The Origin of Everything: Creation Myths Around the World

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This course is under review for 2021. Course registration will open to accepted students once courses are confirmed.

Course Description

This course is designed specifically for English Language Learners interested in further developing their English skills in a challenging college-level academic setting.

Even today in the midst of rapid scientific advancements, we often ask some of life's most fundamental questions: how did the world come to be and where did we come from? Already in the ancient times, numerous civilizations all around the world were asking these same questions. They had created narratives about the origin of space and time, gods and mankind, good and evil, which became deeply rooted in their mythologies. In this class we will explore what stories these creation myths tell and how they compare across different cultures and time periods.

We shall investigate thematically various creation accounts that are attested in many different civilizations and time periods. We will look particularly at the creation stories of Africa, Asia, Americas, Near East and Europe. These will include, among others, the mythologies of ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt, the Mayas, China and Japan, as well as numerous cultures of North America such as Cherokee and Hopi. We will investigate such themes and motifs as primordial waters, the origin of evil, the separation of sky and earth, the role of sun in creation, the cosmic egg, creator gods, the flood, creation by utterance, or ex nihilo creation. We will look at how these motifs vary and compare in different cultures and thus will become familiar with the belief systems and religions of various peoples across time and space.

Class format will be a combination of group discussions and lectures, supplemented by documentary videos. Students will be asked to do short daily readings and fill out worksheets with several questions related to the set reading and topic. By the end of the course, students will acquire a general knowledge about how peoples across the world employed their fantasies to answer the ever-present question of the origin of everything.

Through a comparative framework, students will acquire a general understanding of the creation accounts as attested in different cultures. They will gain the basic knowledge of various religions around the world and will learn the theories connected with the study of mythology. They will develop critical and comparative thinking skills, especially in primary source analyses, which are one of the most important assets in studying humanities.

Prerequisites: None

Course Information

  • Course Code: CEAN0801
  • Length: 2 weeks

Program Information

[email protected] for English Language Learners

A select group of non-credit courses in the liberal arts and sciences supplemented with English language learning, two weeks long, taught on Brown’s campus. For University-bound English language learners completing grades 9-12 by June 2021.

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