Course: Poetry, Myth, and Transformation

HC 221H

Professor: Mai-Lin Cheng

“My intention is to tell of bodies/Changed to different forms," declares Roman poet Ovid in the opening to his epic work, The Metamorphoses.  Why tell stories of transformation? What different literary, cultural, and philosophical ideas shape our notions of form and change? With Ovid as our inspiration, we will examine mutations of voice, gender, and form in poetry, prose, and drama. We will pay close attention to the connections between speech, silence, and power; and to the literary transformation of ancient stories into modern ones.  

Requirements include formal and informal writing assignments, quizzes, and active contribution to class discussion.  Students should be prepared to read and write attentively and rigorously, to work collaboratively on oral and written projects, and to complete graded and ungraded assignments on a weekly basis. In addition to Ovid's Metamorphoses, texts will likely include Kafka, “The Metamorphosis,” Bauby's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, and a selection of other works by nineteenth- and twentieth-century poets such as Algernon Charles Swinburne, Rita Dove, and John Hollander.