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Course Syllabi and Announcements
  LIT 165 Syllabus
  LIT 165 Announcements and Assignments
  WRT 120 Syllabus
  WRT 120 Announcements and Assignments

Notebook for Topics in Literature: Imaginary Worlds (Spring 2008)
  A Reading of THE TEMPEST

Notebook for Topics in Literature: Rites of Passage (Spring 2006)
  Goals of the Course
  Fundamental Questions about Literature
  Valuing Literature
  Critical Thinking and Reading Literature
  Critical Approaches to Literature
  Literature as ART
  Ambiguity
  Approaching the Art of Fiction
  Defining the Short Story
  Evaluating Short Fiction
  Craft of Fiction: PLOT
  Craft of Fiction: CHARACTER
  Small Group Exercise
  ARABY by James Joyce
  WHERE ARE YOU GOING, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? by Joyce Carol Oates
  Our RITES OF PASSAGE Theme
  A note about GIRL
  POE and the art of STORY OF A HOUR
  THE YELLOW WALLPAPER
  YOUNG MAN ON SIXTH AVENUE
  Notes on Innovative Fiction
  Assignment Sheet for Paper #1
  Fiction and Ambiguity - Your Questions
  Writing Workshop - Short Fiction
  Poetry Journal Project Assignment Sheet
  LITERARY SYNTHESIS PROJECT
  Defining Poetry
  Reading Poetry
  The Craft of Poetry
  Drama and Tragedy
  Study Questions: DEATH OF A SALESMAN

Notebook for Effective Writing I (Spring 2006)
  Paper #4 Assignment Sheet
  Critical Thinking and Commentary
  Casebook: Evaluating Sources Worksheet
  Selecting Information
  Evaluating Arguments
  CASEBOOK PROJECT Assignment Sheet
  Approaching Persuasive Writing
  Topic Development - Profile Essay
  Generating Ideas for the Profile Essay
  Paper #2 Assignment Sheet
  Profile Exercise
  Analyzing THE FIVE BEDROOM, SIX FIGURE ROOTLESS LIFE
  Objective Writing: Selected Readings
  Writing Workshop: Paper #1
  Expressive Writing in the NYTimes
  Writing Effective Introductions and Conclusions
  Paper #1: IDENTITY
  Expressive Writing
  Open Letter Exercise and Examples
  EMERSON on Individuality vs. Conformity
  Literature related to IDENTITY
  Understanding the 'Rhetorical Situation'

Go Exploring
  Weblog for WRT 120
  Writing Assistance on the Web
  Blackboard at WCU
  WCU Homepage
  WCU's Francis Harvey Green Library

Notebook for Topics in Literature: Imaginary Worlds (Fall 2005)
  One Last Look at Imaginary Worlds
  Franz Kafka's BEFORE THE LAW
  Analyzing WAITING FOR GODOT
  Approaching WAITING FOR GODOT
  Paper #3: Assignment Sheet
  Paper #4: Independent Project
  The Problem of Stability in BRAVE NEW WORLD
  UTOPIA/DYSTOPIA Links
  Analyzing Huxley's BRAVE NEW WORLD
  Defining Utopia
  Embarking on Huxley's BRAVE NEW WORLD
  A Reading of Shakespeare's THE TEMPEST
  From today's news (11/3/05)
  Assignment Sheet for Paper #2
  Goodbye to Dante's Imaginary World
  Stepping Through Dante's Inferno: Cantos 10-34
  Stepping Through Dante's Inferno: Cantos 1-10
  INFERNO: Questions/Analysis: Cantos 32-34
  INFERNO: Questions/Analysis: Cantos 18-31
  INFERNO: Questions for Analysis: Cantos 12-17
  INFERNO: Structure
  INFERNO: Questions for Analysis: Cantos 1-5
  INFERNO: Analyzing Canto 1
  Relating to Dante's Inferno
  Approaching Dante's DIVINE COMEDY
  A Little Help with Dante's INFERNO
  Assignment Sheet for Paper #1
  Notes on LEAF BY NIGGLE
  Responses to LEAF BY NIGGLE
  ON FAIRY STORIES: An Essay by Tolkien
  Notes on Axolotl
  Reading Ovid's Tales
  From Myth to Literature: Approaching Ovid's Tales
  Notes on THE EYE OF THE GIANT
  Functions of the Genesis Tales
  Analyzing Mythic Tales
  Defining Mythology
  Filtering the Introduction to FANTASTIC WORLDS
  Commentary on LA BELLE DAME SANS MERCI by Keats
  Commentary on DARKNESS by Byron
  Handout: Imagination Poems Set
  What is Imagination?
  Our Course Theme: Imaginary Worlds
  LIT 165 Assignments: Fall 2005
  LIT 165 Announcements: Fall 2005
  Imaginary Worlds: Course Syllabus

