English 2270
Olympic Games and Literature
Dr. Lyle Olsen
East Tennessee State University

COURSE OBJECTIVES: The course is designed as a study of Olympic heroes and anti-heroes encountered in various types of fiction, nonfiction, drama, cinema, and television. The Olympics, as a metaphor, has received a remarkable amount of attention in the best interpretive literature. A wide range of writers have and are using Olympic themes and athletes (both fictional and real) to portray important facets of American society. The works emphasize the strengths and weaknesses coupled with the glamorous and the ridiculous as reflected in American culture.
LITERARY OBJECTIVES: The course is designed so that the student may
  • critically read, discuss and compare published pieces by gifted writers who use the Olympics as a metaphor
  • enjoy a wide variety of nonfiction that follows the historical thread of Olympic heroes and themes
  • critically analyze characters, themes, form and content in selection fiction
  • recognize how and why authors use the Olympics to express viewpoints about the human condition
  • be able to discriminate between poor and quality work
  • relate the readings, classwork, and critique to life, education and attitudes toward literature.
    1. Glanville, Brian. The Olympian, New York: Coward-McCann, 1969.
    2. Guttman, Allen. The Olympics: A History of the Modern Games, Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press,1992.
    3. Halberstam, David. The Amateurs, New York: William Morrow, 1985.
    4. Miller, Stephen G. Arete: Ancient Writers, Papyri, and Inscriptions on the History and Ideals of Greek Athletics and Games, Chicago: Ares, 1979.
    • Carlson, Lewis H. and John J. Fogarty. Tales of Gold, Chicago: Contemporary Books, 1987.
    • Hart-Davis, Duff. Hitler's Games: The 1936 Olympics, London: Century, 1986.
    • MacAloon, John J. This Great Symbol: Pierre de Coubertin and the Origins of the Modern Olympic Games, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1981.
    • Mandell, Richard D. The First Modern Olympics, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976.
    1. Introduction
      • discussion of course requirements and objectives, short book
      • reviews of texts, and cursory examination of Halberstam
      • study Tom Boswell's Olympic essay
      • student response to one of the Olympic themes
    2. High And Low Points of Olympic History
      • Guttman (1-21)
      • Halberstam (ch 1-3)
      • Steven Miller (scan 1-13)
    3. Skill and Prowess
      • Guttman (21-37)
      • Halberstam (Ch 4-7)
      • Miller (1-13)
      • Homer (bks 22-23 Iliad)
    4. First critical paper: The Price of Dedication
    5. Heroes of the Game
      • Guttman (chs 3-4)
      • Halberstam (Chs 8-12)
      • Miller (13-16)
    6. Tricks of the Trade
      • Guttman (chs 5-6)
      • Halberstam (chs 13-18)
      • Miller (33-44)
      • Film: "Chariots of Fire"
    7. The Olympics, Beauty and Art
      • Guttman (chs 5-6)
      • Halberstam (chs 19-22)
      • Miller (95-101)
      • Michener (from The Source)
    8. Second critical paper: Analyze common theme in reading
    9. Fathers and Sons
      • Guttman (chs 7-9)
      • Halberstam (chs 23-33 and epilogue)
      • Miller (Plato and Pindar)
    10. Paradise Lost and Sometimes Regained
      • Guttman (chs 10-11)
      • Brian Glanville (chs I-III)
      • The First Modern Olympics
    11. Varieties of Religious Experience
      • Guttman (The Games Must Go On)
      • Glanville (chs IV-IX)
      • Film: "Personal Best"
    12. Third Critical Paper: the Olympics as secular religion
    13. Rules and Authority--Fate and Luck
      • Glanville (chs X-XII)
      • Politics and the Olympic Games
      • Joyce Carol Oates On Boxing
    14. Variety of Sports in the Olympics
      • Bill Bradley's Essay
      • John MacAloon (This Great Symbol)
      • Film: "The Olympiad"
    15. The Atlanta Games
      • The business of the Olympics
      • David C Young's The Olympic Myth of Greek Amateur Athletics
    16. Art and the Olympics
      • Film: "Visions of Eight"
    17. Closing Ceremonies
      • Guttman review
      • Halberstam review
      • Miller review
      • Glanville review

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