This seminar in comparative mythology will serve as a journey through the narratives produced by a number of ancient and pre-modern civilizations that feature a complex female character. In these stories, feminine archetypes are not nurturing mother or fertility goddesses but warriors, witches, choosers of the slain and of rulers, ethically ambiguous and often terrifying apparitions with final power over their male counterparts’ fates. Texts to be considered include translations of the Akkadian Epic of Gilgamesh, the Sumerian Inanna’s Descent into the Underworld, Euripides’ tragedy Medea, depictions of the Hindu goddess Kali in the Mahabharata & elsewhere, the Irish epic Tain Bo Cualinge, the German epic Nibelunglied, and the fifteenth-century witch-finding manual Malleus Maleficarum. Written assignments will include weekly critical responses and a final creative project.
Corequisites: Students are required to attend all Literature Evenings and Poetry at Bennington events (typically held on alternating Wednesdays at 7:00pm).