Syllabus

CC 365 : CLASSICAL MYTH ON SCREEN

TuTh 4:30 – 6:20

What are films based on Greco-Roman myths? Faithful recreations of the classics? Modern classics with their own authenticity? Do they “get it right” or “get it wrong” in translating traditional gods and heroes to the big screen?

This course will survey Troy, Hercules, Clash of the Titans, and other 20th- and 21st-century cinematic adaptations of classical myths. Through close readings of the films and research into the filmmakers’ choices, students will confront the problems, the politics, and the pleasures inherent in bringing ancient stories to life.

Counts toward the Classics Major.
Counts toward the Media and Film Studies Minor.
Counts toward the all-College Humanities Requirement.


LEARNING GOALS

Students in this course will

  • Compare the sensibilities of ancient and modern audiences.
  • Read mythical film as contemporary social commentary.
  • Track the impact of Classics on the film-making process.
  • View film from critical and formal perspectives.

Furthermore, students will develop critical reading and thinking skills through class discussion, multimedia presentations, and written exercises.


INSTRUCTOR

Professor Dan Curley — Classics
212 Filene Hall (no visitors, please)
MTh 1:00 – 2:00 PM, and by appointment
dcurley@skidmore.edu


FILMOGRAPHY

(Links to IMDb entries)

The Adventures of Hercules (L’avventure dell’incredibile Ercole) (Luigi Cozzi, 1985)
Cabiria (Giovanni Pastrone, 1914)
Clash of the Titans (Desmond Davis & Ray Harryhausen, 1981)
Clash of the Titans (Louis Leterrier, 2010)
A Dream of Passion (Jules Dassin, 1978)
The Fall of Troy (La caduta di Troia) (Luigi Romano Borgnetto & Giovanni Pastrone, 1911)
Helen of Troy (Robert Wise, 1956)
Hercules (Le fatiche di Ercole) (Pietro Francisci, 1958)
Hercules (Ercole) (Luigi Cozzi, 1983)
(Disney’s) Hercules (John Musker & Ron Clements, 1997)
Hercules (Brett Ratner, 2014)
Iphigenia (Michael Cacoyannis, 1977)
Jason and the Argonauts (Don Chaffey & Ray Harryhausen, 1963)
Jason and the Argonauts (Nick Willing, 2000)
The Legend of Hercules (Renny Harlin, 2014)
Medea (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1969)
Medea (Lars Von Trier, 1988)
Mythopolis (Alexandra Hetmerová, 2014)
O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Ethan and Joel Coen, 2000)
The Odyssey (Andrey Konchalovsky, 1997)
Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief (Chris Columbus, 2010)
Perseus the Invincible (Perseo l’invincibile) (Alberto de Martino, 1963)
Troy (Wolfgang Petersen, 2004)
Troy: Fall of a City (BBC-Netflix, 2018)
Ulysses (Mario Camerini, 1954)


TEXTS & SUBSCRIPTIONS

Written texts

Neither a comprehensive history of the cinema nor a specialized book on films set in antiquity, Looking at Movies is nevertheless a superb introduction to how the medium works, and it will help you develop your cinematic literacy writ small and writ large. Though we’ll devote time during the semester to reading and discussing various chapters, the book is also a resource for you to use throughout semester. Get to know it.

Other texts, both primary and secondary, will be distributed as needed.

Screen texts

This fall, we’ll have access to the Swank, a streaming service that specializes in mainstream films and television — and in the mainstream is where screen texts based on classical myth tend to reside. Most of our assigned viewings will come from Swank, and our Blog will link directly to them. (Skidmore user ID and password required.)

  • Netflix / Amazon Prime / Hulu

Unfortunately, there will be times when an essential screen text is only streaming via one of the big three services (sorry, Disney+). If you don’t already subscribe to one of these, consider a trial or student subscription. And if you know of another service offering the screen text, please let me and your peers know.


REQUIREMENTS & GRADING

  • 30 % . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Participation
  • 20 % . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Analysis assignment
  • 20 % . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Quizzes (4)
  • 30 % . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Semester project

Participation — see below under “Policies & Guidelines”

Analysis

Each student will have an opportunity to offer an analysis of a 2– to 3–minute sequence from one of our screen texts, explaining both its structure and its place within the work at large.

The analysis will take the form of narrated video presentation, which includes the sequence itself as well as a shot-by-shot breakdown and commentary. The video will be played in class and followed by discussion.

Quizzes

In lieu of exams, four quizzes will be given throughout the semester, one after each of our four units. Quizzes will emphasize factual information about the films and ask students to synthesize trends mooted during our discussions.

Semester project

The project will be a research paper 3500 to 4500 words in length (roughly 10 to 15 pages) that addresses themes and films explored this semester. If you are using CC 365 to fulfill your Classics capstone requirement, your paper should be at least 4500 to 6000 words (roughly 15 to 20 pages).


POLICIES & GUIDELINES

Preparation

Taking notes while you are preparing for class — whether reading a written text or watching a screen text — is highly recommended, since notations help you not only to recall the material, but also to develop your thoughts about it. It’s tedious to take notes during a film (all that pausing!), but in time you will get used to it.

All readings and viewings are listed on our Blog in advance of their due dates.

On a day we are scheduled to discuss a screen text, some students (selected on a rotating basis) will use the comments feature of the blog to recommend a sequence to be reviewed and discussed in class.

Recommendations should contain the following:

  • A brief description of the sequence.
  • Precise starting and ending times (hh:mm:ss — hh:mm:ss).
  • A rationale as to why this sequence is worth our time.

First come, first served, no repeats. If you are slated to make a recommendation, be sure to read comments before you post so as to make an original recommendation.


