course name and graphics
Time & Place:

Spring 2010
W 5:30-8:20
Riverside 1015


Joël Dubois (view home page)
Mendocino 2016, phone: (916) 278-5332, email:
Office Hours: M & W 10:30-12 and by appointment
Teaching Assistant: Amber Pebley

Course Policies & Schedule
(view printable PDF version)

DESCRIPTION: Introduction to the nature and function of myth. The specific literature studied will be exclusive of classical mythology and because of the breadth of subject matter will vary in content. The mythology of at least four cultures will be covered each term. (GE Area: C3)

THIS SECTION defines a myth as any story that establishes some connection between real life situations and dimensions of reality normally hidden from view; such stories differ from fairy tales and other similarly magical stories, which are designed primarily to stimulate the imagination. Team-based learning (see, facilitated by SacCT and eInstruction response pads ("clickers"), will be the primary mode of engaging with literature and film showing real people incorporating mythic stories into their daily lives; these are the primary sources for the course. In examining these sources, we will pay special attention to the relationship between mythic stories and the rituals that often frame them; the relevance of mythic stories to everyday human experience; and the ways in which such stories might be considered "true." We will focus on the following four cultural regions: (1) Native North America and the Pacific Rim, (2) Africa and its Latin American diaspora, (3) China and (4) the Indian Subcontinent and surrounding regions. Emphasis will be on the modern period, but the course will also consider briefly, via secondary readings, the way that mythology has developed historically since ancient times.

IMPORTANT NOTE: like most of the offerings in this department, "World Mythology" is READING INTENSIVE, assuming that you will dedicate 5-7 hours per week for reading and assignments outside of class time.

LEARNING OBJECTIVES: After attentively engaging with the materials presented in this course, you should be able to:

  1. (a) effectively answer basic questions, posed by a peer unfamiliar with the topic of mythology in world cultures, regarding key terms, mythic stories and rituals of the four world regions surveyed in this course; and
    (b) formulate questions regarding the aspects of mythology that you want to understand more fully, in order to guide you in locating and reading reliable sources that address those questions.
  2. (a) describe accurately and fairly, again for a peer unfamiliar with the topic, the assigned primary sources that show the impact of mythic stories on real people; and
    (b) present a balanced selection of details from those sources that supports your statements about them.
  3. (a) compare and contrast, for class members as well as peers outside the classroom, different viewpoints and stories within each tradition studied; and
    (b) compare and contrast the assigned stories with your own direct experience of telling a mythic story to others.
  4. effectively communicate with peers while refining the skills listed in #1-3.
  5. appreciate both the emotional impact and intellectual fascination of mythic stories throughout the globe in all periods of history.
  6. continue asking questions and gathering insights about your own and other people's mythic stories and their impact on daily life.

SOURCES: The two sources listed directly below contain all required readings and must be brought to all relevant class meetings. All but the first and last (for which instructions are provided below) are available at the Hornet Bookstore. The schedule of readings below refers to these sources using either a title abbreviation or the author's last name, as indicated below in parentheses in bold print.

Encyclopedia Britannica (EB) [free for enrolled students via links in the on-line version of the schedule below]
Karen Armstrong, A Short History of Myth (SHM) [ISBN #1-84195-716-X]--> the paperback edition is fine
Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony (Silko) [ISBN #0-14-008683-8]--> the older (1977 or 1988) Penguin Books ed.
Ahmadou Kourouma, The Suns of Independence (Kourouma) [ISBN #0-8419-0747-1]
Liu T'ieh YŁn, The Travels of Lao-Tsan (T'ieh YŁn) [ISBN #0-231-07255-4]
R.K. Narayan, The Guide (Narayan) [ISBN #0-14-011926-4]
"HRS 151: World Mythology" Course Pack (CP) [must be mail-ordered from
                           at the above URL (click the "Students Buy Here " button at the top right side) or call 1-800-200-3908]

You will also need an eInstruction response pad ("clicker") for use throughout the course. See below under "SacCT &Clickers" regarding how to register your clicker.

