Myth and Ideology
COMM 6160/8980, Spring 2013
Tuesdays, 4:30-7:00 PM
422 Sparks Hall
25 Park Place South #1017
email@example.com; (404) 463-9522
This course brings together two frameworks for understanding culture: myth criticism and ideological analysis.
Influenced by anthropologists and folklorists, myth critics trace the connections between contemporary cultural narratives and the stories which anchor traditional belief systems. Mythographer Joseph Campbell has become a key influence on many Hollywood screenwriters, who self-consciously craft stories around the “Hero’s Journey” Campbell describes.
Ideological analysis interrogates the political assumptions underlying cultural representations, examining how influential texts may reflect economic contradictions, reinforce dominant structures of power, or influence social change.
This class will put these two perspectives into dialogue. .
The following required books are available through amazon.com, bn.com, powells.com, and other retailers:
Roland Barthes, Mythologies
David Tacey, How to Read Jung
Fredric Jameson, The Political Unconscious
Harold Bloom, The American Religion
Slavoj Zizek, The Year of Dreaming Dangerously
James Hillman, Healing Fiction
Gershom Scholem, Walter Benjamin: The Story of a Friendship
Michael Taussig, The Magic of the State
Matthew Hutson, The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking
Maria von Franz, The Interpretation of Fairy Tales
Peggy Orenstein, Cinderella Ate My Daughter
1/22 Karl Marx, “Theses on Feuerbach”:
Karl Marx, excerpt from The German Ideology:
Walter Benjamin, “Theses on the Philosophy of History”:
Carl Jung, “Two Kinds of Thinking”:
Ted Friedman, “For a Jungian Turn in Cultural Studies” (draft via email)
1/29 Roland Barthes, Mythologies
2/5 David Tacey, How to Read Jung
2/12 Fredric Jameson, The Political Unconscious
2/19 Harold Bloom, The American Religion
2/26 Slavoj Zizek, The Year of Dreaming Dangerously
3/5 James Hillman, Healing Fiction
3/12 Gershom Scholem, Walter Benjamin: The Story of a Friendship
3/19 No class – Spring Break
3/26 Michael Taussig, The Magic of the State
4/2 Matthew Hutson, The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking
4/9 Maria von Franz, The Interpretation of Fairy Tales
4/16 Peggy Orenstein, Cinderella Ate My Daughter
4/23 Research presentations/party at Ted’s house
Final projects due April 30
I. Book Discussion – 6160: 45% of final grade (15% each); 8980: 30% (10% each)
You will lead, with a group, discussion of three of the assigned books. To prepare for the discussion of the reading, research these questions to put the reading in a broader context:
What is the author’s background? What discipline is the author trained in? What else has s/he written? In which journals has s/he published?
What was the reception of the book? How was the book reviewed? What criticisms have been made of the author’s work? How has the author responded? Whom has the author influenced?
Then, meet with your group to prepare for a class discussion. Don’t bother summarizing the work. Rather, concentrate on how the work relates to the key questions we’ll be asking all semester. In addition to the research topics, other subjects for discussion should include:
Methodology: What research methods does the author use? (Possibilities include textual analysis, ethnography, historical research, quantitative social science, etc.) How does the author approach and justify this methodology? What are the advantages and limitations of this methodology?
Theoretical debates: In what theoretical debates does the work intervene? Where does the author stand? Whom does the author criticize? How does this work move the debate forward?
Application: Pick 2-3 contemporary texts which could be illuminated by applying the author’s ideas. Show a representative sample from each text (any clip should be no more than 5 minutes). Discuss how the author would interpret each example. What are the strengths and limitations of this interpretation? What alternate interpretations are possible?
(You don’t need to organize your discussion in the order listed above. It may help to present the example up front, to ground your discussion of methodology and theory. It’s often also a good icebreaker to begin discussion by going around the room, asking everybody to answer a specific question related to their response to the book.)
III. Outside reading presentation – 8690 only: 15% of final grade
Doctoral students will read one additional book and give a short (10-15 minute) presentation on the work to the class, summarizing the book’s key arguments, the critical response to the book, and how its ideas relate to the themes of the course. A list of suggested readings will be distributed separately.
IV. Final Project – 55% of final grade
Option 1: Write a paper on a subject relating to the ideas of the class. 6160: 12-15 pages. 8690: 18-25 pages. Doctoral work will be expected to meet a higher standard of theoretical sophistication.
Option 2: Produce a creative work which engages some of the ideas of the class. The project can be a short film, a screenplay, or a new media work. Along with the project, include a short paper relating your work to ideas from the class. 6160: 3-5 pages; 8690: 8-10 pages. Doctoral work will be expected to meet a higher standard of theoretical sophistication.
For either option, the deadlines are the same:
A one-page prospectus is due February 26. I will schedule individual meetings with you to discuss the prospectus.
You will give a short (10 minute) presentation of your research project on April 23.
The final project is due April 30.
V. Attendance Adjustment
As Woody Allen put it, “80 percent of success is showing up.” It’s less than that in this formula, but the bottom line is that you can’t contribute to the class if you’re not there. You’re allowed one unexcused absence for the semester. After that, each unexcused absence subtracts one point from your grade total. Excused absences include medical and family emergencies. You will be expected to schedule any employment responsibilities around this class, or accept the consequences of missed classes for your grade. If you do need to miss a class, please contact me ahead of time, and make arrangements to catch up on missed material.
The university’s policy on academic honesty is published in On Campus: The Undergraduate Co-Curricular Affairs Handbook, available online at http://www.gsu.edu/~wwwcam. The policy prohibits plagiarism, cheating on examinations, unauthorized collaboration, falsification, and multiple submissions. Violation of the policy will result in failing the class, in addition to possible disciplinary sanctions.
Incompletes may be given only in special hardship cases. Incompletes will not be used merely for extending the time for completion of course requirements.
Changes to the Syllabus
This syllabus provides a general plan for the course. Deviations may be necessary.