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Heroes, Monsters and Homecomings: Epic Journeys from the Classical World to Contemporary Culture

Level 1 (CQFW Level 4), 10 Credits.

Available Dates:

This course is currently not being offered in the academic year 2015 - 2016.

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From the Fall of Troy to the virtual adventures of modern computer games, the exploits of heroic men and women have held an enduring fascination. This module will consider epic literatures from ancient to modern times in order to appreciate their influence and the ways in which they continue to affect culture.

Syllabus content

1 Achilles and the heroic life: Achilles has become the prototype of the heroic life, one who prefers honour above all else, yet has a weakness.  Other heroes such as Sigurd and Bendigeidfran  have similar characteristics and this session will examine the ‘heroic biography’ of a hero’s life.

2 Penelope and her Sisters; Women play important roles in heroic tales and this session examines the function of heroic women such as Helen, Penelope, Cassandra, Grendel’s Mother, and Circe.

3 Norse Heroes from saga to Tolkien.  As one of the most popular fantasy authors whose work depends on earlier heroic material, this session will enable students to appreciate the relation between original source and contemporary ideas.

4 Cosmic Epics: the Hawaiian Hina myths, Maui and Gilgamesh.  The actions of heroic figures have been of creation narratives in many cultures. This session will examine diverse figures from Polynesian and Mesopotamian mythic epic.

5 Comic epic heroes from classical to picaresque. The adventures of Apuleius, Don Quixote, and Tom Jones may not seem heroic at first glance, but these figures often call picaresque heroes achieve their goals by other means, clearness, cunning.

6 Welsh legend and modern fantasy.  The tales of the Mabinogion have been part of Welsh cultural life since they were re-edited in the 19th century

7 The Odyssey: Homer’s story recounts the many adventures of Ulysses as the prototype of a returning hero. This session will also examine a selection of of ‘returning heroes’.

8 Rama and Sita. The Ramayana is known throughout eastern cultures and the characters and events are reflected in art, architecture theatre and dance as well as the many versions of the texts themselves.

9 Fantasy epics in alternative worlds.  Modern fantasy novels films and role-paying games (rpgs) are often cast as epic journeys

10 Library Visit.  Students will have the opportunity to examine relevant material in the Library’s special Collections.

Who is this course for?

Anyone with an interest in the topic. No previous knowledge of the subject is assumed.

Learning and Teaching

Learning and teaching are undertaken by means of small group work. This is a 10-credit course, so there will be two-hour meetings once a week (20 contact hours in all) which will include group discussion, exercises, source analysis and presentation of material on PowerPoint and DVD. The aim is ensure that the classes are enjoyable and stimulating for all. This will encourage the development of knowledge and understanding of the topics and ideas discussed in the course.

Coursework and Assessment

To award credits we need to have evidence of the knowledge and skills you have gained or improved. Some of this has to be in a form that can be shown to external examiners so that we can be absolutely sure that standards are met across all courses and subjects.

The most important element of assessment is that it should enhance your learning. Our methods are designed to increase your confidence and we try very hard to devise ways of assessing you that are enjoyable and suitable for adults with busy lives.

You will not have a formal examination but you will be asked to produce some written work (1500 words). This may include a set of short responses to questions (such as a questionnaire or quiz), a course journal, an oral presentation, or a more extended essay.

Reading suggestions

Selections from literary works, TV and film will be provided during the course on Learning Central and in the Senghennydd Library.

Key texts

Catherine Bates, The Cambridge Companion to the Epic (Cambridge University Press, 2010)

Alan Dundes (ed.), In Quest of the Hero (N.J.: Princeton University Press,1990)

Dean A. Miller, The Epic Hero (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002)

Recommended texts

The resources listed below provide background and context for the topics that will be considered in the course.

Library and Computing Facilities

As a student on this course you are entitled to join and use the University library and computing facilities. You can find out more about these facilities on our website under Student Information, or by ringing the Centre on

(029) 2087 0000.

Accessibility of Courses

Our aim is access for all. We aim to provide a confidential advice and support service for any student with a long term medical condition, disability or specific learning difficulty. We are able to offer one-to-one advice about disability, pre-enrolment visits, liaison with tutors and co-ordinating lecturers, material in alternative formats, arrangements for accessible courses, assessment arrangements, loan equipment and Dyslexia screening. Please contact the Centre on (029) 2087 0000 for an information leaflet.

Further Information

A range of further information can be found on our web site or in Choices.  This includes the times and dates of courses and an explanation of accreditation and credit levels.