About This Site

I teach an Expository Writing course (English 220) at the University of New Mexico's branch in Taos, and the theme for this class is "Crossing Paths on the Hero's Journey." We focus on learning about the pattern of the monomyth described by Joseph Campbell and modified by Christopher Vogler. We also focus on varieties of heroes, narratives, and mediums, and on intertextual connections among narratives and mediums. There is a strong element of pop culture analysis that goes along with this, as we view popular movies, discuss the phenomenon of the popularity of superheroes, etc.

This site serves as a resource for my students, and hopefully for other teachers.  The site is also for the purpose of allowing my students to express their own unique discoveries and interpretations fueled by what they learn in class, so most of the posts are written by students in response to writing prompts given by me.

Topics covered in the first offering of this class in Spring 2014 included:

  • The Odyssey, and its intertextual connections with Cold Mountain (movie).
  • Arthurian Holy Grail quest literature, and its intertextual connections with The Fisher King (movie).
  • "Metal Men" archetypes: from medieval knights, to the Tin Woodman of The Wizard of Oz, to the movie The Iron Giant and the book by Ted Hughes it was based on, to Iron Man, the comic book and movie character.
  • Superheroes, as they appear in comic books and movies, with a focus on Iron Man and Wonder Woman.
  • Anti-heroes, with a viewing and discussion of the film V for Vendetta.  
  • Real life heroes, with a focus on Erin Gruwell and her students, through the movie Freedom Writers and the Freedom Writers Foundation website.
The second offering in Spring 2015 will vary some.  We will begin with a viewing and discussion of the movie Stranger Than Fiction, will be reading the wonderful graphic novel version of The Odyssey by Gareth Hinds, and we won't be watching Cold Mountain this time.  We also won't be delving into the Holy Grail and Fisher King texts but will spend more time with The Odyssey instead.  The "Metal Men" unit has been shortened a bit, and we'll be spending more time with Wonder Woman, reading a few of the comic book stories from the collection Wonder Woman: The Greatest Stories Ever Told.  The "real life heroes" portion of the class will be expanded and instead of focusing on the Freedom Writers, we will discuss Persepolis, and compare and contrast the heroine and author of this graphic memoir to Nobel Prize-winning teenager Malala Yousafzai. Both of these women have dealt with oppression and the struggle to obtain an education under Islamic extremism, although in some ways their stories are very different.

For the first essay, students will write a personal hero's journey analysis, applying the model to their own lives.  For the second essay, each student will choose an area to research, delving deeper and more specifically into an intertextual topic of their choice.  

This semester the final assignment will be a collaborative essay for which groups will define heroism, analyze a fictional or real life character who exemplifies this definition, and apply the hero's journey model to that character's life.  They will then present to the class on this topic. 

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