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REL 333
The Politics of Myth Spring 2021
Division II

Class Details

Myths animate ethical and political life. Shared stories that function as sources of justification and motivation are reflected in our anxieties and aspirations, in how we talk, and in how we perform our identities. These are stories about the origins of our world, the founding of the political order, the forging of groups, the menace of enemies, the triumph of heroes, the ultimate destiny of humankind. In this course, we will explore the meaning of “myth” in our ethical and political lives. We will read and discuss a wide range of approaches to myth. For instance, readings may include works by Plato, medieval Jewish and Islamic philosophers, Friedrich Nietzsche, Georges Sorel, Ernst Cassirer, and Walter Benjamin. Particular attention will be given to a set of mid-twentieth century theorists of myth who have had an especially strong impact on the meaning of myth in American popular culture: Carl Jung, Mircea Eliade, and Joseph Campbell. We will assess the enduring resonance of their ideas and explore new opportunities to think critically and imaginatively about myth in this tradition, reading works by Wendy Doniger, Jeffrey Kripal, and other contemporary scholars in religious studies. These theoretical explorations will serve to enrich our efforts, throughout the course, to uncover the myths that animate our own lives. We will explore our myths through sustained introspection, interpretations of popular culture, and opportunities for myth-criticism and myth-making. Thus, in addition to the critical analysis of myths and myth theories, students will have the opportunity to play creatively with the possibilities of myth. The course will culminate in a final creative project engaging with the idea of myth.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 18
Expected: 18
Class#: 5585
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Two 5-7 page papers and either a final annotated creative project or a final 7-10 page paper.
Prerequisites: None
Enrollment Preferences: Religion majors and students who have taken a course in the Religion department.
Distributions: Division II

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