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Department
English
Course
ENG2131
Professor
Nick Milne
Semester
Fall

Description
09/24/2013 09/24/2013 Ancient Myth  09/24/2013 Ancient Myth and legend Hwæt we garde na in geardagum... Recap From the OED: Derived from the Latin mȳthus or mȳthos, which are themselves derived from ancient Greek. th First starts to be used as an English word rather than a borrowed Latin one in the 19 C. “A traditional story, typically involving supernatural beings or forces, which embodies and provides an explanation, aetiology, or justification for something such as the early history of a society, a religious belief or ritual, or a natural phenomenon.” It has a further secondary definition: “A widespread but untrue or erroneous story or belief; a widely held misconception; a misrepresentation of the truth. Also: something existing only in myth; a fictitious or imaginary person or thing.” Foundations – The Tales What we might complicatedly describe as “western mythology” finds its roots in a number of places. The ancient Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh, the earliest versions of which can be traced back to the 18 C. BCE. The folklore and – eventually – theological narratives (both oral and written) of the Ancient Near East. These tales come from a variety of traditions: Hittite, Assyrian, Canaanite, Phoenician, Minoan... and, of course, Hebrew. The mythic tales of the ancient Greeks and Romans, with which we'll be chiefly concerning ourselves today. Further developments occur between then and now, certainly – many of them in continental Europe. We'll get to that later (I hope). Greco-Roman Sources The ancient myths that continue to so fascinate us have been passed down by both oral and written means. The primary written sources include: Ovid's Metamorphoses Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, plus the somewhat more dubious Homeric Hymns The works of Hesiod The works of Virgil Ancient Myth  09/24/2013 The Library of Apollodorus of Athens The poetry of the likes of Pindar, Simonedes and Theocritus The plays of the likes of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripedes Foundations – The Theory A vast amount of work has been done by scholars attempting to theorize myth, but for our purposes today we'll be considering three major figures: J.G. Frazier (1854-1941) C.S. Lewis (1899-1963) Joseph Campbell (1904-1987) Frazier’s The Golden Bough "When I first put pen to paper to write The Golden Bough I had no conception of the magnitude of the voyage on which I was embarking; I thought only to explain a single rule of an ancient Italian priesthood." Frazier's hugely influential book first appeared in a two-volume edition in 1890, but had been expanded to twelve volumes by 1915. In it, he attempts to craft a synthesis – or at least a comprehensive explanation – of all world religions and mythologies by explaining them in dispassionate, anthropological terms and with recourse to key recurring themes: Human Sacrifice Fertility Rites The Dying and Rising God The Scapegoat Controversial implications for Christianity almost at once, to say the least. Lewis on Mythic Quality: From An Experiment in Criticism (1963) Compare the following: “There was a man who sang and played the harp so well that even beasts and trees crowded to hear him. And when his wife died he went down alive into the land of the dead and made music before the King of the Dead till even he had compassion and gave him back his wife, on condition that he lead her up out of that land without once looking back to see her until they came out into the light. But when they were nearly out, one moment too soon, the man looked back, and she vanished from him forever.” “There was a man who was away from home for many years, for Poseidon kept a hostile eye on him, and all that time the suitors of his wife were wasting his property and plotting against his son. But he got home with much hardship, made himself known to a few, saved his own life, and killed his enemies.” (This is Aristotle's synopsis of the Odyssey in his Poetics) Ancient Myth  09/24/2013 Let us suppose – for I certainly won't write it – a synopsis on the same scale of Trollope's Barchester Towers, Eliot's Middlemarch, or Thackeray's Vanity Fair; or of some much shorter work, like Wordsworth's Michael, Constant's Adolphe or James' The Turn of the Screw. Mythic Quality Continued The first, though it is a bare outline, set down in the first words that come to hand, would, I believe, make a powerful impression on any person of sensibility, if he here met that story for the first time. The second is not nearly such satisfactory reading. We see that a good story could be written on this plot, but the abstract is not a good story itself. As for the third, the abstract I have not written, we see at once that it would be completely worthless – not only worthless as a representation of the book in question, but worthless in itself; dull beyond bearing, unreadable. There is, then, a particular kind of story which has a value in itself – a value independent of its embodiment in any literary work. The Six Marks of Myth Lewis goes on to suggest that Myth has six qualities that set it apart from other modes: It is, in the sense described in the last slide, extra-literary. Those getting the same story from Ovid, Virgil, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Charles Kingsley, Robert Graves and whomever else have a mythical experience in common in spite of the vast stylistic differences. “The pleasure of myth depends hardly at all on such usual narrative attractions as suspense or surprise. Even at a first hearing it is felt to be inevitable. And the first hearing is chiefly valuable in introducing us to a permanent object of contemplation – more like a thing than a narration. [...] Sometimes, even from the first, there is hardly any narrative element. The idea that the gods, and all good men, live under the shadow of Ragnarok is hardly a story.” “Human sympathy is at a minimum. We do not project ourselves at all strongly into the characters. They are like shapes moving in another world.” Six Marks of Myth Continued “Myth is always, in one sense of that word, 'fantastic'. It deals with impossibiles and preternaturals.” • “The experience may be sad or joyful but it is always grave. Comic myth (in my sense of myth) is impossible.” • “The experience is not only grave but awe-inspiring. We feel it to be numinous. It is as if something of great moment had been communicated to us.” • Joseph Campbell – “Monomyth” Ancient Myth  09/24/2013 • This not uncontroversial notion, first set forth by Campbell in The Hero With a Thousand Faces (1949), maintains that world mythology is governed by a sort of ur-myth, which runs thus: • “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.” • What do we think of this? • How many myths or legends can you come up with that might fit this basic pattern? • Campbell also went so far as to say that this “monomyth” could broadly be the story of humanity itself. Thoughts? Case Studies Testing ideas in the wild The Story of Pygmalion from Ovid’s Metamorphoses Book IX of Homer’s Odyssey Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s “Ulysses” (1842) Mythic Resonances With what we've already discussed in relation to the stories of Pygmalion and Ulysses in mind, how might we track similar developments of other mythic stories? In groups of four: Choose an ancient myth. Come up with a brief summary for the benefit of those who might not be so familiar with it. Think of some ways in which that myth is still with us. Figures of speech? Literary tropes? Logos? Poetic/musical/artistic engagement? Straight-up adaptation? Anything you can come up with. 09/24/2013 Day 4….. ? No slides Guest lecture on Marie De France Marie De France Readings 09/24/2013 The Lias of Marie de France 09/24/2013 Historical Context Who was Marie de France? -12 century writer, likely affiliated with Henry II’s court in England -themes of Marie’s lays: courtesy, chivalry, and courtly love -multilingual, aristocratic audience -her work seems to have become very popular -born in France and moved to England, where the Lais were composed "Marie ai num, si sui de France” Why was a French author like Marie living in England in the twelfth century? -insular dialect of French developed after 1066 - composed of languages of the new settlers on British Isles -Anglo-Norman or Anglo-French Historical Context Original: Ki Deus ad doné escïence E de parler bon' eloquence Ne s'en deit taisir ne celer, Ainz se deit volunters mustrer. Quant uns granz biens est mult oïz, Dunc a primes est il fluriz, E quant loëz est de plusurs, The Lias of Marie de France 09/24/2013 Dunc ad espandues ses flurs. (Prologue 1) What is a Lai? Plot of Bisclavret? -from the Old High German and/or Old Middle German leich, which means play, melody, or song -genre was popularized by Marie de France -poems written between 1150-1450 - poems claim that they are written versions of lays sung by ancient Bretons (usually harp accompaniment) What is a Lai? Question speaks to the different approaches to genre. Jameson distinguishes between two types: Semantic =defines a genre through its content Syntactic=defines a genre through its form For Jameson, genre encompasses both the form and content of its constituent works genres change over time to reflect needs and desires of society What is a Lai? Was the lai a genre for entertainment or for teaching? Which of these functions did these poems serve? -often seen as a genre for entertainment -a “mini Romance” Romance: The Lias of Marie de France 09/24/2013 -> hero leaves court->transformative experience-> return home A.C. Baugh’s definition (1935) of a lay: declares