Myth and Magical Realism in the work of Ben Okri and Zakes Mda

Myth Reading Group

Thursday 25 May

12.00-1.30pm in Room 5B.330

We are very pleased to announce that Jeremy Solnick will continue our discussion of Myth & Magic with a session on myth and magical realism in the work of Ben Okri and Zakes Mda

Xhosa boys before circumcision ceremony

Xhosa boys before the circumcision ceremony

In this session, we will be discussing two seminal but very different works of magical realism.  Ben Okri’s The Famished Road was published in 1991 and is loosely based on a country that might be Nigeria.  Zakes Mda’s The Heart of Redness was published in 2002 and is about post-apartheid South Africa.  Both novels use a myth based style of magical realism to draw readers into an alternative reality where the fault lines of their dystopian communities are exposed through the agency of non-human characters seemingly immune from the rules which govern everyday life.

Please read the following extracts: The Famished Road, The Heart of Redness, and  André Brink’s essay, “Interrogating Silence“.

ALL WELCOME

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Out of Nature: Myth and Magic in the Early Modern Period

Myth Reading Group

Thursday 18 May

12.00-1.30pm in Room 5B.330

We are very pleased to announce that Dr Leon Burnett, founding director of the Centre for Myth Studies, will lead a discussion of myth and magic in the early modern period.

Jean_Paul_Laurens_-_Dr._Fausto

Jean Paul Laurens (1838-1921), Dr Fausto, oil on canvas, Rio Grande do Sul Museum of Art, Brazil [image on the public domain]

In every historical period, mastery of myth and magic has appeared to offer the opportunity – sceptics would say the illusion – of escaping the natural bounds that constrain humanity. Myth, like religion, appeals to the imagination and binds a community, but magic goes further: it grants power exclusively to the person who possesses knowledge of its operations.

The reading material for this session is taken from two major dramatic works of the early modern period, The Tempest and Doctor Faustus. They pose the question, implicitly, of what is at stake, from a mythical perspective, in the relationship between a magus and his company, when enchantment plays a central role in the action.

ALL WELCOME

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Round Table Discussion: Myth & Magic

Myth Reading Group

Round Table

Thursday 11 May

12.00-1.30pm in Room 5A.118

512px-John_William_Waterhouse_-_Magic_Circle

John William Waterhouse (1848-1917), The Magic Circle, 1886, oil on canvas, Tate Britain [image on the public domain]

We are very pleased to announce that our next session will be a round table discussion on the intersection between myth and magic.

As a way of starting our discussion, we will consider the Three Witches/Sisters in Macbeth (1623) and how Shakespeare combined elements from Greco-Roman mythology and Elizabethan anxieties about witchcraft in his depiction of the witches.  Hecate, the Queen of the witches in the tragedy, is of particular importance as parallels can be drawn with the moon goddess of the Greek underworld.

We hope the following extracts from Macbeth will encourage a lively discussion of the link between myth and magic, and how magic contributes to our understanding of myth. See our call for proposals for further inspiration.

Set readings:

Shakespeare, Macbeth (selected scenes: Act1, Scene 1, Act1, Scene 3, Act3, Scene 5, Act4, Scene 1 ) Alternatively, please access the full text of the play online.

Hesiod, Hymn to Hecate, line 410

ALL WELCOME

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‘Route 110’: Heaney’s quotidian katabasis (Part II)

Myth Reading Group

Thursday 4 May

12.00-1.30pm in Room 5A.118

We are very pleased to announce that Professor Roderick Main, director of the Centre for Myth Studies, will do a follow-up session of “‘Route 110’: Heaney’s quotidian katabasis”.

Underworld.jpg

Map of the Underworld showing the descents of Odysseus and Aeneas

In this session, we will have the opportunity to complete our reading and discussion of Heaney’s ‘Route 110’, from his 2010 collection Human Chain.  With the story and structure of Virgil’s Aeneid VI as his guide, Heaney journeys into the underworld of his past.

