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.