itself as a lay a short romance some reference to Brittany or story from Marie de France (so she’s become a defining feature) -Romanticism, aestheticism of 19 century valued a detached aesthetic impulse BUT Marie’s lais also have didactic aims Didactic Literature: literature that is instructive, designed to impart information, advice, or some doctrine of morality or philosophy (from The Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms) Can anyone identify some didactic moments in Marie de France’s lais? The Didactic Function of the Lais Whoever wants to be safe from vice Should study and learn (heed this advice) And undertake some difficult labor; Then trouble is a distant neighbor-- From great sorrows one can escape (Prologue 1) When they wrote their books in the olden day What they had to say they'd obscurely say. They knew that some day others would come The Lias of Marie de France 09/24/2013 And need to know what they'd written down; Those future readers would gloss the letter, Add their own meaning to make the book better. Those old philosophers, wise and good, Among themselves they understood Mankind, in the future tense, Would develop a subtler sense Without trespassing to explore What's in the words, and no more. (Prologue 1) 2 important influences: th 1. rise of the universities in the 12 century - teaching at Oxford since 1096 but growth of enrolment in 1167 when English expelled form University of Paris 2. growing interest in clerical and monastic culture Bisclavret With this in mind, let’s turn to “Bisclavret.” If Breton lais served a didactic function, what is the “moral” of this tale? -Bisclavret = personal name/species name In Breton, "Bisclavret"'s the name; "Garwolf" in Norman means the same. Long ago you heard the tale told-- And it used to happen, in days of old-- The Lias of Marie de France 09/24/2013 Quite a few men became garwolves, And set up housekeeping in the woods. A garwolf is a savage beast, Medieval werewolf tradition -by 1500 people were being persecuted under the suspicion that they were werewolves Where did the werewolf legend come from? -early examples in Greek and Roman texts -one of the earliest examples of the legend in Europe comes from Burchard of Worms -1008 handbook for priests about confession “Have you believed what some are accustomed to believe, that those women who are popularly called Fates either exist or can do what people believe: namely, when a man is born, they can designate him for whatever they want; and as a result, whenever that man wishes, he can be transformed into a wolf, called in German a Werewolf, or into some other form? If you have believed that this can happen or that the divine image can he turned by someone into another form or species — except by all-powerful God — you are to do ten days penance on bread and water.” (Burchard of Worms) Why might it be significant that this appears in a religious text? What are some indications that Bisclavret is actually quite civilized? What about the hiding place for his clothes? The King sees this, and feels great fear; He calls all his companions over. "My lords," he says, "come, come here! Behold this marvel, see this wonder. How this beast bows down to me! Its sense is human. It begs for mercy. The Lias of Marie de France 09/24/2013 Drive me those dogs away again, See that no-one strikes a blow! This beast understands, feels like a man. (5) Team Jacob? What about Bisclavret’s wife? He'd married a worthy woman, truly; Always she acted so beautifully. He loved her, she him: they loved each other. (Bisclavret 1) What about Bisclavret’s wife? "My friend, my dear," she said, "be glad! You've been tormented, driven, sad Wanting what I'll give you today-- No-one will ever say you nay-- I grant you my love and my body, too: Take me, make me your lover, you!" (4) Is it significant that Bisclavret’s wife loses her nose? Why are all the daughters of Bis’ ex-wife punished similarly? Why specifically the daughters and not the sons? Why might it be important for Marie de France to write didactic texts? Lanval -contains Arthurian material -does anyone know anything about the origins of the King Arthur tradition? The Lias of Marie de France 09/24/2013 Plot? How is Arthur treated in this lai? Gawain said "In God's name, my lords, we sin Against Lanval, our companion, So courtly and generous in everything-- And his father's a wealthy king-- He should be here; we've done him wrong.