COMPLIT 122 - Writing World Literatures
Section: 003 Greek Gods in Baltimore - Greek Tragedy and the Wire
Term: WN 2008
Subject: Comparative Literature (COMPLIT)
Department: LSA Comparative Literature
Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:

Greek Gods in Baltimore...Greek Tragedy and the Wire “...The Wire is a Greek tragedy in which the postmodern institutions are the Olympian forces...Much of our modern theater seems rooted in the Shakespearean discovery of the modern mind. We’re stealing instead from an earlier, less-traveled construct–the Greeks–lifting our thematic stance wholesale from Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides to create doomed and fated protagonists.” – David Simon, Creator-Writer-Producer of HBO’s The Wire (The Believer, August 2007) In June, 2002, The Wire premiered on HBO. Now entering its fifth and final season, The Wire has given its audience a glimpse into the tribulations of a postindustrial city, into lives subject to large and mostly incomprehensible forces. David Simon has claimed that he and his co-writers created The Wire as a contemporary reincarnation of fifth-century Greek tragedy. But what does he mean by this? Simon, in the same interview quoted above, also claimed that other HBO shows such as Deadwood and The Sopranos spring from a “modern” Shakespearean tradition. How so? In this course, we will be answering these and many more questions. For example: What process does the phrase “modern adaptation” describe? Could it be said that this process is another mode of translation? How so? In 1960, the critic George Steiner wrote that tragedy was either dead, alive by way of new forms and technologies, or soon to be resuscitated in a fate-dominated future. Does The Wire represent any of these possibilities? How so? Readings will include Aeschylus’ Oresteia, Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, Euripides’ The Bacchae, Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Aristotle’s Poetics and George Steiner’s The Death of Tragedy. You will need to see each episode of Seasons One through Three of The Wire (preferably before the fourth week of the class), in addition to selected episodes of Deadwood and The Sopranos. Requirements: class participation, two comparative essays, one book review and one proposal for a modern adaptation.

COMPLIT 122 - Writing World Literatures
Schedule Listing
001 (REC)
MWF 9:00AM - 10:00AM
002 (REC)
MWF 11:00AM - 12:00PM
003 (REC)
TuTh 11:30AM - 1:00PM
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