modern Ireland), and their stories thus allow us to consider what has changed and what has been conserved over the nearly three millennia that separate them. The course raises 'big' questions, including: what behavior is truly heroic? what constitutes 'home'? what is the purpose of one's life in relation to self, family, community, nation, the divine?
Prerequisites: Admission to the Honors Program.