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

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

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.

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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


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.


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Translating Myth Interview

We are very pleased to announce that an interview with Pietra Palazzolo and Ben Pestell, editors of Translating Myth (Legenda, 2016), together with Leon Burnett, has just been published on the Open University Classical Studies blog

The OU Classics Q&A addresses the concept of ‘translating myth’ across periods and cultures, and the intersection between myth studies and translation studies. Further information about Translating Myth can be found on our publication page with links to publishers and a discount voucher.


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Journeying from One Life to the Next

Myth Reading Group

Thursday 16 March

12.00-1.30pm in Room NTC.2.06

We are very pleased to announce that Fliss Rich will continue our discussion of mythical journeys with a session on reincarnation in Tibetan Buddhist writing, art, and practice


Yama, the Lord of Death, holding the Wheel of Life, Wellcome Trust images, Wikimedia Commons

In the session, we will discuss how mythscape and deathscape intertwine in Tibetan Buddhist writing, art, and practice when addressing the issue of journey in reincarnation.

Essential reading: Please read Chapters 17 & 18 from Rinpoche Sogyal’s The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying (London: Random House, 1995): ‘Intrinsic Radiance‘, pp. 274-286, and ‘The Bardo of Becoming‘, pp. 287-298. An explanation of the Wheel of Life imagery can be found in Lonely Planet Tibet by B. Mayhew et al. (2002), pp.304-305.

Additional reading: Please see an extract from Appendix 3: ‘Two Stories’ in R. Sogyal’s The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, pp. 378-381, and Chapter 6 of The Tibetan Book of the Dead



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Nomadic Modernism: J.H. Prynne’s ‘Aristeas, in Seven Years’ and The White Stones

Myth Reading Group

Thursday 9 March

12.00-1.30pm in Room NTC.2.06

We are very pleased to announce that Max Maher will continue our discussion of mythical journeys with a session on the Greek poet-shaman Aristeas and modernist retelling of his post-mortem journey


Detail of attic red figure vase showing ‘Arimaspian warriors battle half-eagle, half-lion Griffins’, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, in Theoi image gallery

J.H. Prynne’s 1969 collection The White Stones is a broad and enigmatic book of some of the earliest work of this poet’s long career. Influenced by the poetry of Charles Olson and Ed Dorn and the philosophy of Martin Heidegger, these poems offer glimpses of political possibility, never firmly pinned down, and gesture to new capacities of knowledge formed from a poetic reimagining of history. In this way they develop the Modernist tradition of Eliot and Pound. Prynne’s poem ‘Aristeas: in Seven Years’ (re/un)tells the story of the poet Aristeas’ post-mortem journey, documented by Herodotus. The poem’s mutant collision of orphic insight and archival scholarship places into question the relationship between myth, history and knowledge, and the poet’s potential  role in their exchanges.

See Prynne’s ‘Aristeas, in Seven Years‘, the extract from Herodotus on Aristeas, and Prynne’s ‘Note on Metal‘ as preparatory reading.

For further reading, see Prynne’s ‘Aiport Poem – Ethics of Survival‘ and ‘The Glacial Question, Unsolved‘ from The White Stones, and Prynne’s lectures on the Maximus poems of Charles Olson, available online (Part 1 & Part 2)



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Creation Myths in Ex Machina

Myth Reading Group

Thursday 2 March

12.00-1.30pm in Room NTC.2.06

We are very pleased to announce that Dr Pietra Palazzolo, convener of the Myth Reading Group, will continue our discussion of mythical journeys with a session on Alex Garland’s Ex Machina and the links between myth and science fiction.


Johann Heinrich Fussli (1741-1825), Hephaestus supported by his mechanical, human-like attendants meeting Thetis (1803)

In this session, we will use Ex Machina (dir. Alex Garland, 2015) to explore the way creation myths—from Hephaestus’s human-like attendants to Pygmalion’s Galatea—are re-imagined in science fiction. Caleb, a nerd programmer, is selected by his boss Nathan to work on his latest project on artificial intelligence in his high security underground home/laboratory. His task is to administer the Turing test to Nathan’s latest AI creation, Ava, an advanced android, to test its capacity for intelligence and true consciousness. In discussing the film’s focus on artificial life—with some reference also to Blade Runner (dir. Ridley Scott, 1982) and Her (dir. Spike Jonze, 2013)—and the borderline between artifice and nature (in the making of Ava as well as in her interaction with Caleb and Nathan, and in the setting), we will address this term’s theme of journeys in its wider meaning of ‘translating myth’ across periods and media.

Selected clips from Ex Machina will be shown in the session, though it would be great if you have time to watch the full film.


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Round Table Discussion: Sea Journeys

Myth Reading Group

Round Table

Thursday 23 February

12.00-1.30pm in Room NTC.2.06


J. M. W. Turner, A Disaster at Sea (c. 1833-35), Tate, London

Our next session will be a round table discussion on the topic of sea journeys. Sharing links with last term’s theme of Mythscapes, our focus on sea journeys or sea crossings is aimed at exploring the mythical dimension of the sea. In Greek culture, for instance, the sea can be interpreted as a liminal space, located between real or imagined landscapes “the earth, the Underworld, and Olympus”, and negotiating “between the worlds of the living, the dead, and the gods” (Marie-Claire Beaulieu, The Sea in the Greek Imagination, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016).

The liminality of the sea is also reflected in its many attributes, and rendered in the subtle tension between a sense of hope, abundance, and beauty, and a glimpse of horror and fear of the unknown.

We would like to invite you to send suggestions for extracts to be discussed at the round table. Please email texts or images to

We may consider the following questions:

  • In what ways is the sea mythic?
  • How is the sea presented as mythic in literary texts and art?
  • How are sea journeys interpreted and ‘translated’ across cultures and media?
  • What is the significance of the sea-shore in mythical landscapes?

As a way of starting our discussion, please read an extract from Moby Dick, provided by Dr Leon Burnett, further selections  from Julian Barnes’s A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters, from The Bible, and from D.H.Lawrence’s ‘The Ship of Death‘. I will upload new extracts from now until Wednesday evening (22 February), so we can have a good range of texts or images to discuss at our session.


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