The Politics of Myth

In stories, images and casual references, around the names of mythic figures (whether they really existed or not) there cluster through time a remarkably changing series of ideas, concepts, obsessions, all with some social and so political meaning. To look at these myths will both indicate just how much politics, past and present, there is about in our world, and how strange some of the past politics can be – and that might even make us wonder if our own politics of myth is always all that sensible ? The figures of mythic politics can be turned inside out and read as examples of how people, even today, find meaning, consolation, escape, in the myths they use so casually and so much. The topics chosen for examination here are a set of myths that are still with us, have changed significantly over time, and may well still be changing in our own mythic minds.

When: Tuesdays 12 June – 24 July 2012, 6.30 – 8pm
Venue: Dexter bar/cafe 123 Queens Pde, Clifton Hill
Co-ordinator: Stephen Knight (Melbourne Uni/ Sydney Uni)

week 1

12th of June 2012

King Arthur (and Guinevere and Lancelot and Galahad and Morgan)
Stephen Knight (Melbourne Uni/ Sydney Uni)

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Starting over a millenium ago and flowing thorough the languages and cultures of Europe, Arthur is the king who stood for various forms of nobility but was finally let down by dissent among his own people.

week 2

19th of June 2012

Joan of Arc (and the English, and the French, the Inquisition and the many later versions)
Stephen Knight (Melbourne Uni/ Sydney Uni)

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Religious, pure-hearted, a successful war-leader, the saviour of enfeebled France, and burnt to death before she was twenty: a startling story, with varied meanings for people, not only in France.

week 3

26th of June 2012

Shakespeare (and the Earl of X and Jonson and Garrick and cultural capital)
Stephen Knight (Melbourne Uni/ Sydney Uni)

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The plays and poems would be enough for a wise author myth, but on top of thatcomes the insistence from many apparently sane people that he didn’t write them anyway.

week 4

10th of July 2012

Bennelong (and Boney and Jandawarra)
Stephen Knight (Melbourne Uni/ Sydney Uni)

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One way of looking at relations with Australia’s indigenous people is to compare mythically different figures, the `first contact’ figure Bennelong, the imaginary `Boney’ and the actual criminal — or tragic — figure of Jandawarra.

week 5

17th of July 2012

Ned Kelly (and the family and the police and the continuing debate)
Stephen Knight (Melbourne Uni/ Sydney Uni)

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*please note that due to a technical proble the Ned Kelly recording is incomplete …*
The great Australian criminal myth is based on Ned Kelly versus the police and the state: he still causes deep-seated differences of opinion, or feeling.

week 6

24th of July 2012

Sherlock Holmes (and Watson and Irene Adler and the countless imitations)
Stephen Knight (Melbourne Uni/ Sydney Uni)
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The rather complex myth of Sherlock Holmes is, what with drugs, urban angst and gender tensions, vigorously alive today.

the politics of myth course image