Myth and Mythmaking
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- Course Not Running 2014/15
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This course offers an advanced and comprehensive introduction to a recent, ongoing, and controversial debate within the contemporary field of mythology which has argued for the need to view myth and mythmaking, as well as scholarly analyses and theorisations of myths and mythmaking, as political artefacts embedded in, productive of, and in turn produced by power/knowledge relations. The emergence of the debate signals an accumulating dissatisfaction with a number of interrelated trends that have defined the study of myth historically, but most significantly in the twentieth century. These include, but are not limited to:
- comparative studies of bodies of myths that do not pay enough attention to their individual cultural and temporal contexts and differences but rather extract universal structures and meaning from their analysis;
- a lack of reflexivity on the part of scholars of myth in assuming too sharply-drawn distinctions between their own work and theories and that of the mythmakers and myths under analysis;
- a tendency to consider the category of ‘myth’ as one that exists prior to any attempt to theorise and name its features and functions and then to proceed from that assumption to render natural and universal that which is perhaps instead constructed and contingent;
- a failure to recognise the discursive and dialogic qualities of mythmaking and myths and thus a tendency to ignore, fail to discern, or elide, the productive function of myth in a variety of power/knowledge matrices;
- the maintenance of a value-laden definition of myth as confined to a type of narrative genre that can be distinguished from other genres such as non-fiction, autobiography, history and so on, on the basis of its fictional content.
Objectives and learning outcomes of the course
On successful completion of this course, a student will:
- Have acquired a comprehensive and advanced overview of the history of mythology;
- Have reflected on the relationship between myth, mythmaking and politics;
- Have examined the importance of gender, race, and class to the content and form of myth and mythology;
- Be able critically to evaluate a variety of books, journals and other sources of information relevant to the topics studies on the course
- Have produced and presented a detailed research paper on an area related to the contemporary analysis of myth as discourse.
- Have developed advanced skills in evaluation, self-reflection, team work, and oral presentation.