In this class, we will explore the rich body of world myths in an attempt to understand not only the tales themselves, but the human story behind the world’s story. In doing so, we will learn to identify the cycles of myth that link all traditions together through the bridge of our imaginative lives. Hopefully, we will realize that however diverse the cultures that people this earth, all of their various myths tell the same, ancient story first conceived by our ancestors in the mists of time. Through the course of this adventure, we will learn to recognize the powerful realm of the archetype and begin to discern the role these myths and archetypes play in our own lives and will play in this time of change.
We will read extensively from David Adams Leeming’s Anthology of World Myths as well as Joseph Campbell’s Myths to Live By. In addition, we will read a few novella-length works in prose and verse, including Beowulf, Gilgamesh, and Siddartha as well as watch films including Whale Rider and Baraka. I also expect all of us to bring in additional material relevant to our exploration, our “daily offerings.” This can be any written or visual media, or better yet, bring us your stories! In addition to reading and class participation, because myth couldn’t happen without storytelling, students will be expected to keep and occasionally share a daily journal—a sort of living notebook—in which are recorded relevant events and archetypes of the day, imaginative happenings, dreams, and whatever else finds a way in.
As students, we will wear whatever mask required: art critic, poet, historian, psychologist, theologian, archeologist, philosopher, scientist. Some of our discussions will require a higher degree of maturity than is asked of the “typical” high school student as they will include frank conversations about cycles of religion and cycles of human life. This is the fundamental matter of mythology.