Optional: for those seeking more in-depth study of myth, you may wish to search on-line for the following sources.

Christopher Siren, Myths & Legends [on-line source]
Alan Dundes, Sacred Narratives: Readings in the Theory of Myth
Scott Leonard & Michael McClure, Myth and Knowing: an Introduction to World Mythology
Donna Rosenberg, ed., World Mythology

ATTENDANCE: Evaluation of your attendance in this course is built into other parts of the grade. Roughly two thirds of the class sessions involve the completion of a graded activity for which you cannot receive credit if you are absent; this includes team readiness assessments scored for each individual and team assignments for which attendance will be taken within each team. (See "Grading Policies" below regarding credit for missed assignments.) The remainder of class periods are study sessions designed to guide you in making sense of the assigneed readings; missing these will make successful completion of in-class assignments more difficult.

Regarding FLU & COLDS, if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms or a severe cold, please stay home. We will work out a way to make up missed work once you return; see below under "Absences " and "Grading Policies."

CLASSROOM ETIQUETTE: I ask students who arrive late to wait outside the door for a break following opening announcements (usually 10-15 minutes), at which point the door will be opened. If I am talking when you enter, take a seat near the door rather than crossing everyone's field of vision. To avoid distracting others once your are in the classroom, please:

Please contact me during the first two weeks of the term if you have a disability or other special circumstance that merits an exception to any of the above guidelines.

ABSENCES: Due to the amount of emails and calls I must process, I cannot provide information about every missed class to every absent student. If you miss a class or any part of one, please follow the steps below before contacting me by email or phone, which in many cases will not be necessary.

  1. Consult the syllabus to determine what activities you missed. If you missed a team assignment, you can still write the notes for it; see #4 below.
  2. Contact other members of your team ASAP to find out about any announcements, you may have missed, which are usually made during the first 10-15 minutes of a given class session. (You can use the "browse" function in SacCT mail (see below) to select student names from a list, or gather direct email addresses from team members you know best during the first weeks of the term.)
  3. When you return to class, approach me before or after class to retrieve any graded assignments that may have been returned during your absence. (I am not responsible for low scores on assignments resulting from failure to collect or read comments on earlier, similar assignments.)
  4. If you were absent during a team assignment, you may also submit notes for the missed assignment. (See below under "Grading Policies" for details regarding credit on missed team assignments.)

SACCT & CLICKERS: Class emails and grade posting will be handled through SacCT, the university's on-line instructional system. In order to be registered for this course in SacCT, you will need a valid saclink username and password; if you do not currently have one, call (278-7337); visit the Saclink Desk (Academic Information Resource Center, Room 2005, just behind the library); or simply go to and follow the instructions for "Set up Saclink" in the left-hand column.

The eInstruction RF reponse pad ("clicker"), available for purchase at the bookstore, will be required for assessments throughout the course, starting during the second week's class session. Once you have purchased the unit, you will need to create an account for it on-line at, which requires inputting the clicker's serial number (the number on the display when the unit is turned on). Finally, you will need to enroll for this class once logged into the above site, using this course's class key: K58216F994.

EMAIL: in order to receive updates regarding class sessions throughout the term, you are required to check the email included in your SacCT account on a regular basis for the duration of the course. Unless you log in to SacCT on a daily basis, please set your SacCT email to forward messages to your regular email address. To do so, (1) click on the "My Settings" link in the upper left hand corner; (2) selecting the "My Profile" tab and updating the profile to include the email address you actually use; and finally (3) selecting the "My Tool Options" and checking the "Mail Forwarding" option.

To contact me, please EMAIL ME DIRECTLY (not in SacCT) at; include the abbreviation "WM" or "HRS 151" in the subject heading. I typically respond to student emails on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, and usually sometime end of week or weekend, as time allows. For queries that require immediate attention, please call or leave a voice mail at 278-5332.

IMPORTANT: before contacting me by phone or email regarding an absence, which in many cases is not necessary, see the steps outlined above under "Absences."

ASSIGNMENTS: Assignments for this course are directly related to the learning objectives specified above. Students needing to skip assignments due to time constraints are advised to choose from #4-5; skipping #1-3 makes completing higher level assignments very difficult.

