I certainly don’t want to limit you in your essay topics. I’d be happy if you looked around at some of the media you’ve seen, and found some link to the mythology we’ve studied so far. However, I realize this is a pretty heavy order, so I’ll make a few suggestions to give you an idea of what I mean:
A Comparison of Golden Age Narratives: Both the Bible and Greek Mythology have an idea of a time in the past when things were so much better than they are now (“now” being 3000 years ago, more or less). But despite this similarity, the ancient Greeks and the ancient Jews imagined their Golden Age differently, and explain why the Golden Age ended in different ways. What do those differences tell us about the differences between their cultures and their conceptions of their God or gods, of human beings, and of the universe?
The Ancient Figure, Today: Looking into ancient narratives, whether Greek or Biblical, we can see figures that we still see in modern narratives. One example is how, just like in ancient stories about Eve and Pandora, in modern films female characters often are the people who “ruin things” by creating problems for the male characters to solve. Why does this pattern continue despite all the changes we’ve seen in the last thousand years, and across cultures that are very, very different? Look at specific examples from recent films and see if you can find why we keep telling stories with such a female character in them.
What Makes a Hero? Look at an ancient narrative about a major hero-figure (for example, the stories of Moses and Samson in The Bible, or of Odysseus in The Odyssey) and study what traits are suggested as part of the hero. How many of these traits do we still see in hero-figures today? Make direct comparisons to specific modern hero figures, whether in comic books, movies, or TV shows, or real people in Anglophone cultures who are regarded as “heroes.” (For example, Bruce Willis in Die Hard, or Batman, or even a famous athlete like Muhammad Ali, or a famous political figure like Malcolm X, Harriet Tubman, or Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)
The Literary Remix: There are some famous literary remixes out there in the world: a few examples are Shakespeare’s remixing of the story of Pyramus and Thisbe in both A Midsummer Night’s Dream (where the story of Pyramus and Thisbe is part of the play-within-a-play) or Romeo and Juliet, which is actually a remix in itself. Another example is the musical My Fair Lady, which of course is based on the play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw… which is named after the ancient Greek character whose story is remixed in the play and the musical. Choose a literary remix that interests you, and explore what differences exist between the play or musical version and the original, and why are these interesting or significant differences?
The Reference: In our discussion of Avatar, we talked a lot about why the alien planet in the film is called “Pandora.” There are many references like these in films and books today. Choose one such reference and explore it deeply, trying to figure out why the reference is significant, what contradictions are included in it, and so on.
While I don’t mean to limit your choices, this is a basic idea of what I would like for you to do. Find your own examples and be creative! If you have questions about a particular possible topic, please let me know as soon as possible, and make sure you get to work soon!
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"For the correct analogy for the mind is not a vessel that needs filling, but wood that needs igniting..."—Plutarch, "On Listening," Moralia
This is the website for Prof. Gord Sellar. It back up and running, though it is supplemented by the proprietary Blackboard course management system used the university where he works.