Thursday 8 December: Mythscapes of a mind-doctor

Myth Reading Group

Thursday 8 December

12.00-1.30pm in Room NTC.2.06

This week Professor Roderick Main, Director of the Centre for Myth Studies, continues our discussion of Mythscapes with a session on landscapes of the mind in C. G. Jung’s The Red Book


Illustration from C. G. Jung, The Red Book: Liber Novus, ed. S. Shamdasani (New York: Norton, 2009), Liber Secundus, p. 22, Cap. v, Dies ii

In his recently published Red Book — Liber Novus  (2009) C. G. Jung recorded and described, as well as in some cases pictorially illustrated, a series of fantasies that he would later dub his ‘confrontation with the unconscious’.   Jung generated and explored these fantasies by means of the technique he would call active imagination.  For Jung the imagination could be mythopoeic, and his fantasies are replete with the figures and landscapes of myth.  In this session we look at a selection of episodes  in which the inner landscape plays an important role in the fantasy.

G. Jung, The Red Book: Liber Novus, ed. S. Shamdasani, trans. M. Kyburz, J. Peck and S. Shamdasani (New York: Norton, 2009)


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Thursday 1 December. Latin American mythscapes: Gabriel García Márquez’s Macondo

Myth Reading Group

Thursday 1 December

12.00-1.30pm in Room NTC.2.06

This week Eirini Apanomeritaki continues our discussion of Mythscapes with a session on Gabriel García Márquez’s Macondo


First edition book cover of One Hundred Years of Solitude (Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana, 1967)

Gabriel García Márquez’s acclaimed magical realist novel One Hundred Years of Solitude ([1967], 1970) provided a creation myth for Latin America; events from twentieth century Colombia and the country’s colonial past are juxtaposed with extraordinary incidents in a repetitive cycle. Featuring scenes inspired from the discovery of the New World, the Genesis and the Apocalypse, but also from classical creation myths, the imaginary Macondo becomes a mythical location where seven generations of the Buendía family are born, rule, and die. The remote village of Macondo grows, is exploited by a banana plantation company, is hit by a plague and a flood, and eventually vanishes amidst a hurricane.

In the session, we will consider extracts from One Hundred Years of Solitude relating to Macondo’s foundation and disappearance (essential reading: pp. 2-4, 7-12, and 298-302) and to the insomnia plague (additional reading: pp. 33-36).

References: Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude [1967], trans. Gregory Rabasa [1970] (London: Penguin, 2000)


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Conference report: Myth and Emotions

Complutense University, Madrid is a focal point for the study of myth. The driving force behind many of the myth-related activities there is José Manuel Losada Goya, a prolific and energetic scholar of French literature and mythology, who edits Amaltea, a trilingual online journal of myth criticism. Since 2011, Prof. Losada and Dr Antonella Lipscomb have organised conferences devoted to aspects of myth in the period after 1900. In October of this year, a delegation from the Centre for Myth Studies attended the most recent event, an international conference on the topic of ‘Myth and Emotions’ (see also the conference Facebook page).

Essex was represented by Leon Burnett (founding director of the Centre for Myth Studies at Essex), Pietra Palazzolo (convener of the Myth Reading Group), Ben Pestell (co-editor, with Pietra and Leon, of Translating Myth), and Saul Andreetti (Essex alumnus, translator and scholar based in Bologna). Leon’s paper delved deeper into his current work on Ariadne on Naxos, and he also chaired a session with Pietra, Ben, and Saul who discussed mythical affect in, respectively, Alice Oswald, J. G. Ballard, and Michael Ende.

Among the attendees was Christina Dokou of the University of Athens (who, incidentally, is also a contributor to Translating Myth). Christina was accompanied by some of her MA students whose conference presentations belied their student-status in their sophistication and acuity. We are delighted that two of the students have accepted our request to produce informal reports of their first major conference experience for the Centre for Myth Studies blog.


Makroui Arapian writes:

The Fourth International Conference of Myth Criticism centered on the question of ‘Myth and Emotions’. It was held at Complutense University of Madrid from 24 to 28 October 2016. The conference examined the emotional component of myth and its effect on our contemporary society: an aspect which is often ignored in myth criticism and studies of mythology. The excellent organization and kind hospitality were evident even from the very first day of the conference. The conference was very effectively scheduled for both the speakers and the audience since there were three sessions consisting of three presentations in each day. The papers covered a wide range of topics and various mythanalytic approaches. Moreover, the daily plenary presentations were extremely interesting and inspiring.

