"Myth: Ways to Think about It and Why,"
Most people hold to an intuitive notion about "myth" as a category of cultural analysis. A myth, according to this view, may be any false story or, perhaps more charitably, an ancient tale about gods and semi-divine heroes.
In either case, rational people do not believe myths today. Studying myths, on this view, however, has its purpose: it may help us to understand a community's values—perhaps to debunk them. But myths are only "true" among religious or superstitious people, not modern, scientific types.
In this talk I will argue that every society, and therefore everybody, has myths, that is, paradigmatically true narratives that “go without saying.” We can't help it! Myths don't just reflect communal values; they also shape (and change) the perpetuation of those values in society. And they do this in compelling ways, so that myths form identity, construct cultural prestige, and mobilize people in support of various political, economic, or religious programs.
Unfortunately, learning to see our own myths is like a fish becoming aware of the water around it. Despite this difficulty, becoming mythologically-aware is a crucial step in thinking critically, even skeptically about the society we live in.
Co-sponsored by the CSU Stanislaus Biological Sciences department.
About the Venue
Information about location, parking, and more will be available soon.
About the Speaker
Alan Lenzi (PhD, Brandeis University) is an associate professor in the Department of Religious and Classical Studies at University of the Pacific. He works in the field of first millennium ancient Near Eastern religious traditions, especially Babylonian and Assyrian.
He has published books on secrecy in Mesopotamian and biblical religious texts, the Babylonian "Job," and ancient Akkadian prayers and hymns. He is editor of the ancient Near Eastern section of the online journal Religion Compass.