Engl. 555/755

Goddess Myths & Literature

Fall Semester 2011

MWF 11:00-11:50, Grubbs 312

Instructor: Dr. K. Nichols

E-mail: knichols11@cox.net


Course Description:

This course will study the evolving image of the "divine feminine" in the mythologies of Western Europe and the Near East, with some attention to African, Asian, and Native American traditions. We will also examine how ancient and modern literary texts revise traditional goddess images and themes to reflect changing attitudes towards women, writing, and spiritual empowerment.


  • Anne Baring, The Myth of the Goddess: The Evolution of an Image (Penguin USA). ISBN 9780140192926.
  • Tamara Agha-Jaffar, Women and Goddesses in Myth and Sacred Text: An Anthology (Pearson). ISBN 9780321244321.
  • Aeschylus, The Oresteia (Oxford UP). ISBN 9780199537815.
  • Kate Chopin, The Awakening and Selected Stories (Penguin USA). ISBN 9780142457322.
  • Leslie Marmon Silko, Gardens in the Dunes (Simon & Schuster). ISBN 9780684863320.

There will also be some online texts, as indicated on the Reading Schedule (online). Bringing printed copies to class will facilitate class discussions.


  • 3 take-home essay exams (20% each)
  • Oral report/written summary report, 15 min./4 pp. (20%). See paper directions (online).
  • Literary analysis paper, 6-8 pp. (20%). See paper directions (online).

NOTE: Graduate students enrolled at the 700-level will also complete an additional project: 8 pp. paper on an additional literary text (open to negotiation). See paper directions (online).

All major assignments must be completed to pass the course.

You may e-mail papers to me at knichols11@cox.net, but make sure they are attached as .doc files or .rtf files.

Late Work Policy:

Late papers will be graded down one letter grade for each day they are late.

Missed exams must be made up just as soon as possible. See me immediately when you return to class.

Absence Policy:

Regular attendance is required. Everyone has FOUR pre-excused absences for those difficult times in life that interfere with class attendance, so you do not need to clear absences with me, but it is a good idea to make sure, before returning to class, that the assignment was not changed while you were gone.

NOTE: Students who miss more than four classes may be dropped from the roster for "excessive absences."

Plagiarism Policy:

I strongly support the policies of the English Department and the University on plagiarism. Undocumented use of someone else's material (including "borrowing" their language or their ideas) will result in an F on the paper or for the course--or worse for the most egregious cases.

See me if you have questions about what is or is not plagiarism. I'm always happy to help students who make good-faith efforts to do things right.

Course Web Pages:

You can quickly access our online syllabus by typing in one of the following addresses:

You can also access my home page (which links to all my web pages) by going to the PSU home page and then locating the "English Department" web page. Click on the "Faculty" list and locate my name--which is linked to my home page.

Office Hours:

Office: Grubbs Hall 450

Office Hours: MWF 12:00-12:50; 2:00-2:50; or by appointment.

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