The Q&A sessions which followed each presentation were among the most interesting and beneficial aspects of the conference. The discussions between the speakers and the audience were really enlightening and gave new perspectives to our field. Furthermore, the breaks between the sessions gave us a great opportunity to have various conversations with each other and exchange views on the papers which were previously presented.

In my view, one of the most interesting and thought-provoking papers of the conference was delivered by Rebeca Gualberto Valverde with the title ‘Ellen Thatcher, “The Lily Maid of Astolat”: myths of romantic dissatisfaction in John Dos Passos’s Manhattan Transfer’. I was pleased by the clarity of her prose and her strong argumentation. I was impressed by her association of the capitalistic and indifferent urban life of New York with the chivalrous Camelot of the Arthurian legends. She argued that these extremely different cities, Manhattan and Camelot, represent the city which is doomed to fail, a contemporary Babylon, which is quite close to what T. S. Eliot describes in ‘The Waste Land’. What is more, Rebeca Gualberto Valverde drew an excellent parallel between Ellen Thatcher, the heroine of the novel, and The Lady of Shalott as she is presented in Alfred Lord Tennyson’s famous poem. She underscored the fact that both women were objectified by a male figure and they were tragically led to their death for their love while singing their own lament song.

It was an interesting and inspiring experience for all of us who attended and participated in the conference. Similar conferences should take place in the future since it is a wonderful opportunity for various scholars from all over the world to meet, exchange ideas and contribute to the literary community.

Sofia Stamatelou writes:

There is only one way for me to describe the ‘Myth and Emotions’ International Conference of Myth Criticism that took place in Madrid in October 2016; it was the experience of a lifetime! As a postgraduate student, this was the first time I have ever participated in a conference of such importance and I was super-excited to meet people, attend their talks, ask questions and learn more about myth! The plenary lectures of Peter Arnds and Edith Hall were outstanding. The former gave a very interesting talk on myth in relation to emotion and trauma. His analysis of the myth of Lycaon from Greek and Germanic myth to narratives dealing with Nazi Germany was extremely revealing to me. His delivery and his erudition made the lecture even more enjoyable and provided us with an in-depth examination of lycanthropy.

Edith Hall talked very passionately about Demeter, Medea and Iphigenia as instances of female strength in the patriarchal society of Ancient Greece. Her investigation was centered on the question of whether Ancient Greek women and girls reacted differently to these female myths of empowerment from men. Her comments on the myth of Iphigenia, and its importance in female religious rituals and festivals as underscoring Iphigenia’s priestess role – and the great response it received from the women of that time – was simply captivating. Finally, this experience is even more rewarding since I was given the opportunity to meet lovely people and spend time exploring the city of Madrid, tasting delicious food and enjoying local life with them.

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Thursday 24 November: The Russian Forest: the landscape of Russian fairytales with ‘Babayaga’s Daughter’

Performance Event

Centre for Myth Studies

University of Essex

Thursday 24 November, at 12.00 in Room NTC.2.06

The Russian Forest: the landscape of Russian fairytales with ‘Babayaga’s Daughter’

Sally Pomme Clayton

We are delighted to welcome storyteller Sally Pomme Clayton for a special performance event on the landscape of Russian fairytales and the figure of Babayaga


‘Babayaga’ illustration by Russian artist Dmitri Mitrokhin for Arthur Ransome’s Old Peter’s Russian Tales (1916)

Performance storyteller Sally Pomme Clayton will tell ‘Babayaga’s daughter’ – her version of a dark Russian fairytale. Her story is an exploration of the Russian forest – the landscape of Russian fairytales. The forest is where all leading characters go. There they meet the wild Babayaga and face dangerous tasks. The story will be a starting point to discuss the reoccurring motifs and images linked to the Russian fairytale forest and explore their meanings. Suggested readings for this special performance event are two stories contained in Alexsander Afanas’ev’s collection of Russian Fairytales (trans. by Norbert Guterman. New York: Pantheon Books, 1946): ‘Prince Danila Govorila’ and ‘Vasilisa the Beautiful’.