Assignments & Submitted Work

All assignments are posted in advance on the Blog. You are responsible for checking the Blog and making sure you understand what each assignment requires.

Formatting. Written work (apart from comments on the Blog) must have

  • Standard 12-point fonts, such as Times or Calibri.
  • Double-spacing.
  • 1.25-inch margins.
  • PDF formatting — no Word documents or other formats.
  • Your name and date on the page.

Attendance

During the Fall 2020 semester, attendance will not be taken into account when determining your grade in this course. That said, students remain responsible for making up any missed work. If you have missed class or foresee missing class, please reach out to me to make arrangements for make-up work.

Please note that all class sessions will be recorded and stored on Ensemble for later reference.


Participation

Class participation involves more than just attendance or coming to class on time. Students must also, in line with the idea of a seminar, keep up with the readings and assignments,participate actively during all sessions, and maintain an environment that promotes the exchange of ideas.

Exemplary participation might involve

  • Asking a specific question or making a specific comment about the reading.
  • Building upon something that another person has already said.
  • Making a specific comment about what you find useful or interesting about another person’s point.
  • Asking a question or making a comment that encourages another person to elaborate upon their point.
  • Making a comment that connects two points or two strands of our conversation.
  • Disagreeing with what someone has said in a respectful and constructive manner.

Alternatively, poor participation might involve

  • Listening inattentively.
  • Repeating a point that someone else has made without adding anything new.
  • Interrupting another person or speaking while someone else is talking.
  • Making an off-topic comment.
  • Using inappropriate language or speaking in a disrespectful or combative manner.

Video sharing note. While I would love to see everyone’s smiling visages, I understand that students may choose not to share video during our Zoom sessions. Even if your camera is off, I will expect you to contribute to discussion.


Laptops, Tablets & Phones

Given the COVID-19 pandemic, access to laptops and other devices will be essential for completing the course, as will access to the internet. If access will be difficult for you, please let your instructor know so that we can arrange assistance and workarounds.


Academic Integrity

Students are expected to follow the Skidmore College Honor Code and code of conduct to the fullest extent. A maximum penalty will be recommended for all violations of the Honor Code.

Skidmore’s Academic Integrity Handbook (p. 6) defines plagiarism as “copying, paraphrasing, or imitating another person’s ideas, information, data, words, descriptions, choice of evidence, structure of argument, and so on.” It does not matter whether that person’s work appears in print or on the web. Cases of plagiarism, whether intentional or unintentional, will be referred to the Office of Academic Advising for appropriate sanctions.


Accessibility

Any student who anticipates facing obstacles to their success in this course should seek assistance from the appropriate offices on campus and, where appropriate, from the instructors. If you are a student with a disability and believe you will need academic accommodation, you need to formally request accommodation from Meg Hegener, Coordinator of Student Access Services. You will also need to provide documentation which verifies the existence of a disability and supports your request.


Sexual & Gender-based Misconduct: Title IX Statement

Skidmore College considers sexual and gender-based misconduct to be one of the most serious violations of the values and standards of the College. Unwelcome sexual contact of any form is a violation of students’ personal integrity and their right to a safe environment and therefore violates Skidmore’s values. Sexual and gender-based misconduct is also prohibited by federal and state regulations.

Skidmore College faculty are committed to supporting our students and upholding gender equity laws as outlined by Title IX. If a student chooses to confide in a member of Skidmore’s faculty or staff regarding an issue of sexual or gender-based misconduct, that faculty or staff member is obligated to tell Skidmore’s Title IX Coordinator or Title IX Deputy Coordinator.

The Title IX Coordinator or Deputy Coordinator will assist the student in connecting with all possible resources for support and options for reporting both on and off campus. Identities and details will be shared only with those who need to know to support the student and to address the situation through the college’s processes. If the student wishes to confide in a confidential resource, the Counseling Center Staff, Health Services, and Victim Advocates (anonymous) are available — key contact information here.


Diversity & Inclusion

Skidmore College is committed to fostering a diverse and inclusive community in which members develop their abilities to live in a complex and interconnected world. Consistent with our educational mission, we recognize ourselves as a community that respects individual identities based on varying sociocultural characteristics such as race, ethnicity, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, national origin, first language, religious and spiritual tradition, age, ability, socioeconomic status and learning style.

We strive to create a socially just world that honors the dignity and worth of each individual, and we seek to build a community centered on mutual respect and openness to ideas — one in which individuals value cultural and intellectual diversity and share the responsibility for creating a welcoming, safe and inclusive environment. We recognize that our community is most inclusive when all members participate to their full capacity in the spirited and sometimes challenging conversations that are at the center of the college’s educational mission.

Any student who experiences racism or another form of discrimination and bias should contact Cerri Banks, Dean of Students and Vice President for Student Affairs, for support or file a bias incident report. Your instructors also stand ready and willing to listen and offer support.


Content Advisory

The material of earlier periods, to say nothing of modernity, can be violent and/or explicit. Please be prepared for words, images, and discussions that might make you or your peers uncomfortable. If you have concerns about our readings, viewings, or anything else, please bring them to the attention of your instructors.


COVID-19 Exhortation

The College expects all members of the community to adhere to health and safety protocols at all times, including when entering and exiting academic buildings and classrooms. In addition, we are all expected to pay attention to signage that directs traffic within buildings; clean classroom work stations at the beginning and end of classes; refrain from drinking and eating in the classroom; wear a mask at all times in public spaces, including in classrooms; and practice safe social distancing.

Whether you are learning this semester in person or remotely, please do your part to ensure your safety and the safety of others.