*Course and materials adapted from the great Ty Devoe
Welcome to Myth and Folk.
People have always been mythmakers, trying to find explanations to events occurring in the surrounding world. Animals, for example, watch each other die but, as far as we know, they give the matter no further consideration. Yet even the primitive treasures in the graves of Neanderthal tribes demonstrate and attempt to form a counter-narrative to death. Human beings are meaning-seeking creatures. From the very beginning we invented stories that enabled us to place our lives in a larger setting, revealed an underlying pattern, and gave us a sense that, against all the often depressing and chaotic evidence to the contrary, life had meaning and value.
The study of mythology, particularly in its relevance to our daily lives, can yield rich results for the dedicated student. Our approach to mythology and folklore this semester will grant you the opportunity for cultural awareness and self-discovery. It is largely psychology and sociology through mythology. I hope you walk away knowledgeable and enlightened.
With that said, let’s look at the course itself. The principle goal of this course is to give you a working familiarity with the major mythos of the world, particularly the myths of Classical Greece and, to a lesser extent, Rome, mainly through examining primary sources, both literary and visual, with a particular focus on the role of heroes. We will also examine the nature and social function of mythology, studying a number of different ancient and modern theories. Also considered will be legacy of classical mythology in modern art and literature, including popular culture. Students will learn how mythic narrative patterns and symbols function in western culture. We will also delve into Norse, Arthurian, Egyptian, Indian, Native American, and many other cultural stories. Assignments in this course are designed to give you the freedom to explore your own humanity through extensive writing and reading; I hope you will think, reflect, and grow. The essential question that we will continually explore throughout our journey through mythology is: "Is being human something good, bad, tragic, or evil?" Your opinion on this matter may change frequently as you ponder human nature, the human condition, and your own life and role in this world. You will be discussing a great deal with your peers and your currently held beliefs will either be challenged and changed, or your current beliefs will be further solidified. In either case, you will think, reflect, and grapple with issues important to every human being at various stages of life.