Conference in Athens

Readers may be interested in the following call for papers.

The 10th Annual International Conference on Mediterranean Studies will be held on 10-13 April 2017, in Athens, Greece.

The conference includes two special panels of particular interest to myth scholars: ‘Beyond the Mediterranean: The Diaspora of Greek Tragedy’, and ‘The Nordic origins of the Homeric Poems’.

Follow the links for more details.

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Protected: Thursday 23 June: Joint Centre for Myth Studies & ESCALA event: Recommended Readings

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Journeys to Mictlan and Xibalba: an introduction to the Aztec and Maya afterlife through art

Centre for Myth Studies & ESCALA

Special Event

University of Essex

Thursday 23 June, at 12:00 in Room CB.21

Journeys to Mictlan and Xibalba: an introduction to the Aztec and Maya afterlife through art

Dr. Joanne Harwood (University of Essex)


Rufino Tamayo (1899-1991), Figura Prehispánica VIII. Vaso zoomorfo, Colima (Prehispanic Figure VIII. Zoomorphic vase, Colima), 1976 © the artist, image © ESCALA

In this object-based session we will introduce Aztec and Maya beliefs about the afterlife through artworks in the Essex Collection of Art from Latin America (ESCALA). ESCALA is a unique research and teaching collection at the University of Essex housed in a purpose-designed space in the Constable Buildings. The Collection includes a number of artworks that relate to pre-Columbian and indigenous beliefs and myths; a legacy of Professor Emeritus Gordon Brotherston’s world-renowned expertise in pictorial indigenous American literatures. Some of them, including those listed below, are inspired by Aztec and Maya traditions and art, and specifically the role of the underworld (Mictlan for the Aztecs and Xibalba for the Maya) in cosmogony and the birth of humans. As Mary Miller and Karl Taube have noted, ‘In Mesoamerican thought death was closely integrated into the world of the living’ and life and death were believed ‘to exist in dynamic and complementary opposition’ (1997: 74). This is evident in almost every aspect of Aztec and Maya thought and culture, and the legacies of the integration of death into the world of the living apparent in Mexico’s contemporary Day of the Dead celebrations.

See the set reading & references

Dr Joanne Harwood is Director of ESCALA (Essex Collection of Art from Latin America)

The event will be followed by drinks



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Thursday 16 June: The Myth of Er: the story that ‘will save us if we are obedient to the word spoken’

Myth Reading Group

Thursday 16 June

12.00-1.30pm in Room 3.318

This week Dr Anita Klujber introduces a discussion of ‘The Myth of Er’ in The Republic of Plato

Necessity and Her Daughters2

Necessity and Her Daughters (author and date unknown)

In this session, we will discuss ‘The Myth of Er’, an account of the afterlife from ancient Greek literature, as narrated by Plato’s protagonist Socrates at the end of The Republic. The narrative displays some of the key features of mythic thinking, such as the tripartite model of the universe held together by an axis that encapsulates a musical cosmology within itself. We will relate Er’s account to comparable views of the afterlife that were discussed in other sessions, including The Tibetan Book of the Dead and the journey of Aeneas into the underworld. We shall also investigate the transformative effect of the myth in the context of The Republic as a whole, its role to shed light on the controversial nature of the infamous argument about the damaging effects of literature presented in books III and X. Does the final narrative have the power to challenge passive reading habits that so often result in attributing to Plato an antagonistic attitude to literature? Does it have the power to save verbal art and to save us, and in what ways?

Text: the translation by Benjamin Jowett can be found on two websites: (lines 10.614 – 10.621)

Additional reading: selections from Plato’s The Republic:

Book II  (from line ‘Come then, and let us pass a leisure hour in story-telling, and our story shall be the education of our heroes’)

Book III

Book X


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Thursday 9 June: From Beyond the Grave: Seamus Heaney’s Translation of Aeneid Book VI

Myth Reading Group

Thursday 9 June

12.00-1.30pm in Room 3.318

This week Professor Roderick Main introduces a discussion of Aeneas’s descent to the underworld in Seamus Heaney’s translation of Aeneid Book VI (2016).


Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), “Aeneas in the Underworld”, National Museum Wales, Wikimedia Commons

In this session we shall look at several episodes from Book VI of Virgil’s Aeneid, in which the eponymous hero descends to the underworld in order to meet his deceased father. We shall use the posthumously published translation of Seamus Heaney, looking in particular at lines 1-52 [1-33 in the Latin original], 171-203 [124-155], 604-641 [440-476], 945-1015 [703-751], and 1160-1222 [854-901].

The full text of Aeneid Book VI is available in a variety of translations and in the original Latin at Perseus Digital Library. The supplementary reading provides a summary of the Aeneid and a synopsis and discussion of Book VI, if anyone would like to put the selections in context.


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Myths of the Afterlife in E. Fakinou’s The Seventh Garment

Myth Reading Group

Thursday 2 June

12.00-1.30pm in Room 3.318

This week Eirini Apanomeritaki introduces a discussion of myths of the afterlife in

E. Fakinou’s The Seventh Garment.


Paul Klee (1879-1940), The Messenger of Autumn (1922), Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut, USA [work on the public domain]

Often seen as a retelling of key events of Modern Greek history with mythical elements, Eugenia Fakinou’s The Seventh Garment (1983) narrates the tragic story of a family through three female narrators: Mana, the mother, Eleni, the daughter, and Roula, the granddaughter. The three generations meet when the last male member of the family, Fotos, is dying and an ancient pagan ritual is about to be practiced to ensure his entrance to the Underworld. According to the ritual, the blood-stained garments of former male members of the family must be placed around the dying man, so that the ancestral spirits guide him to the other side.

Fakinou’s magical realist text revives ancient myths, the most prominent being that of the loss of Persephone, pagan beliefs and funeral rites which are also juxtaposed with Christian faith, and modern views on customs and rituals of the Greek countryside. The women’s internal monologues reveal their own painful experience of history but also how the Modern Greek state was founded upon a combination of myth, folklore and religion.

Eugenia Fakinou, The Seventh Garment, trans. by Ed Emery, (London and New York: Serpent’s Tail, 1991), pp.98-113.

See our poster, the extract from The Seventh Garment, and a blog entry for some additional information on Fakinou’s magical realism.

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Thursday 19 May: The Engaged Afterlife of Lilith

Myth Reading Group

Thursday 19 May

12.00-1.30pm in Room 3.318

This week Jeremy Solnick introduces a discussion of the afterlife of Lilith.

Lilith Notre Dame

“Adam, Eve, and the serpent (Lilith)”, Portal of the Virgin, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Image by Rebecca Kennison, Wikimedia Commons

In Jewish mythology Lilith is Adam’s wayward first wife, an independent spirit who refused to play second fiddle to Adam and abandoned her consort, forcing God to create Eve.  References can be found to her in folk-lore as the wife of Satan and the malign spirit who haunts the dreams of young men, and steals the lives of new-born babies.  Artists and poets have been fascinated by her. She often appears as the serpent with a woman’s face in pictures of the Temptation of Eve; Keats’s ‘Lamia’ is arguably a Lilith incarnation and several ‘Lilith’ pictures were painted by adherents of the pre-Raphaelite group including Rossetti.

In the session, we will look at the biblical and possible pre-biblical origins of the Lilith figure and the way the myths around her developed in the medieval period through rabbinic and exegetical texts.  We will discuss her influence on the thinking of the Italian writer and holocaust witness Primo Levi and her current manifestation as something of a feminist icon.

Primo Levi, “Lilith”, in Primo Levi: Collected Poems, trans. by Ruth Feldman and Brian Swann (London and Boston: Faber and Faber, 1988), p. 26.

Primo Levi, “Lilith”, in Moments of Reprieve, trans. Ruth Feldman (London: Abacus, 1987), pp. 37-45.

Poster and texts:

Lilith (poem) – Primo Levi

Lilith (short story)- Primo Levi

Optional reading:

The Dawn of a New Lilith



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