MYTH, RITUAL, AND FESTIVAL

 

 

Pieter Brueghel, The Battle Between Carnival and Lent (1559)

 

 

This course analyzes the social, cultural, and religious phenomena of the festival or holiday in its connection with myth and ritual.  We focus in particular on two approaches to understanding the festival.  First, the anthropological approach of Sir James Frazer as developed in his classic book The Golden Bough, and second the groundbreaking work of the Russian literary theorist Mikhail Bakhtin and his analysis of the cross-cultural features of the idea of the festival, for example the Roman Saturnalia, the British May Day festival, and our modern Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year festivals.  We will also consider other important contributions to the study of ritual and festival, including those of Mircea Eliade and Joseph Campbell.  A substantial part of the class will be focused on the sociological and historical aspects of the role of festival in modern society. 

SYLLABUS   

 

Required books

                         1.  Barbara Ehrenreich, Dancing in the Streets  (read in entirety)

                          2. James Frazer, The Golden Bough (Wordsworth) (selections, to be announced) 

                                                                 Free online version of the Golden Bough:     http://www.sacred-texts.com/pag/frazer/

  

ONLINE READINGS:                             Golden Bough:   http://www.sacred-texts.com/pag/frazer/

                                                                     Rabelais:              http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/8/1/6/8166/8166.txt                 

                                                                     Bakhtin excerpts:       http://artemis.austincollege.edu/acad/english/bbarrie/shakespeare/bakhtin_rab.html     

                                                                      Eliade excerpts: available on Blackboard (under Readings folder).  

 

VIDEO LECTURES:  This class will include short video lectures for you to watch outside of class.  These lectures can be found on the Blackboard class page. Instructions for getting onto Blackboard:

Blackboard Access Information for Students:  To get your Blackboard username and password:
1. Go to http://continuinged.uml.edu/online/confirmation/
2. Carefully enter the information required to retrieve your username and password.
3. Print out the confirmation screen for your records.


To access the online supplement for your course:
1. Go to https://continuinged.uml.edu/login/login.cfm
2. Enter your Blackboard username and password and click the Login button.

 

ANNOUNCEMENTS

 

 

 

 

 

ASSIGNMENTS

 

First assignment (due Monday Sept. 8)

  1) Reading from Golden Bough

            Oxford edition: Book I Chapter 3 "Magic and Religion"

            Online version: Chapter 3 sections 1-4

 

  2) View  Video Lecture on Golden Bough on Blackboard, under Video Lectures (see above for instructions on using Blackboard)

 

Second Assignment (for Monday Sept. 15)

1) Golden Bough (Online edition): Chapter 1 Sections 1-3 King of the Wood; Chap. 56 Section 3 The Periodic Expulsion of Evils; Chap 58 The Roman Saturnalia; Chap 61 The Myth of Balder; Chap. 65 Balder & the Mistletoe;  Chap. 68 The Golden Bough

2) View Video Lecture on Blackboard: "Frazer's Evolutionary Theory"

 

Third Assignment (Week of Sept. 22):

      a.  Excerpt from Bakhtin:  http://artemis.austincollege.edu/acad/english/bbarrie/shakespeare/bakhtin_rab.html

       b.   Rabelais, excerpts from Gargantua Book I                             http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/8/1/6/8166/8166.txt

               All from Book I of Gargantua:  Prologue, chapters 1,3,4,6,7,8,10,11,13,22,25,26,40,58.

      c. Video on Bakhtin: available on Blackboard.

 

Fourth Assignment (Weeks of Sept. 29 and Oct. 6):

       Read Ehrenreich, Dancing In The Streets

 

Fifth Assignment (Week of Oct. 15)

       a. View Video on Eliade (Blackboard site)

       

        b.  Write a short paragraph on your assessment of/reaction to Eliade's theory; come prepared to discuss in class.

        c. Read Eliade excerpts (Blackboard site, in Readings folder).

Sixth Assignment (Week of Oct. 27)

        Read Jan Bremmer, "Scapegoat Rituals in Ancient Greece" (go to Ejournals page of Umass library page; click "Index" tab; select JSTOR Arts & Sciences I; search with "bremmer scapegoat rituals")

 

Seventh Assignment (Week of Nov. 3)

a.  Read Excerpts from Edmund Morgan, "Inventing the People" here

b. Read article: 'Idyllic Theory of Goddesses Creates Storm", at:

http://www.nytimes.com/1990/02/13/science/idyllic-theory-of-goddesses-creates-storm.html?scp=1&sq=%22Idyllic+theory+of+goddesses%22&st=nyt

 

Eighth Assignment (Week of Nov. 17)

The Witch Hunt:

   1. Reading: Pavlack's 10 theories of witch craze http://departments.kings.edu/womens_history/witch/worigin.html#Illness

2. Video Lecture: The Great European Witch Craze (available on Blackboard)

 

 

Ninth Assignment  (Week of Dec. 1)

 

