Shipwrecked: Conversion, Redemption, and Salvation in Shipwreck Narratives

History 100AP

Fall 2017
229 Dwinelle
Day & Time: 
TuTh 2-3:30
Class Number: 
  • This course satisfies the Pre-Modern Requirement for the History Major.
  • The course will focus on several crucial shipwreck narratives, in Homers Odyssey, the Ancient Egyptian Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor, Sophokles Philoktetes, passages in the Acts of the Apostles, referring to a shipwreck of the Apostle Paul, shipwrecks in Roman imperial romance novels, in Shakespeares Tempest and in Cotton Mathers account of a saving shipwreck (with, perhaps, passing glances at Dafoes Robinson Crusoe), to identify how narratives of ship-wreck and similar maritime catastrophes encapsulate encounters with the divine, conversion experiences, questions of religious and personal identity, and concepts of paradise. We will focus on the narrative pattern of these classic shipwreck accounts (that is, we will read the texts!), and then compare them to other conversion narratives (including martyr accounts). We will use approaches from cultural anthropology and literary theory to identify how the narrators use shipwrecks to talk about the relation between nature, the divine, and humans as individuals and members of a society (perhaps in crisis). The requirements will include short papers, in-class presentations of particular texts and themes, to be handed in, and a final paper. Attendance will form 10% of the grade.