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Rewriting Mythologies in 20th Century Literature (EN3113)

Summer Reading List (2014-15)

Course Tutor: Dr Finn Fordham

Dear all,

Hope you’re enjoying the summer.

Here are some titles for the myths course to add to your Summer reading lists. I can’t emphasise enough how much fun can be had getting plenty of relevant reading done before the course begins. I’m not asking for much, and so I do expect you to have what follows firmly under your belt when we meet in the Autumn.  

There are two main areas of this course: the classical myths themselves and ‘myth theory’. For your summer you should get to know the myths which are, in order of importance:

1. Ovid’s Metamorphoses

This is an electrifying powerhouse of mythical narratives and probably the most influential collection of stories after the Bible. It also happens to be a lot more entertaining – sexier, funnier and altogether stranger. For these reasons it has been inspiring for many authors of English Literature. There are two translations provided by Penguin, one in prose by Mary Innes which is out of print, but you can buy it second hand here:


and one in verse by David Raeburn:   


I would recommend Innes’s translation, because her prose is quicker to read than Raeburn’s, though his verse is impressive. You might want to read Ted Hughes’s freer versions of a selection in his Tales from Ovid.

Read also the following plays;

2. Euripides, The Bacchae

3. Sophocles, Oedipus Rex

4. Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound

5. Aeschylus, Agamemnon

Each one takes under an hour to read and each one is gripping. There are many good translations of these, and all texts (in sometimes old-fashioned versions) are available on-line via google.   The ones I recommend are all translated in the University of Chicago’s Complete Greek Tragedies edited by David Grene and Richard Lattimore, which you will be able to purchase, here: http://www.amazon.com/Euripides-Electra-Phoenician-Complete-Tragedies/dp/0226307840/ref=pd_sim_b_1

here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Complete-Greek-Tragedies-Sophocles-Pt-1/dp/0226307921

here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Complete-Greek-Tragedies-Aeschylus-v-1/dp/0226307786

and here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Complete-Greek-Tragedies-Aeschylus-Pt-2/dp/0226307948/ref=pd_sim_b_2

 In addition, you should be at least familiar with the stories and, through selective reading of a couple of “books” (or chapters) from each, the heightened style of

6. the three great classical epics:

  • Homer, The Iliad
  • Homer ,The Odyssey
  • Virgil, The Aeneid.  

You should be able to do this by finding versions on-line.

If you have time after all of this, you should start looking into myth theory and theories of ‘rewriting’. Succinct summaries you will find in:


7. Robert Segal Myth: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).

8. Julie Sanders Adaptation and Appropriation (London: Routledge, 2008) 


Happy reading and please do get in touch if you have any questions. See you in October! 

Dr Finn Fordham finn.fordham@rhul.ac.uk



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