In this course students will study classic greek narratives as inspiration and departure to creating virtual works in 3D software and importing into games engines for creation of experimental narratives and new forms of virtual reality works. The primary software is c4d and unity game engine along with the use of the Google Cardboard, Vive and Oculus Rift.

Instructors:          Tom Hawkins, Associate Professor of Classics (hawkins.312)

Ken Rinaldo, Professor of Art, Art and Technology (rinaldo.2)

Prerequisites: Approval of either instructor

Intended student rank: Upper level undergraduates and any graduate students with an interest in the intersections of Classics, Art and Technology. This is not a GE course.

Rationale and Description. This course aims to take the oldest and most foundational tales from the Western tradition and project them into the future in an effort to answer a question posed by Lev Manovich (The Language of New Media, 2002): What are the ways in which new media relies on older cultural forms and languages, and what are the ways in which it breaks with them? This radical goal combines the intellectual and pedagogical interests of an antiquarian and a futurist and locates our course at a logical intersection of our two departments. In this course, classical narratives will inform artistic media productions that draw upon the latest innovations in imaging such as 3D modeling, Google Cardboard, Unity Game Engine and the Oculus Rift immersive virtual reality display.

Students coming more from a humanities perspective will find new ways of expressing classical motifs and themes in sophisticated artistic creations that comment upon, critique, reflect and even help shape contemporary culture. Students from artistic backgrounds will be introduced to stories that have provided raw material for much of the Western cultural tradition and have shaped the categories of art, science, entertainment, philosophy and literature.

Neither Hawkins nor Rinaldo could teach this class independently, but our interdisciplinary objectives will create a cohesive experience in which students will gain a variety of skills as they will research, imagine, design, articulate and create new worlds and forms of art with ancient and contemporary mythological narratives as inspiration.

We have two broad goals for this course, each of which will be supported by the individual learning objectives described in the sections on themes and course outline below:

  1. Facilitate an understanding of how classical narratives about the boundaries of human existence continue to influence modern intellectual categories and artistic production. This will be achieved by reading, analyzing and discussing stories about humans in relation to plants, animals, gods, robots, heroes, superheroes and mortality. Emphasis will be placed on verbal, imagistic and written articulation of ideas and concepts. This class supports the primary mission of the Classics Department in terms of teaching the literature of classical antiquity and its enduring influence on Western culture.
  2. Support students working in teams and as individuals to conceptualize, design and create expressions of future narratives based on an awareness of the human/animal/machine in a variety of story worlds. Promote and support new media technologies, such as 3-D modeling, animation, game engines and virtual reality (including the Oculus Rift) to find new ways of remixing classical narratives in art. The skillsets and projects associated with this dimension of the class address the core goals of the Art and Technology Program within the Department of Art.

In order to move toward these goals, evaluation will take many forms, and Hawkins and Rinaldo will share duties at every point. Basic evaluation of narrative competence, for example, will take the form of quizzes and the ability to speak articulately to the themes and issues of given assignments; and technical objectives will be assessed with frequent project deadlines and both faculty and group feedback on student work. The largest portion of students grades will be determined by individual and group projects in which students will develop complex works of writing / art that combine the conceptual, theoretical and material aspects of what is offered in this course.

These projects will be flexibly articulated to correspond to students interests and skill-sets and each will combine written/discursive and creative/performative elements that draw upon our study of ancient narratives and new media techniques. We envision three such projects, the first involving verbal and visual sketches of imagined worlds, the second using some form of 3D imaging to create a world, and the third being a larger, more open-ended expression of students own goals for this material. We plan to encourage group work at every stage, both as a way to harness individual strengths and to produce more complex and carefully articulated final products. We hope that some students will use their final projects as stepping stones toward future work (artist portfolios, business ventures, senior theses, etc.)

In terms of pedagogy, Rinaldo and Hawkins will work together on every session of this course to ensure that each assignment and activity addresses the overarching goals of the course in a unified way. Given the radical nature of our plan to marry classical antiquity to the latest innovations in art and technology, this basic pedagogical statement will take shape in a variety of ways. For some sessions one instructor will take the lead, while the other will provide contextualizing support to show how the main themes of the day speak to his discipline. In some cases we will split the class according to enrollment (Classics or Art and Tech) so that Rinaldo can give advanced technical instruction to students from his department and Hawkins can do the same to students from his. But this split will also be reversed so that Rinaldo can assist Classics students in getting up to speed with the basics of our technology, while Hawkins will help the Art and Tech students understand more deeply the importance of narrative.


