Courses Offered

Undergraduate Courses

Prof. Flieger taught a succession of myth courses in an undergraduate Concentration in Myth and Folklore by the University of Maryland's English Department. All texts are in English or English translation.

English 277-Mythologies: An Introduction

What are myths and why should we study them?

This is an introductory course designed to acquaint students with the functions of myth and give them the opportunity to read entire texts in translation. Selecting from among the mythological texts of major geographical areas-the Americas, Asia, Northern Europe, Mesopotamia, and the British Isles-the course introduces students to a variety of cultures and world views as expressed in myth. Such texts as the African epic Mwindo, the Hindu Ramayana and Mahabharata, the Irish Tain, the Hopi The Fourth World of the Hopis. The Mesopotamian Gilgamesh and Inanna provide an essential link between the myths they express and the cultures that produced them.

English 377-Medieval Modes and Modern Narrative

Do the Middle Ages have anything to offer a modern world?

Bridging the gap between the Middle Ages and the twentieth century, this course explores three major medieval literary modes, myth, epic, and romance, as manifested in three major medieval texts-The Prose Edda, Beowulf, and Malory's story of King Arthur. It shows how the patterns and motifs of these texts are re-configured for a modern audience in the twentieth-century work of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.

English 466-Arthurian Myth and Legend

Was Arthur real or imaginary, and does it matter?

Beginning with the earliest appearances of the figure of Arthur in the history and folklore of the Welsh Triads, the Annales Cambriae, and in the works of Gildas, Bede, Nennius, William of Malmsbury, and Geoffrey of Monmouth, the course explores the Arthurian world through the ages. Major readings include the romances of Chretien de Troyes, the Works of Sir Thomas Malory, Tennyson's Idylls of the King, T. H. White's The Once and Future King and Rosemary Sutcliff's Sword at Sunset. The aim of the course is to explore the changing relationship of the legend to the social and political background of the time in which each work appears.

Open to graduate students with instructor's permission

English 477-Studies in Mythmaking

Who makes myth? And how? And why?

This course is an in-depth exploration of the circular relationship of myth, language, and culture. J. R. R. Tolkien's seminal essay "On Fairy-stories" provides a theoretical base for the study of such primary myths as the Norse Poetic Edda, the Welsh Mabinogi, the Finnish Kalevala, the Navajo Dine Bahane', and the Bible. J.R.R. Tolkien's Silmarillion opens an inquiry into the need for myth in an age of rationality. The readings are arranged by theme, beginning with Creation, and show how each of these texts displays its own unique cultural approach to the representative mythic patterns of the Journey Underground, the Sacred Marriage, the interaction of Fate and Free Will, and the eschatology of the End of the World.

Open to graduate students with instructor's permission.

Graduate Courses

Prof. Flieger offered a Seminar in Myth, English 709, with revolving content. This course could be taken more than once for graduate credit. Past Seminars have included:

Hindu Myth and Epic

A close reading of the two major Hindu mythological texts, Mahabharata and Ramayana for the purpose of exploring their cultural assumptions and norms, examining the universal patterning of mythic stories in light of individual national and ethnic expression.

The Language of Myth

An examination of the integral relationship of language and myth in creating and supporting a social and cultural world view. In the first half of the course we read major theoretical texts, including Owen Barfield's Poetic Diction and Saving the Appearances, Ernst Casirrer's Language and Myth, and Benjamin Whorf's Language, Thought, and Reality. The second half of the course invites students to apply these theories to current work-in-progress, and to present the results of their findings findings orally to the class and in a final written paper.

Arthurian Myth

A course in the growth and development of a myth. Beginning with the earliest historical and folkloric appearances of the figure known as Arthur, we trace the enlargement of that figure and the mythologizing of his world through history, folklore, fairy tale and romance to their culmination in Sir Thomas Malory's great tragedy, the major source for subsequent retellings. Readings from the major Celtic, English, and French texts include the Welsh Triads, Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain, stories from the Mabinogion, the verse romances of Chretien de Troyes, the stanzaic Morte Arthur, the alliterative Morte Arthure, and the Works of Sir Thomas Malory. Each student is responsible for the history and background of a chosen character or motif as these recur from text to texts, for leading class discussion on his/her choice, and for developing this history into a long paper.

Two Northern Mythologies

Focuses on two mythologies of Northern Europe, the Finnish Kalevala and the Norse Eddas. Emphasis will be on the literary, cultural, historical and socio-political significance of each mythology to the culture which generates it. Texts will be Kalevala, translated by Francis Magoun, Snorri Sturluson's prose Edda, translated by Anthony Faulkes, and the Poetic Edda translated by Lee Hollander.

Oral Tradition and Written Text

Studies the differences in performance, transmission and preservation of mythological texts with demonstrable oral origin as these have become crystallized in a writing culture. Walter Ong's Orality and Literacy, Parry and Lord's The Singer of Tales, and Paul Zolbrod's Reading the Voice provide a theoretical basis for the reading of the Finnish Kalevala, the Greek Iliad, the Navajo Dine Bahane', the West African Sundiata, and the Northwest Indian Stories That Make the World. Students will be asked to give an oral performance (from memory, no script), with props and costumes, of a portion of one of the course texts. A final paper will contrast the analytical and performative modes of learning and explore the difficulties and insights gained from each.

Myth: Theme and Theory

A practicum in the application of the major theoretical approaches in the study of myth-structural, sociological, psychological, philological-to four primary mythologies. Theoretical texts include selections from Dumezil, Casirrer, Freud, Jung, and Levi-Strauss. Primary mythologies will be chosen from Native American, African Germanic-Scandinavian, Asian, and Celtic.