For additional reading on the concept of katabasis in Heaney’s poetry, please see Emanuela Zirzotti’s “‘Pius Seamus’: Heaney’s Appropriation of Aeneas’s Descent to the Underworld”, in Ben Pestell, Pietra Palazzolo, and Leon Burnett (eds.), Translating Myth (Oxford: Legenda, 2016), pp. 195-204.

ALL WELCOME

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Call for Proposals: Myth and Magic

Centre for Myth Studies

Myth Reading Group

Call for Proposals: Myth and Magic

512px-Circe_Offering_the_Cup_to_Odysseus

John William Waterhouse (1849-1917), Circe offering the Cup to Odysseus, 1891, Wikimedia Commons

We took the bowls she handed (magic hands!) […]

and then the demon goddess lightly laid her wand upon our hair

—Ovid, Metamorphoses, “The island of Circe”, XIV: 272-75

The Myth Reading Group returns this term with the theme of “Myth and Magic”.

The link between myth and magic is evoked in an array of mythical practices, such as the Ancient Egyptian rituals of the underworld in The Book of The Dead, and explored in literature and art across periods and cultures, from Grimm’s fairytales to Shakespeare, and from Arthurian legends to the magical worlds of J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis.

Does magic contribute to our understanding of myth? How is magic used in myth-related accounts and to whose benefit?

We invite proposals from anyone who is interested either in the intersection between myth and magic, and its various manifestations, or in interrogating the possibilities of such a connection.

Proposals may focus on magic and myth in religious practices and rituals and the occult or they may address expressions of magic in literature and the arts. We also welcome presentations about the use of magical objects (rings, amulets, and wands, among others) and substances in mythical tales and practices.

Please contact us with your suggestions for works or topics to read and discuss in the Summer term. Many dates are still available. Please email us at mythic@essex.ac.uk

The Myth Reading Group is open to anyone with an interest in myth. We meet every Thursday in term time, between 12:00 and 1:30 p.m. (Room 5B.330) at the University of Essex Colchester Campus. Our sessions include a short presentation, up to 30 minutes, followed by discussion. Our first session will be on Thursday 4 May.

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Some upcoming conferences

News of three upcoming conferences that might interest readers:

Religion, Myth and Migration
Sixth Annual Conference of the Irish Society for the Academic Study of Religions (ISASR)
Friday 16 June 2017
Waterford Institute of Technology, Ireland

Deadline for abstracts (including 6-minute ‘slam’ contributions): 10 April 2017

https://isasr.wordpress.com/2017/03/19/isasr-conference-2017-call-for-papers-extended-deadline/


That Other Crowd: Nethergods in the ancient Greek mythical imagination
4-7 September 2017
Distant Worlds Graduate School, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich, Germany

Deadline for abstracts: 31 May 2017

http://thatothercrowd.weebly.com/


Finally, our colleagues in the Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies are hosting…

Holism: Possibilities and Problems
8–10 September 2017
University of Essex, UK

We have publicised this on Twitter and Facebook, but have not mentioned it here before now. The deadline for abstracts has now passed, but you can register to attend.

https://oneworldprojectholism.wordpress.com/conferences/

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‘Route 110’: Heaney’s quotidian katabasis

Myth Reading Group

Thursday 23 March

12.00-1.30pm in Room NTC.2.06

We are very pleased to announce that Professor Roderick Main, director of the Centre for Myth Studies, concludes our discussion of mythical journeys this term with a session on katabasis as rendered in Seamus Heaney’s poetry

Underworld.jpg

Map of the Underworld showing the descents of Odysseus and Aeneas

In this session, we will discuss Heaney’s poem ‘Route 110’, from his 2010 collection Human Chain.  With the story and structure of Virgil’s Aeneid VI as his guide, Heaney journeys into the underworld of his past.

For additional reading on the concept of katabasis in Heaney’s poetry, please see Emanuela Zirzotti’s “‘Pius Seamus’: Heaney’s Appropriation of Aeneas’s Descent to the Underworld”, in Ben Pestell, Pietra Palazzolo, and Leon Burnett (eds.), Translating Myth (Oxford: Legenda, 2016), pp. 195-204.

ALL WELCOME

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