Scribner Seminar Program
Myth and Modernity
Instructor(s): Joseph Cermatori, English
In our modern, supposedly scientific world, what does it mean that we continue to contemplate, reinvent, tell, and enjoy mythical stories? Has our world effectively become “disenchanted” of its myths, as some have argued? If so, how and why do they continue to persist in our collective cultural imaginary? What wisdom does myth have to teach us today, in an age when computer viruses are “Trojan Horses” and Dwayne Johnson is Hercules? In this seminar, we will explore a variety of interdisciplinary perspectives on the question of how classical mythology enters into modern thought. Together we will study the persistence of ancient myths into the present day and, more specifically, into the tradition of modern art across a broad spectrum of literatures, media, and performance practices. We will read mythic texts from Greek antiquity alongside various scholarly treatments of myth in order to question how and why these pre-historic materials continue to inspire modern interpretation. Our readings will draw upon materials from anthropology, art and art history, classics, dance, literature, media and film, music, philosophy, religious studies, and theater. Along the way, we will be tracking: the relationship of myth to how we understand history; how myth factors into debates about secular modernity; the close interrelatedness of mythic narratives with ritual, writing, and orality; the relationship of myths to the notion of structure; the importance of imagination for myth and for living; and the status of “fiction” and “deception” as ways of knowing.