Class Spotlight: Literary Journeys and Quests

This semester, Lauren Sullivan decided to teach a new class entitled Literary Journeys and Quests. The class centers around studying the hero’s journey through ancient Greek literature. In this class, students are reading ancient texts and writing a response to the texts every week. Readings include the Epic of Gilgamesh, Siddartha by Herman Hesse, and The Odyssey by Homer. 

Sullivan was inspired to teach this class by a class she took her senior year of college. In her college class, she read myths, poems, and epics about ancient creation. She looked through her notebooks from the college class to gather ideas for what a Greek mythology class might look like at Village School. From these notebooks, Sullivan saw a common theme- the hero’s journey.

The hero’s journey is also a prompt for the weekly journals the students write each week. Other prompts include ones that focus on literary elements, like setting, conflict, symbolism, and theme. Upon finishing a text, the students write a thesis paper based on the book. Sullivan says that the journals are “a great opportunity to reflect on the characters in the story.” She also says that she sees the students connecting the fears, desires, and adventures of the characters to their own. 

Student Carolyn Liu says that the elective’s topics confused her at first. “The strange letters ‘J’ and ‘Q’ had me puzzled. I knew it was an English class and Lauren would discuss literature, but that was all I knew,” she said. But when Liu heard that the class would focus on ancient books, like the Epic of Gilgamesh, she was ecstatic. “I couldn’t believe I was about to actually read through a work that is thousands of years old,” Liu said. She also provided some insight on what she learned about Gilgamesh’s character, saying that in the text, he “embarks on a journey in search of immortality after the death of his beloved friend; however, he was masking his grief, thinking that it would be solved with immortality.” 

Student Jordan Sieden praised the book Gilgamesh when asked to talk about Sullivan’s elective. Sieden said that “Gilgamesh was a must read, and by far a favorite of the class.” She said that this text “really kept the class on their toes. We were waiting at the edge of our seats to figure out what would come of the great king.” Sieden also said that the next book the class will read is the Odyssey. “It’s very mythical, and a very advanced text. It’s interesting and keeps you engaged because the next line is a mystery.”