Many of you may know I’m teaching a senior elective called Hero With a Thousand Faces modeled after the work of Joseph Campbell. We have completed The Iliad and are wrapping up our discussion of that epic. Interestingly, though Achilles is often called the hero of that epic, I asked students to analyze it to determine who the hero is, in their estimation. I think a case can be made for Hector and possibly Odysseus as greater heroes than Achilles. I mentioned in class that Hector was one of the Nine Worthies: “historic” examplars of medieval chivalric ideals. These were the Nine: Hector, Alexander the Great, and Julius Caesar (pagans); King Arthur, Godfrey de Bouillon, and Charlemagne (Christian); and Joshua, David, and Judas Maccabeus (Jewish). We talked about why medieval people might have found Hector more admirable than Achilles. It’s interesting that in several places in the epic, he denies mercy to soldiers who beg it — including Hector — which was a sign of very poor behavior in a knight indeed.
We are preparing to study Star Wars, as this month is full of Jewish holidays that will inhibit our ability to study a book, and I created a chart based on Campbell’s heroic journey and archetypes that some of you might find useful if you intend to study the monomyth.
I have been presenting a book that treats the monomyth each Friday because my students’ final project will be to read a book or watch a movie of their own choice that is NOT one we have studied and discussed together and analyze the heroic journey and archtypes within. If you are looking for a heroic reading list, you might want to check out the books I’ve mentioned:
- The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry
- Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
- The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
- Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (presented by a colleague who sometimes participates as a co-teacher/student in the class)
- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Some upcoming books I intend to discuss include:
Of course, I’ve talked about Harry Potter throughout. I will add to the list as I think of others.