A. Satanic Ritual Abuse

 1. Video Lecture on Blackboard

2. Readings:

               i) Excerpts from Thomas Mann's Magic Mountain here

               ii) Martin Gardner, 'The Tragedies of False Memories,' Skeptical Inquirer 18:5 (Fall 1994) (available on UML ejournal portal)

                Recommended movie: "Capturing the Friedmans" (2004): documentary about a prosecution for child sexual abuse based on the use of "recovered memories"

 

B. Universal Mythology

Reading: African Creation Myths

 

 

  

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Handouts

1. Three views of myth

2. Golden Bough outline

3. Wittgenstein on Frazer

4. Bakhtin & Rabelais

5. Carnival Myth

6. Douglass on slave carnivals

7. Sentimentalization of Carnival

8. The Scapegoat

9. The Goddess Myth

10. The Bible and Mythology

11. Child Sacrifice in the Bible

12. African Creation Myths

13. Woman at the Well

14. The Goddess of the Spring

 

LIST OF TOPICS AND READINGS

 

I. INTRODUCTION: THE STUDY OF MYTH AND RITUAL

1. What is myth and ritual?  The problem of definition. Comparativist approaches and the idea of a Monomyth.

 

          Video Lecture on Golden Bough: available on Blackboard

          Reading: Golden Bough Book I Chapter 3 "Magic and Religion" (online version: Chapter 3 sections 1-4)

2. Sir James Frazer and the Golden Bough: festival as magical ritual

 

    Readings: The Golden Bough

  Oxford edition: I.1 King of the Wood; III.4.i & 2 Saturnalia; IV.3.i Balder's Fires; IV.4.i The External Soul; IV.6 Golden Bough

  Online edition: Chapter 1 Sections 1-3 King of the Wood; Chap. 56 Section 3 The Periodic Expulsion of Evils; Chap 58 The Roman Saturnalia; Chap 61 The Myth of Balder; Chap. 65 Balder & the Mistletoe;  Chap. 68 The Golden Bough

 

II. CARNIVAL AND LENT: THE WORLD TURNED UPSIDE DOWN

1. Bakhtin, Rabelais and the idea of carnival

  Readings:

       a.  Excerpt from Bakhtin:  http://artemis.austincollege.edu/acad/english/bbarrie/shakespeare/bakhtin_rab.html

       b.   Rabelais, excerpts from Gargantua Book I                             http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/8/1/6/8166/8166.txt

               All from Book I of Gargantua:  Prologue, chapters 1,3,4,6,7,8,10,11,13,22,25,26,40,58.

 2. Carnival and Lent pattern in holiday celebrations

      READING: Golden Bough, Book III, Chapters 2,3,4 from Oxford edition.

                       The following chapters from online version:

  Chapter 57. Public Scapegoats. Section 4. On Scapegoats in General.
Chapter 58. Human Scapegoats in Classical Antiquity. Section 1. The Human Scapegoat in Ancient Rome.
Chapter 58. Human Scapegoats in Classical Antiquity. Section 2. The Human Scapegoat in Ancient Greece.
Chapter 58. Human Scapegoats in Classical Antiquity. Section 3. The Roman Saturnalia.
Chapter 59. Killing the God in Mexico.

3. The Suppression of Carnival in Europe

      READING: Ehrenreich, Dancing In the Streets

     Recommended: view "Job Switching" episode of I Love Lucy.

      Recommended reading on Christmas holiday: Washington Irving, selection from "Christmas Day" (1863) here

4. Mircea Eliade's theory of carnival

  View Eliade video lecture on Blackboard

   Read: Eliade excerpt on Blackboard

 

 

 

III. THE RISE OF PATRIARCHAL RELIGION AND ITS CONNECTION TO THE WITCH CRAZE

1. The Rise of Patriarchal Religion and the End of Sacrifice

     Reading: Jan Bremmer, "Scapegoat Rituals In Ancient Greece" (1983).  [Available in JSTOR on Ejournal portal on UMass libraries page; search with "bremmer scapegoat"]

 

 

2. Was Religion Originally Goddess-Based?

Reading:'Idyllic Theory of Goddesses Creates Storm", at:

http://www.nytimes.com/1990/02/13/science/idyllic-theory-of-goddesses-creates-storm.html?scp=1&sq=%22Idyllic+theory+of+goddesses%22&st=nyt

 

 

IV. The Paradox of the Witch Craze

1. The European Witch Hunt.

   Readings: i) Pavlack's 10 theories of witch craze http://departments.kings.edu/womens_history/witch/worigin.html#Illness

                     ii) Excerpts from Thomas Mann's Magic Mountain here

 

2. The Modern Witch Hunt: Satanic Ritual Abuse

    Reading: Martin Gardner, 'The Tragedies of False Memories,' Skeptical Inquirer 18:5 (Fall 1994) (available on UML ejournal portal)

Recommended: http://www.csicop.org/si/show/remembering_dangerously/

 

V. Reconstructing the Monomyth

 

1. The Dragon and the Tree of Life myth

2. The Goddess of the Spring

Optional reading: for those interested, here is my recent book review of Witzel's new book, The Origin of World Mythologies