Notebook for Effective Writing I (Fall 2005)
  Paper #4: Independent Thinking/Reading/Writing
  Casebook Preparation Checklist
  Casebook Assignment Schedule
  Evaluating Sources for the Casebook
  Casebook Project Assignment Sheet
  Notes on Rational Argument
  Argument
  Assignment Sheet: Objective Writing
  Reviewing Elements of the Profile Essay
  Writing the Profile Essay
  Readings: Objective Writing
  Assignment Sheet: Expressive Writing
  Rubric for Evaluation of Writing
  About SKIN DEEP
  Emerson on Individuality vs. Conformity
  Mind-map: Identity
  Understanding the 'Rhetorical Situation'
  Assignments Page
  Announcements Page
  WRT 120 Course Syllabus for Fall 2005

ENG Q20: Basic Writing

Go Exploring
  Weblog for WRT 120
  Writing Assistance on the Web
  Blackboard at WCU
  WCU Homepage
  WCU's Francis Harvey Green Library

 

~~ The Four Functions of Myth:
An Analysis of “Genesis” and “Blackfoot Genesis” ~~

THE METAPHYSICAL FUNCTION: an experience of the mystery and wonder of creation; an experience that leads to an awareness or understanding of the “ground of all being”—in plain language, I think Campbell means that the myth brings the participant into an experience of God, or an experience of wonder at the existence of God.  In even plainer language: How does the tale imagine God?  What does it lead the participant to imagine?  (Notice I want to move beyond the term “reader.”)

Genesis: How does “Genesis” imagine God?  In this story God is formless, a disembodied voice, something very abstract—a “spirit”—invisible.  What’s the implication?  How do we recognize that?  Are we completely unfamiliar with disembodied voices?  Not really.  We’re all familiar with our inner voices; our thoughts are also invisible, but powerful.  The metaphysical  implication seems to be that the closest we can come to giving form to God is to make God “language,” a voice that speaks meaningfully to us, that creates the world by the ability to recognize that world’s existence—God is an awareness, a consciousness, a voice.

  • God, as a voice, miraculously speaks the world into being.  Notice the extreme emphasis on speaking—on words, on language.  The ancient Hebrews, who first transcribed the story of Adam and Eve, were known as the “people of the Book.”  Words and language are very important for many reasons.  In this story, words are the all-powerful creative force, the life-giving force.  To imagine God as a formless, invisible voice makes the image of the Genesis God almost completely abstract, but not quite.  God is the “word.”  God is language and language is thought.  Does the story tell us that God is thought?  That God is consciousness?  Is God awareness?
  • God is a “spirit” with no other form than a voice; it’s invisible but always moving (like thought).  God is described as “moving over the waters”—so even before creation, there are these “waters” and there is movement.  Then the miraculous moment when God speaks the world into being.  This is very recognizable because we are also creatures of language—it is our primary trait that we believe separates us from the “animals,” the “nonhumans.”  We have this complex communication.  So we relate to a God that speaks the world into being.  In the beginning, there is only “God” who uses the power of words to create the whole universe.  Language is the “ground of being.”  It makes sense: language makes thought possible and thought is what separates us from all the rest of creation; it’s what most makes us in the “image of God.”  Like God, we are creatures of language and thought.
  • Genesis is metaphysically complex because it not only tells us what this abstract concept “God” is all about—it declares that people are in the image of God; it is describing the nature of the human at the same time it is describing the nature of God. 
  • God creates “light” first of all, and “light” has very rich connotations.  Why light first?  If light is consciousness, awareness, insight, understanding (all products of language, brought into being through language) then everything else can follow.  With light everything begins to take on meaning, to exist with purpose.  When God says “Let there be light” we can interpret that to mean:  “Let there be thought.”  It’s not long before we creatures of thought are placed at the crown of creation.  The first thing Adam does is use language.  He names everything.  You can pursue that significance yourself. 

Blackfoot Genesis:  How does “Blackfoot Genesis” imagine God.  The Blackfoot God is also a creator; does language play the same role here as it does in the previous story?

