statue of Hecate

CLS/WMS 061:
The Feminine Archetype
in Myth and Art
Course Syllabus, Spring 1999

DESCRIPTION: A study of the ancient roots of our concept of femininity, with primary emphasis on the archetypal psychology of C.G. Jung. Drawing upon the mythology, literature, and art of ancient Greece and Rome, we will explore archetypal feminine symbolism in the context of matriarchal and patriarchal value systems.

OBJECTIVES: Students will demonstrate

  1. familiarity with the archetypal interpretation of symbolism formulated by Carl Gustav Jung and his followers
  2. comprehension of the influence of archetypal symbolism in literature and art, in society, and in individual life and development
  3. knowledge of the dynamics and symbols of the feminine archetype, especially as manifested in classical mythology and art; familiarity with the major goddesses of ancient Greece
  4. understanding of how the values of a culture are shaped by the dominance of the masculine or feminine archetype through a matriarchal or patriarchal attitude of consciousness; in particular, understanding of how these values contribute to the societal and individual construction of gender
  5. understanding of the psychological and mythic roots of our construction of femininity, and of how gender values operate in society and in individual life, particularly in relation to differential access to power
  6. ability to use an understanding of archetypal psychology to critique gender values, particularly in relation to their own lives as women; understanding of the importance of reinterpreting and reclaiming symbolism in order to empower women.


Lecture and extensive class discussion, copiously illustrated with slides, videotapes, and other audio-visuals.



Handouts: topics, assignments, and notes; selections from Greek and Roman authors, articles, outlines, etc.

Audio-visual materials: videotapes; extensive slides of ancient art, supplemented by later works up to the contemporary period (including also representations from popular culture); web syllabus with external links and other course materials.


Attendance: Regular attendance in this course is particularly crucial because much of the material presented in the lectures and slides cannot be acquired any other way. Since students are responsible for attending all classes, each absence in excess of four, whether excused or not, will result in a deduction of 3 points from the class participation portion of the grade. All assignments and notes will be posted on the course web site, and students are responsible for due dates and materials presented in class even when absent. (Please note that I will not give any “Incompletes” at the end of this course unless the student has a very serious reason which she has discussed with me in advance).

Class Participation: Completion of all assigned readings and active participation in class discussions and analysis of the myths, slides, and texts (all course objectives).

Unit Tasks: Individual units will conclude with a task in which the student will demonstrate her grasp of the material and her ability to apply it. Sheets describing these in more detail will be handed out later. Please note that dates listed here are approximate, depending on the progress of the course:

Course Project on Contemporary Archetypal Symbolism: Each student will either write a paper analyzing a modern use of archetypal feminine symbolism (in advertising, literature, film, art works, television, music or music videos, etc.) or she will employ archetypal feminine symbolism in an artistic or literary work of her own creation. On May 11 and 13, all students will discuss their projects with the class, either describing the content and conclusions of their papers or displaying/reading their creative works (objectives 2, 3, 5).

Adopt-a-Goddess Essay: (due May 20), in which the students will be asked to use and analyze some of the material of the course and reflect upon its value for modern women (all course objectives).


CLASSROOM: We require a classroom that is appropriate for viewing the many slides and videos in this course. The initial room was not suitable, so we changed to CC 241. However, this room was already reserved for 6 Thursdays. Accordingly, this class will be held in C 210 on the following Thursdays: February 4 and 18; March 4; April 1 and 15; May 6.


Castle 315 (extension 5399)
E-mail: or
My CNR home page and my VRoma home page

warning This course may change your whole way of thinking about gender; you may never be able to view written or visual representations of females in quite the same way again.