  1. four (4) in-class, on-line TRAs ("team readiness assessments")
    [lowest score dropped; 3 x 25 points for each individual & team = 150 points total]
  2. thirteen (13) in-class team assignments (350 points total)
    [participation requires bringing notes to a minimum of
        9 team assignments & attendance a minimum of 11 assigment days;
      extra points for each assignment distributed via a peer evaluation system]

    **view diagram of sequencing for TRAs and team assigments**

  3. selection & memorization of a story to be told weekly (100 points)
    [assessed via storytelling log and appointment during 2nd half of term]
  4. four (4) source analyses, drawing on optional films and readings listed for each unit
    [1-2 pages each, lowest score dropped; 3 x 50 points = 150 points total]
  5. two (2) guided reflections (100 + 150 points = 250 points total)
    [5 page worksheet, peer review, and final 5 page paper--all done twice]

[GRADING SCALE: 940-1000 points=A, 900-939=A-, 870-899=B+, 840--879=B, 800-839=B-, etc.]


SCHEDULE OF READINGS: All readings in this schedule should ideally be completed by the day under which they are listed, although this requirement is only assessed during TRAs and team assignments. All numbers in the schedule are page numbers unless otherwise noted. Optional readings in print are available at the Reserve Book Room (RBR), some in on-line form; videos are available at either the Library Media Center (LMC) or local video stores such as Blockbusters, as indicated.

If you click on a link to Encyclopedia Britanicca on-line from off-campus, you will initially be directed to an authentication page that asks you to enter your Saclink ID and password. WARNING: make sure that you use the links in the on-line version of this syllabus to access EB; going through the library's database page may lead you to different material that will likely confuse you when preparing for TRAs.

CAUTION: I reserve the right to make revisions to on-line materials prior to their discussion in class at the relevant point in the semester. Therefore WAIT until that time to print out materials you wish to have on hand, such as terms, excerpts and assignment guidelines.

NOTE: the following schedule incorporates one furlough day on Wednesday, March 24, pending administrative approval.

Introduction: Introduction to Myth & Team-Based Learning




Wed, January 27

introductions & inquiry:
"what is learning?"

review of syllabus

  • find syllabus on-line at
  • purchase books & student response pad ("clicker")
  • register clicker-->see above under "SacCT &Clickers"
  • check out (Sringeri Multi-Media Archive)

    [2nd half:]

guided reading for intro unit

view film excerpts from
"The Secret of Roan Innish"


LOCATE & study TERMS in these overviews:
"Myths, Stories & Reality" (on-line syllabus)
SHM, 1-12, 31-32
EB article: "Myth" (p.1, 4-6, 8)

LOCATE & study EXCERPTS in these primary sources:

Wed, February 3

form teams & take trial TRA

(same as above)

    [2nd half:]

trial team assignment



CHOOSE ONE item in this list if you wish
to complete a trial source analysis (OPTIONAL):

[DUE 2/10, counted as EXTRA CREDIT towards TRA #1]

[EB articles:]

  • "Myth: Approaches to Study" & "Functions" (p. 7, 9-22)
  • "Myth in Culture & Modern Society " (p. 7, 9-10, 23-33, 46-48)
  • "Myths: Major Types " (p. 7, 9-10, 34-45)
  • "Myth: Animals & Plants" (p. 49-67)

Unit 1: Native Americas & the Pacific Rim
Historical Focus: mythic stories of the Paleolithic period
Thematic Focus: animals revealing spiritual dimensions of daily life

Wed, February 10

guided reading for Unit 1

view excerpt from "Whale Rider"

LOCATE & study TERMS in these overviews:
SHM, 12-40, 104-8, 112-13, 116-18; CP, 8-10
EB articles: "Southwest Indian" (p. 1, p.6-9) & "Maya"
"Polynesian Culture" (p.1 & 5), "New Zealand Literature" ( p.2)

    [2nd half:]

guided reading for Unit 1 (cont'd)

2nd excerpt from "Whale Rider"

