HarvardX: CB22x The Ancient Greek Hero



HarvardX: CB22x The Ancient Greek Hero

  The Ancient Greek Hero is a free, open enrollment, online course offered through HarvardX. It explores what it means to be human today by studying what it meant to be a hero in ancient Greek times. Participants will experience, in English translation, some of the most beautiful works of ancient Greek literature. Through close reading, analysis, and dialogue, we show the dangers of reading our modern values into these texts, and instead model techniques for “reading out” of the texts in an inductive way. This approach allows readers with little or even no experience in the subject matter to begin seeing this literature as an exquisite, perfected system of communication.

  Although the course launched on March 13th, the timeline for submitting assessments is flexible and we are welcoming new participants from now through late June. We also welcome those who prefer to "audit" the course without doing assessments. Over 28,000 individuals from over 160 countries have already enrolled. With the help of our Board of Readers chaired by Leonard Muellner of Brandeis University, we are reaching out to all these registrants and connecting them with over sixty Alumni Facilitators (graduates of the related Harvard course) and more than a dozen Faculty Mentors (former teachers of the Harvard course). We hope to develop intellectual communities around these texts and to provide the type of personalized feedback and interaction which is impossible in most massive, online courses.

  CB22x: The Ancient Greek Hero
  HarvardX, Spring 2013

  Professor: Gregory Nagy, Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature andProfessor of Comparative Literature at Harvard University, and Director of Harvard's Center for Hellenic Studies.

  Board of Readers: The teaching staff for this course is led by the Chair of the Board of Readers, Dr. Leonard Muellner, Professor of Classical Studies at Brandeis University and Director of IT and Publications at Harvard University's Center for Hellenic Studies, and the Vice Chair of the Board of Readers, Dr. Kevin McGrath, Associate in Sanskrit and Indian Studies at Harvard University. The course's Readers and Editors are listed on the CB22x "About" page.

  To enroll now, visit https://www.edx.org/university_profile/HarvardX


  About edX

  EdX is a not-for-profit enterprise of its founding partners Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that features learning designed specifically for interactive study via the web. Based on a long history of collaboration and their shared educational missions, the founders are creating a new online-learning experience with online courses that reflect their disciplinary breadth. Along with offering online courses, the institutions will use edX to research how students learn and how technology can transform learning–both on-campus and worldwide. Anant Agarwal, former Director of MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, serves as the first president of edX. EdX's goals combine the desire to reach out to students of all ages, means, and nations, and to deliver these teachings from a faculty who reflect the diversity of its audience. EdX is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts and is governed by MIT and Harvard.


  “Classroom in the Cloud”(Harvard Magazine)

  “The Most Important Education Technology in 200 Years” (MIT Technology Review)




  What is it to be human, and how can ancient concepts of the heroic and anti-heroic inform our understanding of the human condition? That question is at the core of The Ancient Greek Hero, which introduces (or reintroduces) students to the great texts of classical Greek culture by focusing on concepts of the Hero in an engaging, highly comparative way.

  The classical Greeks' concepts of Heroes and the "heroic" were very different from the way we understand the term today. In this course, students analyze Greek heroes and anti-heroes in their own historical contexts, in order to gain an understanding of these concepts as they were originally understood while also learning how they can inform our understanding of the human condition in general.

  In Greek tradition, a hero was a human, male or female, of the remote past, who was endowed with superhuman abilities by virtue of being descended from an immortal god. Rather than being paragons of virtue, as heroes are viewed in many modern cultures, ancient Greek heroes had all of the qualities and faults of their fellow humans, but on a much larger scale. Further, despite their mortality, heroes, like the gods, were objects of cult worship – a dimension which is also explored in depth in the course.

  The original sources studied in this course include the Homeric Iliad and Odyssey; tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides; songs of Sappho and Pindar; dialogues of Plato; historical texts of Herodotus; and more, including the intriguing but rarely studied dialogue "On Heroes" by Philostratus. All works are presented in English translation, with attention to the subtleties of the original Greek. These original sources are frequently supplemented both by ancient art and by modern comparanda, including opera and cinema (from Jacques Offenbach's opera Tales of Hoffman to Ridley Scott's science fiction classic Blade Runner).

