Comparative Literature | Western Lit/ Intellectual Traditions to 1500
C505 | 25628 | Prof. Marks


CMLT-C505 (25628): Ancient Mediterranean Literature and the Rise of
Interpretation
Prof. Herbert Marks
R 6:00-9:00	


	The activity we know as literary criticism--writing that has
as its explicit aim the interpretation of another piece of writing--
originated in the Hellenistic era with the elevation to canonical
status of two literary corpuses, the Homeric poems and the Tanak or
Hebrew Bible. In its earliest form, interpretation was tied to the
myth of inspiration; each depended on and enabled the other. In this
course, we shall be asking about the factors intrinsic and extrinsic
that led to the rise of interpretation in the ancient world, and by
extension that motivates it in our own. Much of our time will be
devoted to the primary texts. We shall be reading both Iliad and
Odyssey, as well as extensive selections from the Bible, with
particular attention to the role revisionism, a form of
interpretation, played in the genesis of ostensibly “original” works.
To better understand the context and redaction history of both
corpuses, we shall also be looking at some of the main trends of
modern scholarship and at two ancient Mesopotamian works that
influenced them, the Gilgamesh Epic and the Babylonian Creation Epic,
each of which has its own complex history of composition. But we
shall also be studying examples of early exegesis, including Stoic
and neo-Platonic readings of Homer, and such post-biblical genres as
rabbinic midrash, Philonic allegory, and the pesher literature of
Qumran and the New Testament. Written work: regular critical or
exegetical exercises and a final paper. Students are advised to begin
reading the Iliad, preferably in the translation of Richmond
Lattimore, before the first class.