During the first few weeks of the semester, we are working to lay important intellectual foundations for our class by exploring the meaning of myth, introducing Aristotle’s theories about tragedy, and considering the more recent scholarship of Joseph Campbell on the “hero’s journey.” This three-part Blogpost is designed to get you to think about these ideas a little bit differently, and especially to make connections between the world of myth and our own “real” lives – something we will be doing throughout the semester. With that in mind, then, you will write three short paragraphs (total) in response to the three prompts below. I’ll be curious to see what you come up with for your first response writings of the semester!
1) For class last week you read an article (published on ThoughtCo) that takes different theories about myth and combines them into the following simple definition: “Myths are stories told by people about people: where they come from, how they handle major disasters, how they cope with what they must, and how everything will end.” Taking this definition into consideration, I’d like you to discuss a time in your life when a “myth” or a story with key mythical elements played a key role. Many believe that myths are things of the past, yet we still mythologize many aspects of our world – so how does your experience with myth highlight the power and significance of myths to living beings in the twenty-first century?
2) On Monday we examined the ins and outs of Aristotle’s foundational views of myth from the Poetics. Hence, I thought it would be worthwhile to apply specific ideas from Aristotle’s theories to a specific movie, text, or experience from your own life. To do so, you might tell us how the plot of your chosen tale fits certain “tragic” modes (such as leading toward a “catharsis”), or consider how the characters fit Aristotle’s ideals – especially of the “tragic hero.” And in making these connections, you might also consider this: what are some of the ways that tragedy functions in your own life? How does tragedy make you feel, and what does it teach you about the world in which we live?
3) Wednesday we will be exploring Joseph Campbell’s notion of a “monomyth,” which has been profoundly influential. But one controversial aspect of his view of the “hero’s journey” is the idea that the heroes of myth and legend are, in certain fundamental ways, discernably different than those “heroes” we see in everyday life. But is this really true? What is a hero? To consider these questions, I’d like you to cite a hero that you know personally or just know about, and use them as a way to define, discuss, and illustrate what it means to be heroic. In time, we will test these ideas by seeing how your notions are similar to – or different than – the ideas of Campbell, as well as the actual heroes depicted in myth and legend throughout the ages.