Sally Pomme Clayton is a pioneering storyteller and writer. She co-founded The Company of Storytellers with Ben Haggarty and Hugh Lupton (1985). Together they created ground-breaking storytelling performances, spearheading storytelling for adult audiences across the UK. Recent performances have been at Beyond the Border Storytelling festival, The Wellcome Collection, The Athens Storytelling Festival, The Royal Opera House, Northern Stage, Soho Theatre, Lancaster Lit Fest, and with The British Council in Jordan. She was Artist in Residence at The Swedenborg Society making daring performance ‘Night Visit’ combining narrative with digital images and sound. She has created storytelling performances with The London Gypsy Orchestra, Joglaresa, The London Philharmonic Orchestra, The Royal Shakespeare Company. She was commissioned by The British Museum to create and perform six stories for ‘A History of the world in 100 objects’ (2010). She has published several children’s books, her most recent is Greek Myths: stories of sun, stone and sea (Frances Lincoln, 2014). She lectured on World oral traditions at Middlesex University from 1992-2008, and at Rose Bruford College 2009-2015.

“Some people are born to entertain. It’s a special kind of magic. Sally Pomme Clayton has that magic in plenty – she is a dream-weaver, a spell-binder.” The Londonist


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Thursday 10 November. Après le déluge: Post-apocalyptic archaism

Myth Reading Group

Thursday 10 November

12.00-1.30pm in Room NTC.2.06

This week Dr Ben Pestell continues our discussion of Mythscapes with a session on post-apocalyptic archaism in J. G. Ballard’s The Drowned World


Joseph Magnus Stäck, Italian Landscape of Ruins in Moonlight, 1850 [work on the public domain]

In Ballard’s The Drowned World (1962), a modern, post-diluvian landscape is transformed by the resurgent flora and fauna of the Palaeozoic and Triassic eras. At the same time, the inhabitants of the drowned city are increasingly plagued by shared dreams of a prehistoric landscape and a huge, pulsating, captivating sun. In Ballard’s vision, the post-apocalyptic and the archaic collide, just as the psychological and the material realms are confused. The scenario echoes the conditions described by Freud, in Totem and Taboo, in his speculation on the traumatic origin of myth and religion. Is myth really so freighted with trauma and remorse?

Set reading: extracts from Ballard’s The Drowned World and Freud’s Totem and Taboo.

  • J. G. Ballard, The Drowned World [1962] (London: Fourth Estate, 2012)
  • Sigmund Freud, Totem and Taboo: Some Points of Agreement Between the Mental Lives of Savages and Neurotics [1913], trans. James Strachey [1950] (London: Routledge, 2001)


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Translating Myth book launch

We are delighted to announce a Book Launch Symposium for Translating Myth to be hosted by the British Centre for Literary Translation (BCLT) at the University of East Anglia (UEA) on Wednesday 16 November, from 2 to 5 p.m. Arts 01.02


The provisional schedule is as follows:

  • Welcome Address – Duncan Large, Academic Director of BCLT
  • Editors’ introduction – Ben Pestell and Pietra Palazzolo
  • Presentation – Giuseppe Sofo (Avignon / ‘Sapienza’)
  • Break
  • Formal response to the volume – Tom Rutledge (UEA)
  • Round Table discussion, chaired by Leon Burnett
  • Drinks

All are welcome.

More information about Translating Myth is available on this site.

Event poster as pdf.

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Thursday 3 November: Naxos Revisited

Myth Reading Group

Thursday 3 November

12.00-1.30pm in Room NTC.2.06

This week Dr Leon Burnett starts our discussion of Mythscapes with a session on ‘Naxos Revisited’ in relation to the story of Theseus


Sanctuary of Dionysus, Iria [photo by Leon Burnett, September 2016]

The island of Naxos, the largest of the Cyclades, is rich in mythological associations. It is said to have been the birthplace of Dionysus, the sanctuary of the infant Zeus, a place of worship for Apollo and Demeter, and a refuge for Ares. It was also a stopping-off point for Theseus on his route back to Athens after he had slain the Minotaur in Crete. The Theseus story provides the focus for a discussion of two texts this week, an extract from a novel by Mary Renault (The King Must Die) and a poem by David Harsent (“The Crane Dance”).

Please read the extract from Book five (Naxos) of Mary Renault’s The King Must Die ([1958] 2015) and poems by David Harsent (“The Crane Dance”) and Yannis Ritsos (“The New Dance”).




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