Myth, Language, and Play
This course examines the role of myth in human culture. To do so, we will read scholarly accounts of the myth’s forms and functions, including Ernst Cassirer, Hans Blumenberg, and others. Cassirer set up a stark opposition between mythos and logos as two different modes of knowledge, while Blumenberg’s magisterial Work on Myth critically questions the validity of this dichotomy and interrogates the roles of myth as an inescapable aspect of the human condition. In this course, we will explore the claims of theoreticians by tracing the versions of one particular myth, the story of Philoctetes, across millennia, cultures, and genres. We will observe the way this one story metamorphoses in response to the needs and questions of audiences from Attic Greece to the current day. Authors include Sophocles,François Fénelon, G.E. Lessing, George Eliot, Andre Gide, Tom Stoppard, Heiner Müller, Seamus Heaney, and John Jesurun. Reading in original languages is encouraged, but knowledge of Greek, German, and French is not required. All texts available in translation. Discussion in English.