Women in Myth: Ancient, Medieval and Modern
Ever since Eve ate the apple, the depiction of women in western myth has reflected perceptions and expectations of their roles in society.
Imagined feminine roles attributed to goddesses, legendary figures and real or imagined female saints frequently link them to the domestic sphere or depict them as embodiments of fertility, both human and agricultural.
Other, more ambiguous, roles assigned to these figures associate them with discord, disease, malevolent magic, and war. By contrast, they can also embody creativity and the arts, spinning, weaving and even city-building.
The mythologizing of women and their role in society includes fascinating historical and semi-historical figures like fabled empresses, the Celtic Boudicca, Mulan and the Irish pirate-queen, Grace O’Malley.
From the classical goddesses and their influence on Western art and literature to powerful female deities in African, Australasian and Oriental culture to the modern feminist goddess movement and the neo-pagan revival, this course will take us through literature, folklore, archaeology, and art to understand the varied and dynamic roles of women in myth.
Learning and teaching
The module will be taught through nine two-hour sessions incorporating lectures, seminars and workshops.
These sessions will consist of a one-hour lecture followed by class discussion and group work on specific topics relating to the module.
The discussion and group work will enable students to think critically and to contribute to the debates and topics presented during the lectures.
The discussion-led sessions and the lectures will be supplemented by resources available to students via Learning Central.
- Classical Goddesses and Epic Heroines: Female Deities of the Ancient World
- Women in the Arthurian World
- Fairytale Women: Persecuted Heroines, Fairy Mistresses, and Forgotten Fiancés
- The Witch Archetype and the Neo-Pagan Goddess
- Eroding Gender through Women Warriors
- Female Saints – Role Models and Rebels
- Goddesses in the Americas: Aztecs, Mayans, and La Llorona
- The Great Goddess and the New Age
- The Goddesses of Oceania: Pele and her Companions
Coursework and assessment
You will be expected to complete two pieces of assessed work:
- a short critical review
- a 1000-word essay.
There will be lots of help and support available for both assignments.
- Sandra Billington and Miranda Green (eds), The Concept of the Goddess (Hoboken, NJ: Taylor and Francis; 2002).
- Patrick J Geary, Women at the Beginning: Origin Myths from the Amazons to the Virgin Mary (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press; 2006).
- Sherrie A. Inness, Tough Girls: Women Warriors and Wonder Women in Popular Culture (Philadelphia, Penn : University of Pennsylvania Press; 1998).
- Mary R. Lefkowitz, Women in Greek Myth, 2nd edition (London: Duckworth, 2007).
Library and computing facilities
As a student on this course you are entitled to join and use the University’s library and computing facilities. Find out more about using these facilities.
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.