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Ancient Stories / Modern Lives

Martha Graham, Choreographer, Dancer


Winter Syllabus: click here


God made man because he loves stories. – Elie Wiesel

Stories go to work on you like arrows. Stories make you live right. Stories make you replace yourself. – Benton Lewis, Apache, reported by Keith H. Basso

What is a myth but something that seems to happen
Always for the first time over and over again?

-- Robert Pinsky


               How can stories help us make sense of ourselves and our world?  In this program, we are seeking to understand the ways in which stories imitate, represent, affect, and shape our lives.  Our notion of “story” is broad: it includes narratives of all sorts-mythic, fictional, dramatic, historical, and philosophical. We turn to these stories to help us pose and answer vital questions about our identities, our relationships, our moral points of view and practices: who we are, how our sense of self develops and changes, how our identity is affected by our actions and those of others, how we can live lives of justice and compassion, how we can cultivate love and joy.         The program is deeply grounded in the texts of ancient Greece, in which these questions found some of their earliest, and most provocative, expression. We will read the ancients and study the ways their stories have been retold by modern writers.  This program welcomes both first- and second-year students who want a solid grounding in the humanities and arts.

NOTE:  Before the beginning of the quarter, new students will be required to read Sophocles'Antigone, Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail," and Plato's Apology.  During the first two weeks, they will participate in a student-led catch-up seminar.  New  students must contact a member of the faculty team prior to the beginning of the quarter to discuss the terms of admission and to receive a faculty signature on their registration forms. 

               Writing will consist of regular seminar papers and an extended research project.  For the latter, you will choose a topic based on your own interests that connects, in some way, with issues in the program's texts.  These issues include, but are not limited to:


motherhood  gender sexuality war
imperialism education love children
race ethnicity justice art
violence peace family


               You will work in both small and large research groups throughout the quarter.  Many students struggle with research assignments.  Your research project will be an opportunity to translate your authentic interests into viable and exciting research projects.  You will learn how to bring order to your thoughts, formulate good questions and hypotheses, develop practical and promising research strategies, and use both traditional and electronic sources.  Assignments will be produced in several phases.  You will complete a detailed prospectus and write a lengthy paper.  The research component will focus equally on practical skills, and on sustaining the motivation to do productive and enjoyable research over a long period of time.  If possible, guest speakers will discuss their own experiences as researchers.  During the last two weeks of the quarter, students will become the teachers.  You'll teach what you have learned in a series of all-program meetings.  Details will be forthcoming next quarter.  The research project will depend on and draw from the common work of the program, and will provide a solid grounding in research methods that will serve you well throughout your college career. 

Texts (in order):

               Toni Morrison, Beloved

               Steven Weisenburger, Modern Medea

               Euripides, Medea

               Aeschylus, the Oresteia                                                        

               Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War (The Landmark  Thucydides)

               Aristophanes, Lysistrata

               Lawrence Tritle, From Melos to My Lai

               Euripides, The Bacchae

               Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man 

The Evergreen State College
Last Updated: 01/27/2004