Thunder Gods and Flood Stories: A Universal Approach to Mythology?
Angela Ziskowski, Associate Professor History
Myths are stories and legends that have withstood the test of time but why do they exist? Is there greater social meaning built into the seemingly fantastic characters, places and events? This two-week course will explore the purpose of mythology in society and tackle the question of whether or not there are universal myths across all societies. In session one, we will examine what is the purpose of a myth and the varieties of myths found throughout the world. Session two will explore how anthropologists and other scholars approach and analyze myths across cultures. While we will primarily focus on the myths of the ancient Greeks and Romans, this forum will also touch on myths in a broad range of cultures and periods (including Mesopotamians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Norse and Native Americans) and the ways in which the universal features of myth also appear in modern stories like Star Wars and Harry Potter. Are these modern incarnations of our own society’s mythology or simply retellings of ancient myths, and is there any difference? In the end, do all societies dream of and fear the same things?