Scandinavian 40: Heroic Journey in Northern Myth, Legend and Epic

Instructor: Kimberly Ball

This course explores representations of “the hero” and “the heroic journey” in Nordic narrative traditions.  We will consider stories from myth, epic, and folktale/legend within their historic, geographic, and cultural contexts.  Questions we may ponder include: What makes a hero heroic?  When was the heroic age (was it always in the past)?  In what ways is a heroine like a hero, and in what ways different?  What is the hero/heroine’s relationship to the community?  To the divine?  To death?  What differentiates a hero from a leader?  From a trickster?  From a monster?  Is there a common pattern for the hero’s journey, and if so, why?  What is the point of hero stories?  Why were they originally told, and why do they continue to fascinate us?  Are they similar to each other in message, meaning, or purpose, or are they quite different?  In addition to teaching a body of texts and the development of a concept, this course builds students’ critical thinking and close textual analysis skills.  All readings in English.  Not open for credit to students with credit for course 40W.