Spring 2020 - HUM 201 J100

Great Texts: Ancient World to Renaissance (3)

Class Number: 6892

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Fr 5:30 PM – 9:20 PM
    HCC 2205, Vancouver

  • Prerequisites:

    30 units.



An intensive study of some of the major works which have had a formative influence on the structure and development of western thought. Reading and discussion of primary texts and the major themes which emerge from them will introduce students to essential philosophical, literary, social, and religious themes of western civilization. Texts for this course will be drawn from the Ancient World, Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Breadth-Humanities.


The Literary Witch

Powerful women are terrifying. At least, that is how ancient authors represented them. There is a very thin line separating queen or goddess from witch, and this course will explore the way that Western literature has looked at powerful women from the beginning: imbued with supernatural power and preternatural malevolence, they are both desired and despised by the male heroes who encounter them.

The course begins in the Ancient Near East, with Gilgamesh, the earliest recorded epic, and with Eve, the mother of humanity in the Abrahamic faiths. It moves on to Ancient Greece, where we will spend time with the gods and monsters of Classical mythology, from high epic to theatre to what can almost be described as a novel, Apuleius’s Golden Ass.     

The shift to Christianity in the West removes the possibility, but not the memory, of powerful goddesses, and the figure of the witch gets stronger. At the same time, real-world women increasingly find their own voices, and Western tradition starts to worry about women who are too skilled with words. The second half of the course concentrates on medieval women whose speech gets them into and out of trouble, before ending on an examination of Shakespeare’s Macbeth in light of the literary women who came before Lady Macbeth and the three witches.


  • Historical Witch project 20%
  • Witch presentation 15%
  • Midterm Exam 20%
  • Final Paper 32%
  • Participation 13%



Apuleius, The Golden Ass. Trans. Sarah Ruden (Yale Univ. Press)
ISBN: 978-0300198140

Sioned Davies, trans. The Mabinogion (Oxford)
ISBN: 978-0199218783

Euripedes, Medea. Trans. Diane Arnson Svarlien (Hackett)
ISBN: 978-0872209237

Homer, The Odyssey. Trans. Emily Wilson (W. W. Norton)
ISBN: 978-0393356250

Stanley Lombardo, Gilgamesh (Hackett)
ISBN: 978-1624667725

Malcolm Lyons, trans. The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1,001 Nights: Vol. 1 (Penguin)
ISBN: 978-0140449389

William Shakespeare, Macbeth (Arden)
ISBN: 978-1904271413

Claire M. Waters (trans.), The Lais of Marie de France (Broadview)
ISBN: 9781554810826

Additional excerpts from public domain authors will be available through Canvas. Note: other translations will be acceptable in most cases.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html