The epic hero is a part of the journey or quest as a component of the epic poem itself. The National Endowment for the Humanities Education Site describes the epic hero cycle as having the following elements: an extraordinary hero who is charged with a journey or quest. The quest itself has obstacles that force the hero to prove himself. In some cases mystical or supernatural beings are for or against the hero and may even lead that hero into the supernatural world, where other humans have never been. Like the tragic hero, the epic hero reaches a low point but rather than die, like the tragic hero, the epic hero resurrects himself and the epic comes to its resolution. Learning about the epic cycle and the epic hero is where the curriculum unit will begin. Students will first learn about the cycle, initially using prior knowledge of epics they may have read (
The Odyssey, The Iliad
) or viewed (
The Lord of the Rings
). The class would also be asked to look at how this literary hero differs from the connotations associated with traditional heroes or persons they may call "hero".
Once the students are comfortable with epics and their elements, we would move toward the ancient epic,
. Since students take World Civilizations as ninth graders and have spent a varying amount of time on Mesopotamia, we would begin with background information on the geography, time period, and other historical elements necessary for understanding when and where
was written. Also, this is a chance to look at a culture and what it valued; this allows for discussion on today's society and its values as well as discussion as we read and where we see examples of cultural values in the text of
. Before even beginning the text, students will have literary and historical knowledge to apply to the text.
The heart of the curriculum lessons will be based on reading the
Epic of Gilgamesh
. Translated from twelve stone tablets,
details Uruk's king, Gilgamesh and his obstacles, relationships, use (and potential misuse) of power, and his learning that he needs more than strength to be successful
All of these elements become viable topics for discussion and analysis. Also, there is an element of the epic that mirrors the Flood Story of Noah from the Bible and can be used to introduce the Bible as literature with a comparison piece. When the reading nears the end, students will revisit the idea of hero, as defined literarily and traditionally. Does Gilgamesh neatly fit into the definitions we had? I hope to find many areas that my students can relate to and connect to themselves and the world.
also allows for discussion of greater issues in literature and life: roles of women, the use and abuse of power, friendship, and the importance of the epic in a particular society or culture. Students will be given a chance to read and explore other epics if they become interested but this unit will focus solely on
This curriculum unit will easily align with the literacy standards set forth by the New Haven School District. The Literacy Standards ask that students read, write, speak, listen, view and research; this unit lends itself to accomplishing all six. The unit will utilize a variety of strategies to have students reading, writing, discussing, and analyzing with the potential for oral presentations and research projects. This unit is designed to utilize as much of the 82 minute block class as possible. Career is a magnet school where students follow either a business/computer track or a health/medical track. The tracks are like a "major" with specific requirements for graduation. The make up of Career High School is that of African American, Latino, Asian, Caucasian and many other ethnicities. Students are from New Haven as well as the suburbs surrounding New Haven.