Stories That Tell Us Who We Are: Myth and Meaning for Today (CUL 323)

Stories That Tell Us Who We Are: Myth and Meaning for Today (CUL 323)

Course Description

Some stories do not just entertain. They are tales that make us say, “This is how the universe really works,” or “This is who I really am”—ideally—and they become parts of us that will not let us go. These stories are myths, in the highest and best sense of the word. In this lecture series we will look at myths from around the world, and from ancient Greece or Japan up to modern tales like The Lord of the Rings or Star Wars. We will reflect on how vibrant myth can empower one’s life and also examine dangers in mythic thinking. Join us as we explore some of the most engaging and dynamic narratives ever known to humankind.

Course Sessions and Topics

This course is divided into ten, one-hour lectures. The introductory lecture, Encountering Myth, is presented in both audio and video format to better acquaint the student with the instructor.

Week 1 Encountering Myth: From Amaterasu to Star Wars

Week 2 Types and Theories of Myth

Week 3 Creation Myths: In the Beginning

Week 4 The Hero’s Journey: The Warrior

Week 5 The Hero’s Journey: The Savior

Week 6 Eschatalogical Myths: The End of the World 

Week 7 Shadow Side: Myths of Evil, the Trickster, and the Flood

Week 8 Nationalist Myths: Politics and Religion 

Week 9 Mythologists and Modern Myth

Week 10 Myth and Psychology

Learning Outcomes for this Course

Outcome 1:  Identify and comprehend the basic definitions of and theories about myth.

Outcome 2:  Comprehend the importance of viewing myth as story based in oral culture.

Outcome 3:  Identify basic types and theories about myth, and comprehend scholarly support of and objections to the concept of myth.

Outcome 4:   Define the different types of creation myths, “one-time” and “cyclical” creation.

Outcome 5:   Comprehend the basic meaning of the hero in myth, and identify the warrior hero as distinguished from the savior hero.

Outcome 6:   Identify several typical hero (warrior and savior) figures and their myths, and explain the issue of whether the stories of the founders of historical religions should be considered myths and in what sense.

Outcome 7:   Identify and distinguish myths of personal immortality and the end of the world.

Outcome 8:   Identify the variety of approaches to the problem of evil in myth, and the role of the trickster and the flood in myth.

Outcome 9:   Describe the relation between mythology and modern nationalism, analyzing the role of myth, acknowledged or not in politics today.

Outcome 10:  Identify the basic positions in the theoretical approach to myth.

Outcome 11: Comprehend criticisms of modern mythology and identify proposed examples of myth in the modern world.

Outcome 12: Comprehend how the major schools of psychology approach myth, and identify differences between the psychology of oral and literate cultures.

Outcome 13:  Define the meaning of belief in relation to myth.

Your Teacher

This course was created and recorded by:

Robert Ellwood, Ph.D. | Ph.D., University of Chicago Divinity School.  MDiv, Yale Divinity School

This course will be administered and graded by:

Athena Kolinski, M.A.  |   M.A., Consciousness Studies, University of Philosophical Research.  M.A. and B.A., Religious Studies, California State University Northridge