  1. How are stories conveyed to an audience? Who gets to tell them? When is it appropriate to tell a story? What are the technical issues that underpin the telling of a story? Examples include Homer, Demodocus (a bard in the Odyssey), Odysseus (who tells much of his own tale in the Odyssey), Athenian citizen playwrights and actors. How do modern technologies facilitate or impede the telling of stories? Examples include books, video, and visualizations from the most abstract and metaphorical to highly accurate 3D visualizations to virtual reality. In various forms of media sound, image, performance and interactivity can come together to create levels of emersion formerly only known in the realm of dreams.
  2. Humans, monsters, hybrids. Why do we enjoy stories about human, monsters and hybrids? How do they work as metaphors for social issues or for understanding human history in the cosmos? Examples come from Odysseus adventures with the Cyclops, a witch who turns his men into pigs, and man-eating giants, but also from Euripides tale of the plight of women in the aftermath of war (Trojan Women). The Day of the Triphids and Godzilla provide modern examples of monsters that result from genetic mutations. Artists like Stelarc and Orlan epitomize the modern cyborg and hybridity. In his work The Third Hand, Stelarc uses abdominal and leg muscles to control a robotic third hand and write EVOL, and uses his two other hands to complete the word EVOLUTION. Contemporary movies like Splice compel and horrify when genetic and scientific protocols run afoul.
  3. Humans, gods and superheroes. Whereas monsters and hybrids tend to be bad, gods, heroes and superheroes offer typically more positive models of creatures who are more powerful than humans. In what ways are such creatures themselves monstrous? What is the relationship between these more positive (often ambivalent) figures and monsters? Examples will include the relationship between Odysseus and Athena (and also Calypso and other divinities). We will also investigate the connection between classical heroic patterns and modern comic book superheroes. Artists such like Mike Kelly and his Exploded Fortress of Solitude 2011, in which sculptural depictions of Supermans birthplace in Kandor, conflate various media techniques such as glass, animation and character to address contemporary themes about power. CW Marshall (co-editor of Classics and Comics) will be at OSU in the spring and may be available to speak to our class.
  4. Humans and other animals. Monsters and superheroes can easily be labeled as fictional or fanciful creatures, but animals share our world in real terms. Are humans animals? If not, what are we? If so, how are we different from our fellow animals? Is the boundary between us sharp or fuzzy? How has this deeply philosophical question changed in light of recent technological advances (e.g. decoding the genome, organ transplants, the study of animal language)? Are humans and other animals optimized toward the extreme? To address some of these questions we will focus on contemporary ways of knowing the animal. Scientific studies using fMRI and looking at human and birdbrains and the language center in both. Contemporary imaging research in seagulls, dolphins, chickens, cuttlefish, will help form and question the ways we have come to know animals. Artworks using rat neurons to drive robots will serve as models for thinking about decoding and communication in the world of data collection and data analytics. Within the literary realm we will assess stories by and about Aesop (an ugly and mute slave who told fables), Socrates (who looked like a satyr and claimed the dog was the ideal philosopher), and Diogenes (who acted like a dog and was the first Cynic, aka dogphilosopher); Aristophanes Birds presents a fanciful comedy in which two humans become birds and create a utopia in the air that interrupts the sacrificial economy between humans and gods; and Philip K. Dicks Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? presents a world in which humans are tightly hemmed in by their thoughts about both animals and replicants, technologized humanoids.
  5. Humans, clay and silicon. Rich Gold (1950-2003) of Xerox Park is quoted as saying: Artists have always made art with the mud and water at the rivers edge, though now the river is information and the mud has become silicon. Some of our earliest tales show humans emerging from the earth. This mineral connection is now reworked in the myriad opportunities for synthetic interactions with humans – all of which rely on the manipulation of mineral-based materials. Can technology be part of the story of human evolution? Films such as HER engage the new notion of Artificial intelligence, though actual expert systems like Watson have already won games such as Jeopardy and military animals from General Dynamics, like the Big Dog or Googles own SHAFT bipedal robots combined with expert systems, allow us to know we are on the cusp of artificially intelligent robots. Classical examples come from Genesis, stories of Pandora and the brothers Prometheus and Epimetheus. Isaac Asimov takes us into the future with Robot Dreams (about robot who dreams hes a person) and Strikebreaker (about one planets strict taboo surrounding human waste.


Google Cardboard and free apps for Android

Google cardboard

ASSIGNMENTS, PROJECTS AND EXAMS This course will be structured around producing four major projects that will be due in weeks 2, 4, 9 and 14. Working in teams or individually, students will produce the following for each project: preliminary sketches (visual and verbal), a written assessment of other art/literature inspired by a similar set of principles (1-3 pages), a fully-realized work of art relying on one of the technologies presented in class, and a written explanation/interpretation of the work (3-5 pages).

These projects will emerge from our work with three of the following four topics: Odysseus adventures, concepts of the hero, Platos Cave, and stories about the origins of humanity. We intend to support a multiplicity of approaches given the diverse capabilities the class will afford. We will embrace and celebrate the creative and unexpected. We will have an end of the semester exhibition that all students will be participating in and will involve aspects of some of your projects as well as your final project.


GRADING             25%        Class participation (including verbal engagement, in-class projects)

10%        Project 1

15%        Project 2

25%        Project 3

25%        Project 4


Timely and regular attendance is an expectation of all courses in the Department  of Art. We understand that each student may upon occasion need to be away from class due to illness or other important matters. The following policy recognizes these life issues but at the same time establishes a set of professional boundaries that need to be adhered to.

Attendance Policy: Absences are not excused, Attendance is mandatory in all scheduled classes and labs as all absences in a studio environment impede student progress. A student who is absent a fifth time will be required to withdraw from the course if this absence occurs during the withdrawal period of the semester. If this absence occurs after the withdrawal period, the student will receive a failing (E) grade in the course.

ACADEMIC MISCONDUCT: It is the responsibility of the Committee on Academic Misconduct to investigate or establish procedures for the investigation of all reported cases of student academic misconduct. The term academic misconduct includes all forms of student academic misconduct wherever committed; illustrated by, but not limited to, cases of plagiarism and dishonest practices in connection with examinations. Instructors shall report all instances of alleged academic misconduct to the committee (Faculty Rule 3335-5-487). For additional information, see the Code of Student Conduct

DISABILITY STATEMENT: Students with disabilities that have been certified by the Office for Disability Services will be appropriately accommodated and should inform the instructor as soon as possible of their needs. The Office for Disability Services is located in 150 Pomerene Hall, 1760 Neil Avenue; telephone 292-3307, TDD 292-0901;