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Interpretative Seminar: Oedipus the King across Medieval Cultures

Class at Faculty of Arts |


1. Basic/Greek Oedipus (Sophocles)

2. Latin Oedipus (Statius, Seneca)

3. Short test focusing on students’ knowledge of Sophocles’ version

4. Vernacular Oedipus (Roman de Thèbes)

5. Christian Oedipus (Judas and Gregorius)

6. Sphynx and monstrosity (“Vatican Mythographers”)

7. “Blind by crying” (Planctus Oedipi)

8. Power & politics (Boccaccio, De casibus virorum illustrium)

9. Oedipal connections I: Classical heroes

10. Oedipal connections II: Arthurian heroes

11. Oedipal connections III: Epic heroes



Erasmus Class: Exchange – 09.2 General and Comparative Literature

The tragedy of Oedipus the King represents for us a prime example of Greek drama. Sigmund Freud and his disciples have turned its protagonist into a kind of “everyman” on whose fate can (and has to) participate every human being. In this seminar the stu-dents will take a closer look on resonances of this story in the medieval culture.

As Lowell Edmunds points out, there are basically three ways through which the Oedi-pus myth had reached medieval audience (in absence of the original dramatic text). In the first place, probably the most widespread text referring to the basic narrative of Oedipus’ life was a prologue to the Thebaid, a 1st century Latin epic written by Statius, that was highly popular throughout the Middle Ages and eventually served as a model for influential vernacular retellings. Secondly, there are distinguishable vestiges of the Oedipus myth in legends, especially in stories of the pope Gregorius and of Judas Iscariot. The third medieval textual artifact of this kind, perhaps the one most in tune with the original tragic story and its dramatic form, is the Planctus Oedipi, where the protagonist finds his own voice to lament over his own fate and the future of his children.

The participants in this seminar will use these three basic textual types to gain access into the wider body of medieval literature, paying attention especially to problems, mo-tives or lines of argument that connect various medieval literatures across the bounda-ries of languages or cultures, both clerical and lay.

Undergraduate students are welcome, as the course will equip them with basic tools that can be used in dealing with medieval literature.

Each enrolled student is obliged to prepare one short paper that will open a classroom discussion upon one selected text or theme. Those papers are to be submitted in written form (500–1000 words).

Third lesson will start with a short and basic test in knowledge of the Oedipus story. Taking part in this test is a prerequisite for completing the course.

We will use comprehensible English in class. Papers can be written also in French, Spanish or Czech.

For the successful completion of the course 70 % attendance is required in addition to the test and the paper.

The majority of lessons will be focused on some basic plots or problems and will be based on selected passages of medieval text. All the texts will be made available in Mod-ern English translations.

The basic list of themes and texts below may be enlarged or modified to suit particular students’ needs and tastes. Definitive schedule will be agreed upon in the first lesson.