Topics in English and American Literature


In this course, we will examine literary "katabasis," or the descent to the underworld. Why is katabasis such a common element of mythic and religious works across the globe, from Homer's The Odyssey to the Popol Vuh? More recently, how do images of perilous descents and infernal underworlds capture the historical developments of the past century? What can narratives of hell on earth offer writers in response to conflict, colonization, globalization, and climate change? To explore such questions, this course will begin with ancient and medieval texts from a range of traditions, including Sumerian, Greek, Hindu, Roman, Christian, and Mayan. Then, we will turn to the twentieth and twenty-first century to witness how modern literature reshapes this narrative, considering works by authors such as Wilfred Owen, T.S. Eliot, H.D., Elizabeth Bowen, Primo Levi, Helen Oyeyemi, and Natalie Diaz. By reading these journeys to the underworld, we will explore the function of katabasis in response to ranging contexts and seek to comprehend why descent narratives are so compelling and long-lasting.
Course Attributes: EN H; BU Hum; AS HUM; FA HUM; AR HUM; EL TC; EL GML

Section 01

Topics in English and American Literature
View Course Listing - FL2023
View Course Listing - SP2024