LOCATE & study EXCERPTS in these primary sources:
Silko, Ceremony-->download study guide (if not in CP)
Sullivan, "Royal Treatment" (CP, 19-34)

Wed, February 17

TRA #1

(same as above)

    [2nd half:]

*Story Summary* DUE

team assignment 1a

Sullivan, "Royal Treatment" (CP, 19-34)

Wed, February 24

team assignment 1b

Silko, Ceremony (entire book)

    [2nd half:]

continuing discussion of novel
& team assignment 1c

notes on "Whale Rider"
Silko novel & Sullivan chapter


CHOOSE ONE item in this list for the source analysis
(due NEXT class period):

from Silko, Storyteller (@ RBR)

  • p. 1-7, 77-89 (on-line: click link in RBR list)
  • 182-198 &/OR 210-15
  • p.123-129, 160-6, 170-176
  • p. 240-41, 246, 254-65
  • p. 235-41, 247-53

The Horse Boy (excerpt)--> on-line: click link in RBR list

[Any of these sources may also be used for EXTRA CREDIT]

[EB articles:]


Unit 2: African & the African-American Diaspora
Historical Focus: mythic stories of the Neolythic period
Thematic Focus: supernatural forces & spirits manifesting through natural processes

Wed, March 3

*Unit 1 Source Analysis*
(PDF/ MS Word)
DUE beginning of class

guided reading for Unit 2

view excerpt from
"Keita: Heritage of the Griot" (@LMC)

LOCATE & study TERMS in these overviews:
SHM, 1-2, 41-78, 108-12, 114-16; CP, 11-12
EB articles: "Griot," "African Religion" (p.1-5), "Vodou"
& "South America: African heritage regions" (p.63)

LOCATE & study EXCERPTS in these primary sources:
Kourouma, Suns of Independence -->download study guide (if not in CP)
Griaule, selections from Conversations with Ogotemmeli (CP, 35-56)
Deren, "The White Darkness" (CP, 57-68)

Wed, March 10

TRA #2

(same as above)

    [2nd half:]

team assignment 2a

Griaule, selections from Conversations with Ogotemmeli (CP, 35-56)
Deren, "The White Darkness" (CP, 57-68)

Wed, March 17

*1st Guided Reflection worksheet*
DUE beginning of class
[view sample]

team assignment 2b

Kourouma, Suns of Independence (entire book)

    [2nd half:]

continuing discussion of novel
& team assignment 2c

notes on "Keita: Heritage of the Griot"
Kourouma novel & Griaule/Deren chatpers


CHOOSE ONE item in this list for the source analysis
(due NEXT week):

from Conversations with Ogotemmeli (@RBR):

  • Days #5 & 6, p. 35-46
  • Days #7 & 8, p. 47-61
  • Days #9, 10 & 21, p. 75-83, 138-43
  • Days #15-17, p.99-114
  • Days #24, 30 & 31, p.155-61, 197-208

[Any of these sources may also be used for EXTRA CREDIT]

EB articles:

  • "Mesopotamian Religion" (p.1-10 &/OR 11-21)
  • "Mali: Land & People" (p.1-11)
  • "Mali: Culture & History" (p.1, 27-39)


Wed, March 24 *Unit 2 Source Analysis*
(PDF/ MS Word) & peer evaluation
DUE 3/24 @ RIV 1015, 5:30 pm

Unit 3: China
Historical Focus: mythic stories of the Axial age
Thematic Focus: the therapeutic function of mythic stories

Wed, April 7


*first Guided Reflection*
DUE beginning of class,
with worksheet attached

guided reading for Unit 3

view excerpt from "King of Masks" (@LMC)

LOCATE & study TERMS in these overviews:
SHM, 79-92, 97-103; CP, 13 & 17; EB articles:
"bodhisattva," "shen," "Huang He,"" "Boxer Rebellion"
Daoism (p.3, 13, 20, 27-28, 41-44, 47)

