Comparative Mythology: Methods and Madness

CMLT 24189 Comparative Mythology: Methods and Madness

RLST 24189, CLCV 21919

Comparative Mythology has been one of the most controversial disciplines in the Humanities. Interdisciplinarity at its finest and most erratic, different definitions of Comparative Mythology have found their roots in linguistics, psychology, the history of religions, structuralism, and many more hybrid fields. Haunted by the question of “What is Myth?” and equally concerned with the toolkits that allow us to make sense of myths, it has been the source of constant fascination as an important part of nineteenth- and twentieth-century intellectual history. Its ambitions cut across boundaries of time, geography, and languages. Its results have inspired revolutions in the academy with critical political consequences, building and destroying nationalistic essentialisms, forging communities and tearing them apart. In this course we will review its complex history and attempt to assert its role as an important catalyst of academic debate by focusing on the manner in which myth and poetry—two often inscrutable and difficult-to-define categories of cultural production—so often appear to work alongside each other in order to probe at ineffable mysteries whilst developing dazzling ideological programs that can grant us a purchase on the myriad ways in which poets, scribes, scholars, religious leaders, political agitators, and university professors have attempted to make sense of the world.

We will encounter myths from around the world. Readings will be drawn from Homer, Latin poetry, the Vedic Hymns, Norse poetry, Anatolian and Mesopotamian texts (such as Gilgamesh), Native American traditions, Chinese stories, and North African myths.