  The true hero of the course is the logos ("word") of reasoned expression, as activated by Socratic dialogue. Thelogos of dialogue requires both careful thought and close (or "slow") reading, which is a core skill taught in this class. The course begins by considering the heroes of Homer's epics and ends with Plato's memories of the final days of Socrates -- memories which can only be fully understood by a reader who has gained a thorough comprehension of the ancient Greek hero in all his or her various manifestations.

  Using modern technology and engaging texts, The Ancient Greek Hero provides students who have no previous background in classical Greek civilization with a fully engaging and immediately accessible introduction to the most beautiful moments in this ancient literature, its myths, and its ritual practices.


  No previous knowledge of Greek history and literature is required. All texts will be read in English translation. This is a course for students of any age, culture, and place, and its profoundly humanistic message can be easily received without previous acquaintance with Western Classical literature.


  The content for this course is divided into 24 Hours instead of traditional weeks or chapters. Participants can expect to spend about 2-3 hours of their time to prepare and engage fully in each Hour of course content.


  Gregory Nagy

  Gregory Nagy is the Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard University, and is the Director of the Center for Hellenic Studies, Washington, DC. In his publications, he has pioneered an approach to Greek literature that integrates diachronic and synchronic perspectives. His books include The Best of the Achaeans: Concepts of the Hero in Archaic Greek Poetry (Johns Hopkins University Press), which won the Goodwin Award of Merit, American Philological Association, in 1982; also Pindar's Homer: The Lyric Possession of an Epic Past (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990), Poetry as Performance: Homer and Beyond (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), Homeric Questions (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996), Homeric Responses (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2003), Homer’s Text and Language (University of Illinois Press 2004), Homer the Classic (Harvard University Press, online 2008, print 2009), and Homer the Preclassic (University of California Press 2010). He co-edited with Stephen A. Mitchell the 40th anniversary second edition of Albert Lord’s The Singer of Tales (Harvard Studies in Comparative Literature vol. 24; Harvard University Press, 2000), co-authoring with Mitchell the new Introduction, pp. vii-xxix.

  Professor Nagy has taught versions of this course to Harvard College undergraduates and Harvard Extension School students for over thirty-five years. Throughout his career Nagy has been a consistently strong advocate for the use of information technology in both teaching and research. Besides teaching at the Harvard campus in Cambridge, MA, Nagy is also the Director of Harvard's Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, D.C.


  Leonard Muellner, Chair of the Board of Readers

  Leonard Muellner is Professor of Classical Studies, Brandeis University (Waltham, MA, USA) and Director for IT and Publications, Center for Hellenic Studies (Washington, DC). Educated at Harvard University (Ph.D. 1973), his scholarly interests center on Homeric epic, with special interests in historical linguistics, anthropological approaches to the study of myth, and the poetics of oral traditional poetry. His recent work includes "Grieving Achilles," in Homeric Contexts: Neoanalysis and the Interpretation of Oral Poetry, ed. A. Rengakos, F. Montanari, and C. Tsagalis,Trends in Classics, Supplementary Volume 12, Berlin, 2012, pp. 187-210, and “Homeric Anger Revisited,”Classics@ Issue 9: Defense Mechanisms, Center for Hellenic Studies, Washington, DC, September, 2011.

  Kevin McGrath, Vice Chair of the Board of Readers

  Kevin McGrath is an Associate of the Department of South Asian studies at Harvard University. His research centers on the Sanskrit epic, Mahabharata. He has published four works on this topic: The Sanskrit Hero, Stri, Jaya, and Heroic Krsna, and is presently engaged on a study of epic kingship. McGrath is also Poet in Residence at Lowell House and his most recent publication is Supernature. He does fieldwork in the Kacch of Western Gujarat and studies kinship, landscape, and migration. The hero as a figure for humanistic analysis is the focus of much of McGrath's scholarly work, particularly as expressed in the poetry of Bronze Age preliterate and premonetary culture.

  Alex Forte, Honorary Vice Chair

  Alex Forte is a PhD Candidate in the department of the Classics at Harvard University. His primary research topics are the reception of Indo-European poetics in archaic Greek poetry, and inter/intratextuality in Neronian literature. He is also interested in the intellectual history of Rationalism.

