Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation

PWR 2KDC: Myth and the Contemporary: Talking across Two Worlds

Main content start


Fall 2021: Section 1 MW 9:30AM-11:15AM, Section 2 MW 1:30PM-3:15PM

Winter 2022: Not offered

Spring 2022: Section 1 MW 9:30AM-11:15AM, Section 2 MW 1:30PM-3:15PM

Units: 4

Grade option: Letter (ABCD/NP) 

Prerequisite: PWR 1, ESF, ITALIC 95W, or equivalent

Course Feature: WR-2 requirement

What can mythic thinking tell us about the contemporary world? Mythic thinking can be described as a lens that focuses on guides to our own interior worlds that help humans pass through key life experiences and developments. While maintaining their own unique flavors, myths of varied world cultures often show a remarkably strong commonality in their archetypes, or symbols. Tending to emphasize values like complexity, multiple narratives, interiority, relationality, and alternative ways of knowing, mythic thinking has recently become a go-to for addressing particularly vexing contemporary problems that elude us while we use the same problem-solving frameworks as before.

While some Greek myth (Persephone, Medusa, and Minos,) will be considered, we’ll mainly look to contemporary repurposes of myths (Hand Maiden’s Tale, Bojack Horseman, Us, Undone, Over the Garden Wall). Still, your own research projects will predominate. In the past, students have made the following findings: new forms of bio-technology must treat a person and their body in their wholeness; keeping secrets from oneself often leads to unhealthy situations; the deep need for a sacred belief in something can lead to dangerous mythologizing—or to a deeper self-understanding; when “the dangerous other” is codified into the laws of a nation it’s extremely difficult to make progress undoing its harmful impacts; environmental movements may benefit from a return to the spiritual values that nature confers on us (Mongolian shamanism); communal based practices in India may be key to consumers choosing sustainable over unsustainable practices; reworked fairy tales may have the power to expand consciousness for women’s agency but only when women are full complex characters; rethinking ADHD in students allows a larger reframing of education to serve multiple intelligences; saviors in any form require a hard look at what they’re supposed to save us from, how, and why.

Major Assignments

Research Proposal

(5-minute live oral presentation; written text of 900-1200 words) You will choose a specific contemporary problem that can be addressed by a mix of past and present epistemologies/methodologies, such as: La Llorona and child border detention; Mayan Prophecy and climate crisis strategies; AI developments in early Greek Myths; The Red Shoes and Cambridge Analytics; Norse Myth and Make America Great Again; Lilith and the Metoo Movement; Yoruban Myths in Beyonce’s Lemonade.

Written Research-Based Argument

(3000-3600 words; 10-12 pages) You will use research to contextualize and reshape your proposal, fashioning the content into a tightly written and persuasive argument. Emphasis will be on learning to write concisely, packing more into less space, and using strategies of writing that are borrowed from the oral assignments.

Delivery of Research

(10-minute live oral presentation with appropriate multimedia support) You will rewrite your draft written argument for a live researched presentation to the rest of the class with three major draft rehearsals. The high point of the class, your oral presentation will be part of a conference panel that allows the class to engage directly with your work in the context of our work over the quarter.

Genre/Modes Assignment

(mixed visuals and texts map) Using the materials of creation stories, origin stories, and familial stories, you will create a representational map that reflects the outset of your own inquiry into the current problem you are addressing through a mix of past and present approaches.