Concepts of the Hero in Greek Civilization, 2011 Proseminar Close Reading Modules
|November 21, 2012||Posted by Claudia Filos under CHS Learning Module|
Concepts of the Hero: 2011 Proseminar Close Reading Modules
As part of its educational mission, the Center for Hellenic Studies offers free access to a dynamic online archive of all the resources associated with a distance learning version of Concepts of the Hero in Greek Civilization. This course has been taught by Harvard Professor Gregory Nagy, assisted by a team of teachers and Teaching Fellows, almost every year since the late 1970-s. The Discussion Sections for the distance version of the course are directed by Kevin McGrath, Associate in Sanskrit and Indian Studies at Harvard University.
We are currently in the process of making all the content from 2011 available. Below you will find a description of the course and links to the Proseminar Close Reading Modules from 2011. Each module, which runs between 8-10 minutes, presents a lively discussion featuring Gregory Nagy, Kevin McGrath, and the Teaching Fellows as they discuss and analyze the most important passages and concepts. We invite you to enter the dialogue with us, as we continue to explore what it meant to be a hero in ancient Greece and what it means to be human today.
Concepts of the Hero in Greek Civilization
This course uses the latest technology to help students engage with poetry, songs, and stories first composed more than two millennia ago; this includes the Homeric epics, a selection of early lyrics, excerpts of prose history, seven tragedies, two Platonic dialogues, and the intriguing but rarely studied dialogue, On Heroes by Philostratus. All readings may be accessed via an openly available, enriched, and annotated Sourcebook.
Through English translations that have been carefully prepared and arranged for this course, as well as through supplementary comparative material drawn from cultures other than the Greek, and featuring a wide variety of media such as vase painting, European opera, and cinema—from Ingmar Bergman’s version of Mozart’s Magic Flute to Ridley Scott’s science fiction classic, Blade Runner—Nagy provides students who have no previous background in classical Greek civilization with a fully engaging and immediately accessible introduction to the major themes and conceptual motifs of this ancient literature, its myths and ritual practices.
Since the course is designed for students of any age, culture, and place and its profoundly humanistic message can be easily received without previous learning in Western Classical literature, Concepts of the Hero in Greek Civilization offers all learners an inspiring experience.
The course begins with the Homeric poems, stressing the historical fact that heroes in ancient Greece were worshipped, just as ancestors are today worshipped in many societies; in other words, heroes were defined by what we know as ‘hero cult’. This understanding of cult or the ritual dimension of heroes—in forms of worship such as athletics or in rites of personal devotion—is vital for our perception of how epic and tragic heroes came to life in the ancient media of verbal and dramatic performance.
Nagy argues that the true hero of the course is the logos or the word of reasoned expression as activated, for instance, by Socratic dialogue. This logos of dialogue requires careful thinking realized in close reading and reflective writing. The last work to be read in the course comes from Plato’s memories of the final days of Socrates, memories which depend on a thorough comprehension of the concept of the hero in all his or her various manifestations throughout the history of Greek civilization.
Gregory Nagy, who throughout his career has been a consistently strong advocate for the use of information technology in both teaching and research, is currently the Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard University. He has taught versions of this course to Harvard undergraduates and Harvard Extension School students for over thirty-five years.
[Readers can access all content from 2010 via a separate post on this blog.]