The Western Epic

Grades 10-12+1High school students may be awarded 1 Literature credit upon completion of this course.
Dual Enrollment Option

hat is excellence, and what makes for a good human life? How should the community be governed and what claims does it make on the individual? What is our place in the cosmos, and what is the meaning of suffering and death? These are some of the questions at the heart of epic poetry, an ancient form of story-telling common to many civilizations around the world. This course will explore the riches of the Western epic tradition.  We’ll read the defining epics of Ancient Greek civilization, Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, as well as the greatest Roman epic, Vergil’s Aeneid. Finally, we’ll consider how this tradition is taken up in Dante’s monumental epic, The Divine Comedy.

Through close reading and respectful class discussion, students will encounter some of the most beautiful and  foundational literature of the Western tradition, and will become versed in the major stories, figures, and images that have shaped the Western imagination for millenia. Not only do these texts have the power to move us with their beauty, and to equip us with new and profound questions, but as inheritors of this tradition and its influence, they teach us about ourselves and our own cultural history. 

To assist in this exciting work, students will regularly complete a variety of short written assignments designed to refine their close reading and analytic skills, as well as develop their writing and reasoning ability. These efforts will be brought to bear on a major writing assignment each term, in which students will produce an extended academic essay defending an interpretive thesis with organized evidence and reasoned arguments. Students enrolled for college credit will build academic research skills and will be asked to write an additional final paper incorporating scholarly sources. All students will complete a test each term. 

High school students may be awarded 1 Literature credit upon completion of this course.

Prerequisites: High School Lit Comp or at least one year of Great Books

"I wanted to say that I enjoy reading the material and attending your class very much! I really appreciate the material and depth of how you explain the meaning and plots behind the poems we are reading. I took a similar class last year but it didn’t even compare as to how deeply I am grasping the material from your class!”
- Ariana K, Florida