  • God is not formless but an “Old Man.”  What’s the significance of this personification?  What are the implications?  What are the associations?  (Old Man = experience, wisdom, authority, strength.  The emphasis is on shared humanity.  God is not “other”—as in the biblical Genesis, we are in the image of God, or God is in the image of us.

THE COSMOLOGICAL FUNCTION: the myth creates an understanding of the shape of the cosmos, the total universe; the entire world is infused with meaning and purpose because everything has its place in the cosmic scheme. 

Both Genesis stories tell us where we’re from, where we are now, how we got here, what went wrong to bring us to our current situation.  The Blackfoot Genesis tale stresses how people are the same stuff as the rest of creation—no better and no worse; a little stronger than some, a little weaker than others.  The animals are our brothers and sisters; we are all connected in a vast web.  If one area of the web is damaged, the entire web suffers.  The biblical Genesis tale tells a different story: it stresses that people are the “pinnacle” of creation, that we stand apart from and ahead of  the rest.  We are granted “dominion” over the rest of nature.  We are the creatures who will take control and dominate nature.  For many thousands of years, our culture has been trying its best to enact this idea, with some success and some failure.

The biblical tale tells us that Adam and Eve are literally outside the gates of Eden.  They were once in Paradise but they’re in Paradise no longer.  Where are they?  They seem to have been tossed into our world.  They’ve been tossed out of the Garden and into raw Nature, with us.  How do they handle it?  They seem to have lost everything.  Is it a tragic tale?  If it is a tragedy, whose tragedy is it?

The Blackfoot tale tells of a circumscribed territory where the Blackfoot tribe are very well provided for; they aren’t “tossed out” of Paradise like Adam and Eve—and yet their failure is also one of disobedience.  They failed to defend their territory as they were instructed; they allowed invaders to establish a foothold.  For that they’ve had to witness the destruction of the buffalo, and their entire culture.  They seem to have lost everything, too.

THE SOCIOLOGICAL FUNCTION: the myth communicates the cultural codes of behavior, the moral and ethical “laws” for people of that culture to follow.  These codes help define the culture and its prevailing social structure.

These become pretty obvious in the biblical Genesis:

  • Man must leave his parents and cleave to his wife; they are “one flesh.”  The story tells you very clearly where your proper loyalties must be.
  • The man shall rule over the woman.
  • The woman’s pain in childbirth is God’s punishment for disobedience, so don’t complain.
  • A man will have to labor and sweat before he can eat.  No easy pickings.  It’s a punishment, so don’t complain; you brought it on yourself.

(Etc.)

In the Blackfoot Genesis tale:

  • God makes mistakes; you will too.  Nothing is absolutely perfect.  The key is to be flexible—to bend without breaking—and to be adaptable to changing circumstances; to be willing to learn by trial and error. Be prepared with a Plan B.
  • You are NOT in charge; listen to the animals.  They are your guides.  They’ll visit you in dreams—pay attention.
  • Don’t try to be a god; know your place; stick to being human.  When people try to act like gods, they really get it wrong.  They just don’t have the wisdom and experience to know what God knows.  How do you think death came into the world?  A woman thought she’d play god.

(Etc.)

PEDAGOGICAL FUNCTION: the myth leads us through particular rites of passage that define the various significant stages of our lives—from dependency to maturity to old age, and finally, to our deaths, the final passage.  The rites of passage bring us into harmony with the “ground of being” (a term often used by Joseph Campbell to refer to an unnamed, unspecified universal mystical power) and allow us to make the journey from one stage to another with a sense of comfort and purpose.

Although this doesn’t seem an obvious function of the Genesis stories (their emphasis seem to be metaphysical and cosmological), there is a pedagogical angle to beneath the surface.  The story does deal with a passage; it’s subject seems to be the passage from childhood to adulthood, from innocence to experience, from ignorance to knowledge.  How do Adam and Eve make this passage?  How are we to understand our own passage from childhood to adulthood?  Do the lessons of  the Genesis tale still apply?  Is this what we can expect from adulthood?  What must Adam and Eve face as they leave the Garden?  Adam and Eve leave behind a world of freedom and leisure and enter a world of labor, of work; they assume a conscious awareness of themselves; they will reproduce, have children of their own, and they’ll have to be good parents if they can manage it.  What are the passages into adulthood for us?  Similar, different?  Does the tale still speak to us, of us?  Does it have the power to resonate with our experience, provide a sense of comfort and harmony as we pass from our own childhood into adulthood?

 

 

 

 

     

 


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