The Myth Reading Group meets on ‘Zoom’ on Monday 22 March, 5:30-6:30 pm (UK time). The link to join will be posted in the comments for this post. All are welcome.
Augustus John, Portrait of Jane Ellen Harrison
This week’s text is taken from Jane Ellen Harrison’s Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion (1903). We will read extracts from Harrison’s chapter on Dionysus. The first extract deals with Dionysus’ introduction to Greek religion and the second one explores the god’s association to the bull.
Prolegomena can be accessed in full online at archive.org.
The Myth Reading Group meets on ‘Zoom’ on Monday 8 March, 5:30-6:30 pm (UK time). The link to join is posted in the comments for this post. All are welcome.
Etruscan Hydria, c. 500 BC.
This week’s text is an extract from the Imagines of Philostratus the Elder (third century AD). The reading covers two sections which recapitulate the mythic accounts in the Bacchae and the Homeric Hymn to Dionysus, affording us the opportunity to see how the myths have been reinterpreted.
Please read section 1. 18 (Bacchantes) and section 1. 19 (Tyrrhenian Pirates), available online in Arthur Fairbanks’ Loeb translation (1931):
English Translation (Arthur Fairbanks, 1931)
Interactive Greek text (NB section numbers are different):
The Myth Reading Group meets on ‘Zoom’ on Monday 22 February, 5:30-6:30 pm (UK time). The link to join is posted in the comments for this post. All are welcome.
Following our discussion of Euripides’ Bacchae (405 BC), we turn to other ancient Greek sources for Dionysus: the three Homeric Hymns to Dionysus (circa seventh to fifth centuries) and Aristophanes’ comedy the Frogs (405 BC).
The Homeric Hymns relate some tales of the god, and further elucidate his character. The extract from the Frogs casts Dionysus as a comic figure, meeting the hero Heracles.
Production of the Frogs in the original Greek, with optional English subtitles (Cambridge Arts Theatre, 2013):
The Myth Reading Group meets on ‘Zoom’ on Monday 8 February, 5:30-6:30 pm (UK time). The link to join will be posted in the comments for this post before the session. All are welcome.
The Death of Pentheus
Attic red figure kylix, c. 480 BC
Kimball Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas
This term’s topic is Dionysus, and we begin with a reading and discussion of Euripides’ tragedy, the Bacchae (405 BC). Dionysus arrives in Thebes, his place of birth, having travelled from Asia Minor. But the present king, Pentheus, rejects the god’s divinity and rites…
Dionysus rides a leopard (or panther), with a Maenad and Silenus. Red figure vase, fourth century BC. Louvre (image from theoi.com)
Dionysus is our theme for this term’s Myth Reading Group.
The Myth Reading Group is open to all who have an interest in the study of myth. Meetings are held over ‘Zoom’, with texts circulated in advance. Together we read extracts from the selected texts and have an open-ended discussion of them. The discussions are both scholarly and informal, always with a feeling for the power of the myth. Although you are encouraged to join in the discussion, you are also welcome simply to observe.
This term, we will focus on texts which have formed our image of the god of wine, revelry, intoxication, ekstasis, and dissolution of boundaries, from Euripides’ posthumously-performed tragedy, to a post-Nietzschean reassessment in Jane Harrison’s Prolegomena.
We will meet on the following Mondays, between 5.30 and 6.30 pm:
- 8 February: Euripides, Bacchae
- 22 February: Homeric Hymns to Dionysus & Dionysus in Aristophanes’ Frogs
- 8 March: Philostratus the Elder, Imagines
- 22 March: Dionysus in Jane Harrison’s Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion
Texts and Zoom links will be posted on this site in advance of each session.
The Myth Reading Group meets on ‘Zoom’ on Wednesday 16 December, 5:30-6:30 pm (UK time). The link to join can be found in the comments for this post. All are welcome.
Continuing our topic of ‘Food’, we will look at some moments of eating, drinking, and feasting in the Odyssey.