“ (7) How is law depicted in this text? In sum Some medieval “fantasy” works were highly didactic, and had served powerful moral and political purposes. How do modern fantasy works serve political or didactic aims? Breton? The adventure of another lay, Just as it happened, I'll relay: It tells of a very nice nobleman, And it's called Lanval in Breton. (Lanval 1) Brittany Day 5: Fairy Tales  09/24/2013 Friday: Primarily talked about Beast… Marie de France: man that was a werewolf, wife didn’t know about it. Took his clothes so he stays a werewolf, king takes werewolf. Interaction of wolves and humans Form and the content How its structured vs what it is actually doing Sandman: Can get from chapters. Sandman Vol 1: Preludes and Nocturnes Essay Topics: Don’t like topic 1 #2! Comparative essay on fairytales #4 is interesting/ ideas of marvelous and uncanning Form, Genre, Subject Fairytales are often difficult to discuss because its gone over changes in the last couple decades. Hard to achieve coherence “fairy tale” traced back to folklore in early 17 centaury. Little Story A problem: called fairy tales but do not include fairies. Why does this name stick? magic elements Day 5: Fairy Tales  09/24/2013 told us sensational things about the world realm of the fay respect them, but hesitancy with them. Certain amount of caution involved Idea of other universes Fairy combines the real world and the idea of other universes happening around us. No pretense to historistoricty= relation to history Fairy tales have no real claims of relation to history Uneasiness of the fairy world. Associated Genres: Familiar to fairy tales Beast tales or fables Stories involving beasts and animals Animals having weird adventures Idea of clashes between two different types of people Narrative level: they don’t always work out well. Interactions between different human types How does this differ from a fairytale? – not magical, we see something coherent and something different. Travellers tales Someone tells a highly exaggerated story of a journey in another land Someone telling a story of a story Day 5: Fairy Tales  09/24/2013 Gullivers travels Often from another land where others cannot travel too Things being told to us that are unverifiable Differ from a beast tale because they do not try to teach us a lesson More towards pure entertainment Differ from a fairytale?- … above Speculative fiction A possibility of sorts and examines it in full The fantastical Science fiction, alternate history, fantasy, horror Often not clear that it’s a different history till the end. Differ?- speculative is situation in some sort of the real world. Dream stories AAIW/ Peter Pan/Sandman/Book of Lost Things The tension is, is it the uncanny or is it the marvelous The journey has a great impact on the person even if it is just a dream Tension between reality and unreality Am I crazy? Differ- its all a dream, doesn’t exist. The character may change but the reader doesn’t No clear moral to the story Day 5: Fairy Tales  09/24/2013 The world is uncertain Key Concepts Different fairytales have different features Young protagonists Complicated parental relationships Money and riches Animals Flowers Food The other Sometimes called the constitutive other- treatment of people whom are not the “same” Something that isn’t us/ a different self that is not our self We react to others in many different ways The other cannot be easily ignored. Self-definition and realization occur through and against the other. We need other selves out there to define what ourselves is. Represented by a peculiar thing. Setting They do not tie themselves to a specific time, at least no realistic ones Forests Small villages in or near forests Day 5: Fairy Tales  09/24/2013 The countryside in general Castles and cottages Not urban settings/ all rural Morals Fairy tales constituted a genre in which morals are an expected and necessary feature. Some stories carry explicit morals It’s a lesson about something It’s a lesson you learn about yourself, something to help you think, how you act. Tells us how to be Readings What did you think? Plot Characters Setting Morals Snow White and Rose Read Pair of sisters live in woods, vague suggestion of magic, big bear comes seeking shelter from the cold, dwarf is a jerk, stealing from the bear, dwarf gets killed, they live happily ever after. Sisters, Mom, Bear, Dwarf, Animals Cottage in the middle of an enchanted forests Hospitality, appearance are not always what they seem, don’t prejudge, accept your parents view of things. Day 5: Fairy Tales  09/24/2013 Beauty and The Beast Rich family looses everything, father hears that there’s some treasure left , asks the children what they want, beauty wants a rose, father gets lost, goes to beasts castle, takes the rose, has to give up a daughter to the beast, beast and beauty falls in love. Beast, Beauty, Father, Sisters, Brothers Cottage in the woods, castle in the woods Goblin Market Little Red Riding Hood Red Riding Hood, Grandma, Mother, Wolf Directly said moral, do not talk to strangers. Idea that anything can be redeemed. You can live happily ever after This has been cut for the moral of the story. The orginal story doesn’t cary any of these different or alternate endings. Fairy Tales 09/24/2013 ESSAY TOPICS Ess
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