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Introduction to Folklore and Mythology

Course Number: ENG 250
Transcript Title: Intro to Folklore & Mythology
Created: September 1, 2012
Updated: December 19, 2014
Total Credits: 4
Lecture Hours: 40
Lecture / Lab Hours: 0
Lab Hours: 0
Satisfies Cultural Literacy requirement: Yes
Satisfies General Education requirement: Yes
Grading options: A-F (default), P-NP, audit


WR 115 and RD 115 or equivalent placement test scores

Course Description

Develops a cross-cultural perspective on myths, mythologies and folklore from around the world. Explores different theories of the cultural meanings and functions of myth, past and present. Introduces various ways of interpreting and experiencing myth and folklore as texts with oral origins. Prerequisite: WR 115 and RD 115 or equivalent placement test scores. Audit available.

Intended Outcomes

Upon completion of ENG 250 with a “C” or higher, students should be able to:

  1. Recognize the essentially oral nature of myths and folklore and examine how the context of oral performance shapes the meaning of a story.
  2. Discuss how a diverse range of specific myths function within the cultures that produce them.
  3. Explore a variety of scholarly approaches to mythology and folklore.
  4. Recognize recurring mythological themes and motifs in traditional myths and the arts.
  5. Explore how the collection, transcription and interpretation of myths reflect a process of cultural struggle and historical patterns of domination.
  6. Write clear, focused, coherent essays about literature for an academic audience, using standard English conventions of grammar and style.

Outcome Assessment Strategies

Assessment tools may include informal responses to study questions; evaluation of small-and full-group discussion; in-class and out-of-class writing; formal essays, as well as informal responses to study questions and other types of informal writing; close reading exercises using support/evidence; writing exercises which include evaluation of various interpretations of a text and their relative validity. Both instructor and peer evaluation may be incorporated into the assessment process.

Texts and Materials


  • Cinderella: A Casebook. Dundes. U Wisconsin P.
  • Classical Mythology. Powell. Prentice Hall.
  • Classical Mythology: Images and Insights. Harria and Platzner. Mayfield.
  • Classical Mythology. Morford and Lenardon.
  • Coyote Was Going There. Ramsey. U Washington P.
  • Elijah's Violin and Other Jewish Fairy Tales. Schwartz. Oxford UP.
  • Gabriel's Palace: Jewish Mystical Tales. Schwartz. Oxford UP.
  • Inanna. Wolkstein and Kramer. Harper and Row.
  • Memories and Visions of Paradise: Exploring the Universal Myth of a Lost Golden Age. Heinberg. St. Martin's P.
  • Miriam's Tambourine: Jewish Folktales from around the World. Schwartz. Oxford UP.
  • Mythmakers. Barnard. Breitenbush.
  • Old Tales and New Truths: Charting the Bright-Shadow World. King. State U of NY.
  • Odyssey. Trans. Fagels. Penguin.
  • Orality and Literacy. Ong.
  • Perrault's Fairy Tales. Dover.
  • Trickster Makes This World. Hyde. Farrar, Strauss, Giroux.
  • World Mythology. Rosenberg.

Course Activities and Design

The course design can include lecture, discussion, and group work, along with other activities such participating in group projects, film viewing, and so forth. Student activities will include reading and responding to course materials along with participating in the various other course activities.

Course Content (Themes, Concepts, Issues and Skills)

The course will introduce and foster understanding of:

  • Topics and themes of mythology and folklore.
  • Nature and function of mythology and folklore.
  • Relationship of myth to art, religion, history, and society.
  • Literary genres (epic, lyric, tragedy) by which previously oral traditions were preserved.
  • Various definitions of myth, legend, saga, folklore.
  • Interplay between myth and society.
  • Concept of the epic hero.
  • Comparative mythology and folklore.

Department Notes

Instructors may choose an anthology with excerpts, complete works, or a combination of both. The assigned readings will cover a range and diversity of mythology and folklore.