The Odyssey is replete with references to food and drink: the suitors’ consumption of Penelope’s stores; Telemachus’ feasts with Nestor and Menelaus; Helen’s amnesiac drink; Circe’s potion; Odysseus’ feast with the Phaeacians; references to fish as poor fare; the Lotus Eaters; Polyphemus’ sheep, cheese, and his dining on Odysseus’ companions; the cattle of the sun; the blood offering to the spirits of the dead. In these scenes, the poet evokes themes of hunger, forbidden food, narcotics, magic, social relations, and transgression.
- Homer, Odyssey IV.1-305 (trans. Emily Wilson)
This scene finds Telemachus, son of Odysseus, accompanied by Nestor’s son Pisistratus, visiting Sparta, where Telemachus seeks news of his father from Menelaus. The poet depicts the customs around the feast, and Helen’s drugged wine.
- Homer, Odyssey IX.106-554 (trans. Wilson)
This presents Odysseus’ encounter with Polyphemus the cyclops. Lines 151 – 306 are especially relevant.
The Myth Reading Group meets on ‘Zoom’ on Wednesday 2 December, 5:30-6:30 pm (UK time). The link to join can be found in the comments for this post. All are welcome.
Continuing our topic of ‘Food’, the primary text is an extract from Dubravka Ugrešić, Baba Yaga Laid an Egg, (Canongate, 2010), trans. Ellen Elias-Bursać, Celia Hawkesworth and Mark Thompson.
The novel is split in three parts. The first two sections present the stories of women who deal with death and old age in Eastern Europe. The second section, where the “Egg Dream” extract is taken from, is about three old women (Beba, Pupa, Kukla) and their visit to a spa in Czech Republic.
The third section of the novel is a semi-fictional “academic” commentary on the elements of the Baba Yaga myth entitled ‘Baba Yaga For Beginners.’ It is written by a fictional expert in Folklore Studies and serves as a commentary on the first two sections of the book. From this section we will read the “Egg” entry.
The Myth Reading Group meets on ‘Zoom’ on Wednesday 4 November, 5:30-6:30 pm (UK time). The link to join can be found in the comments for this post. All are welcome.
Continuing our topic of ‘Food’, the primary text is: John Keats, ‘The Fall of Hyperion. A Dream’, Canto 1, ll. 1-326.
The food references occur in ll. 24-56 and ll. 232-242.
Secondary material (for food imagery): Keats, ‘The Eve of St. Agnes’, XXIX-XXXI.
You can find the poems online at keats-poems.com:
The first meeting of the Myth Reading Group for the Autumn term is on Wednesday 21 October, 5:30-6:30 pm (UK time) via Zoom (Link can be found in the comments).
Our topic is “Food” and we will be looking at Rainer Maria Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus (Part One, sonnets XIII and XV).
The sonnets are available online (in Robert Temple’s translation):
Leonardo da Vinci, The Last Supper (1495-98)
The Myth Reading Group is revived for the Autumn Term for four meetings to be held over ‘Zoom’.
Texts will be circulated in advance, and the meetings will consist of reading and discussion of the texts.
The meetings are open to all who have an interest in the study of myth. In the past, the group has attracted a fruitful mix of academics, practitioners, and enthusiasts.
Details of how to join the meeting will be published shortly.
The topic for this term is ‘Food’.
Food is so commonplace that it can easily be overlooked, but it is essential to the mythic imagination of the past and the present. In finding and getting, in times of scarcity or abundance, in the basic need and the sensual delight – the food we eat is as integral to our sense of self as the stories we tell. When we think of the tales of hunting and cultivation, the raw and the cooked, mana and taboo, of hospitality, of raiding, or poison and remedies, we rediscover the vitality of the merest crumb.
We will meet on the following Wednesdays, between 5.30 and 6.30 pm:
- 21 October: Rainer Maria Rilke, Sonnets to Orpheus
- 4 November: John Keats, ‘The Fall of Hyperion. A Dream’
- 2 December: Dubravka Ugrešić, Baba Yaga Laid an Egg
- 16 December: Homer, The Odyssey