Folklore | Contemporary Approaches to Myth
F545 | 15367 | G. Schrempp

Fulfills:  Form, Theory

“Myth” is one of the most venerable, fascinating, and perplexing
concepts in the history of Western thought.  Historically-accreted
connotations of “myth” include divinely-inspired speech, sacred
story, profound poetic truth, political propaganda, widely-held
error, and psychologically-potent image – to mention only a few.
The first session of the course will be devoted to exploring the
many connotations of “myth” (or “mythology”) and a brief survey of
how these arose. The main body of the course will be devoted to
exploring the contemporary status and significance of the concept of
myth.  We will do this in two interrelated ways.  First, we will
read and discuss works from various perspectives and academic fields
(including folklore, political science, literature, cultural
studies, gender studies, and comparative religion) inspired by the
idea of myth, including works that attempt to “deconstruct,”
rethink, or resituate this concept.  Secondly, putting aside the
tendency to equate the mythic with the ancient, we will explore the
usefulness of the concept of myth in relation to modern culture and
society.  Among the modern contexts in which prominent discourses
about myth have developed are the realms of political culture (e.g.,
efforts to construct “national myths”), mass-media news and
entertainment (for example, the influence of Joseph Campbell in the
film industry), and the public presentation of science, for which
the instructor will present his original research.
Students taking this course will be expected to develop a topic,
write a research paper, and make a presentation on it near the end
of the course.  The reading load with be moderate/heavy; the grade
will be based on research paper, presentation, and participation.