Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
First-Year Seminar


FYS Section A25. The Myth of the Hieroglyph

Ancient Egypt has always held a privileged place in the history of Western culture as a land where gods and goddesses whispered secrets in the ears of a special few who passed their knowledge on in riddles. Central to this view of the Egyptians is the hieroglyph, a code for an esoteric wisdom that joined the earthly philosopher to the divine world and brought the dead back to life. Why? This course will ask you to learn to draw the basic Egyptian alphabet, to read some basic hieroglyphic inscriptions, to view Egyptian culture both from an Egyptian perspective (through a trip to Boston’s Museum of Fine Art) and from various Western perspectives in religion literature, film, and art (Isis in the Greco-Roman world; Mozart’s Magic Flute; Boris Karloff as The Mummy; the controversial Black Athena). Why does the West long for a deeper wisdom, an African wisdom, just over the boundaries of the world that it knows?

Joel C. RelihanJoel C. Relihan
Professor of Classics