  Claudia Filos, Editor of Content and Social Media

  Claudia Filos holds an MA from Brandeis University and is the Assistant Editor of Online Publications for the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, D.C. Her thesis is titled "Steadfast in a Multiform Tradition: ἔμπεδος and ἀσφαλής in Homer and Beyond". Her teaching and research interests include Homer, oral poetics, the cult of saints, and comparative work on the reception of classical themes and diction during late antiquity and the romantic period. She is committed to improving opportunities for meaningful research by undergraduates and nontraditional scholars and to promoting the study of classical languages and literature outside the university setting.

  Natasha Bershadsky, Multimedia Editor

  Natasha Bershadsky recently received her PhD degree from the University of Chicago. Her thesis, Pushing the Boundaries of Myth: Transformations of Ancient Border Wars in Archaic and Classical Greece, explores the interconnections of history, myth, ritual and politics. She is also interested in the Greek perception of poet as a hero, and the reverberations of this idea in the later conceptions of the figure of author in poetry and fiction. Her publications include "The Unbreakable Shield: Thematics of Sakos and Aspis," Classical Philology 105 (2010): 1–24, and "A Picnic, a Tomb and a Crow: Hesiod's Cult in the Works and Days," Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 106 (2011) 1–45.

  Glynnis Fawkes, Visual Reader

  Glynnis Fawkes holds a joint MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston) and Tufts University. Her paintings and cartoons have been exhibited internationally, and she has worked extensively as illustrator on archaeological projects in Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, Lebanon, and Israel. A Fulbright Fellowship to Cyprus allowed her to publish a book of paintings Archaeology Lives in Cyprus (Hellenic Bank, Nicosia 2001) and Cartoons of Cyprus (Moufflon Publications, Nicosia, 2001). She teaches a course in Making Comics at the University of Vermont, and was named among the Best American Comics Notables in 2012. Her drawings for the Homeric Hymns seek to bring out the humor and pathos of the interactions between men and women, humans and gods. Her work may be seen at http://glynnisfawkes.com/.

  Sean Signore, Reader

  Sean Signore holds an MA in Classics from the University of Georgia. His thesis is entitled "Achilles and Andromache: Gender Ambiguity in Motif, Narrative, and Formula." His research focuses on how historical linguistics and oral poetics complement the study of the Homeric epics. Further interests include etymology, the reception of Homer in Archaic and Golden Age Latin, and comparative work with Indic and Chinese literature.


  How much does it cost to take the course?

  Nothing! The course is free.

  Do I need any other materials to take the course?

  No. As long as you have a Mac or PC, you'll be ready to take the course.

  Will the course use any textbooks or software?

  The course makes use of two texts, both of which will be available for free on the course website. The first is Professor Nagy's The Ancient Greek Hero in Twenty-Four Hours (commonly referred to in the course as "h24h"). For those who wish to purchase a printed version of h24h, the book will be available from Harvard University Press (http://www.hup.harvard.edu/) in May 2013. The second textbook, referred to as the "Sourcebook," is a compendium of all of the ancient texts to be read in this course (in English translation).

  This course takes a highly comparative approach, integrating other forms of artistic representation (such as painting, theater, music, and sculpture) and examples of heroic themes across time. For example, students may be discussing a scene from Homer's Iliad one moment and watching a clip from a modern film like Ridley Scott's Blade Runner the next, all as part of this course's the holistic approach to concepts of the heroic and the anti-heroic. To facilitate discussion and learning, students will also have access to dynamically linked online texts, video lectures and discussions, annotation tools, and online forums, all of which are designed to engage students in any age and location in a continual dialogue with and about the literature of ancient Greece.

  Do I need to watch the lectures at a specific time?

  No. You can complete the assigned readings and view the dialogues at a time that fits with your schedule. Because of time limits on the completion of assessments, though, it will be best if you do not get more than two weeks (four "hours") behind on the coursework.

  Will certificates be awarded?

  Yes. Online learners who achieve a passing grade in a course can earn a certificate of mastery. These certificates will indicate you have successfully completed the course, but will not include a specific grade. Certificates will be issued by edX under the name of HarvardX. However, we recognize that not every student wishes to take this course for a certificate. We welcome "explorers" who want to learn about the fascinating concepts discussed in this course without the pressure of timelines and assessments, and value your time and participation in this course as well.

  If you have any questions about edX generally, please see the edX FAQ.