LOCATE & study EXCERPTS in these primary sources:
T'ieh-yün, Travels of Lao Ts'an (only pages listed below:
intro xi-xix, preface, ch.1, 3-4, 7-14, p.226-31 & SKIM remainder)
-->download study guide (if not in CP)
Potter, "Cantonese Shamanism" (CP, 69-82)

Wed, April 14

TRA #3

(same as above)

    [2nd half:]

team assignment 3a

Potter, "Cantonese Shamanism"(CP, 69-82)

Wed, April 21

team assignment 3b

T'ieh-yün, Travels of Lao Ts'an
(intro xi-xix, ch.1, 3-4, 7-14, p.226-31 & SKIM remainder)

    [2nd half:]

continuing discussion of novel
& team assignment 3c

notes on "King of Masks"
T'ieh-yün novel & Potter chapter


EXTRA CREDIT sources for the source analysis
(due NEXT class period) :

Religion & Ritual in Chinese Society (@ RBR):

  • "Architecture & the Supernatural," p. 183-92
  • "When a Ghost Becomes a God," p.193-206
  • "Cosmic Antagonism," p.233-50
  • "Taoist Ceremonies," p.309-324
  • "Orthodoxy & Heterodoxy," p.325-336

[EB articles:]

from Travels of Lao-Tsan:

  • p. ix-xv ("Translator's Introduction")
  • p. 235-44 &/OR 250-59 (footnotes)

Unit 4 : India
Historical Focus: Western transformations of mythic thinking, pre-modern and modern
Thematic Focus: functional vs. dysfunctional uses of mythic stories

Wed, April 28

*Unit 3 Source Analysis*
(PDF/ MS Word)
DUE beginning of class

guided reading for Unit 4

view excerpts from "Water" (@ local stores)

LOCATE & study TERMS in these overviews:
SHM, 71, 88-90, 92-93, 119-32; CP, 15-16
EB articles: "Hinduism: Sacred Texts" (p.1-2, 45, 65-67), "karma," "Vishnu,"
"Krishna," "ashrama," "M.K.. Gandhi," "sadhu & swami," "Nataraja,"

LOCATE & study EXCERPTS in these primary sources:
Narayan, The Guide-->download study guide (if not in CP)
Raheja & Gold, "A Storyteller's Story" (CP, 83-88)

Wed, May 5

TRA #4

(same as above)

    [2nd half:]

team assignment 4a

Raheja & Gold, "A Storyteller's Story" (CP, 83-88)

Wed, May 12

*Final Guided Reflection worksheet*
DUE beginning of class

team assignment 4b

Narayan, The Guide (entire book)

    [2nd half:]

team assignment 4c

*Unit 4 Source Analysis*
(PDF/ MS Word)
DUE Mon, 5/17
@ MND 2016 by 5 pm

notes from "Water"
Narayan novel & Raheja/Gold chapter


CHOOSE ONE item in this list for the source analysis
(due NEXT week):

[Any of these sources may also be used for EXTRA CREDIT]

[EB articles:]

  • "Hinduism: History" (p.18-28)
  • "Hinduism: Veda " (p.46-57))
  • "Buddhism: the Buddha & India " (p.2-14)

  • SHM, 138-47

Wed, May 19

*follow-up Guided Reflection*
DUE beginning of class

view excerpt from
"What the Bleep Do We Know?"

final team assignment

SHM, 132-38, 147-149
excerpts from favorite novel(s) & chapter(s)

WARNING: Barring submission of a petition for an incomplete and in contrast to my late policy during the semester, no final guided reflections will be accepted after the beginning of class of the final class session.

Also, if you wish to retrieve your final guided reflection, please attach to your paper a self-addressed stamped envelope (4" x 9" is usually OK if unless your paper is unusally thick) with sufficient postage for 3 ounces (currently $0.76 or two first-class stamps). Papers submitted without an envelope will receive only minimal comments and eventually be recycled without shredding.

Team Assignment Prep & Follow-Up


• Africa: Myths & Realities" (ETHN 010)

• "Native American Religion & Philosophy" (ETHN 050)

• "Arts & Ideas of Asia" (HRS 70 & 71)

• "Introduction to World Literatures in English" (ENGL 065)