The Western Epic

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

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 from its early origins in Ancient Greek civilization. We’ll begin by considering Hesiod’s Theogony, one of the most important works of Greek myth, which will familiarize us with the ancient understanding of the cosmos and the divine order. Next 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 whole tradition is taken up and transformed in Dante’s monumental Medieval 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 centuries. 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. They will also complete at least two academic essays per term defending an interpretive thesis, with organized evidence and reasoned arguments. Students enrolled for college credit will build academic research skills through additional assignments incorporating scholarly sources. All students will complete a test each term.

This course may be taken either as a high school level class or for dual enrollment credit.  High school students taking the course for dual enrollment credit will have additional reading and writing assignments. Previously, Dual Enrollment credit was granted through the University of Saint Katherine.  Due to the closure of USK we are currently in discussion with several universities and colleges to find another partner to both continue and expand our dual enrollment offerings.

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

"I would like to thank you for all the assistance you've provided throughout these past two semesters. I feel I've grown a lot as both a writer and a person because of this class, and I will forever be grateful for that fact.” 
- Max V., Maryland

"I consider myself very fortunate to have taken a class with Mrs. Wilband. I took her Western Epic class, but I’m not sure that title gives justice to what she taught us. It was History, Philosophy, Writing, Psychology, Catechism, and Geography all in one. Although I feel that all of the Epics we read during the course will stick with me for the rest of my life, the last book we read, Dante’s Inferno, stuck out to me the most. It wasn’t the book itself that stood out though, it was the perspective of the book and the way Mrs. Wilband taught it that made it not just literature but a living and breathing reality."
- Ariana K.

“Thank you so much for providing such a thought provoking journey through epic literature! I appreciate your graciousness and insight. You have inspired me to remain curious no matter how daunting the text may seem.”
- Eliana P, Oregon

"Mrs. Wilband is a beautiful teacher!—a wise and perceptive guide leading her students through the Western Epics. I have loved my first-time experience of these great works and I am grateful for having embarked upon this life-long journey by taking the Western Epic class. Entering into the world of these Epics, we become “friends” with the heroic characters who will accompany us throughout our lives."
- Angela P, California