Sunday, January 12, 2014
We Always Do It That Way
As an archetypal literary critic, I generally view literature in a manner a little different than many university professors. When I read a work of fiction, I look for commonalities of human activity that transcend time.
Human beings act in accordance with their species. We would not expect a person to climb a tree like a cat or run with the speed of a cheetah. We pretty much know what would happen if we attempted to steal a cub from a lioness or wrestle a mountain gorilla. But as human beings, we are not expected to act like animals. That is not our make-up. This does not mean we don’t act in certain ways that can be expected of us.
For example, humans face challenges in life. They encounter a coming-of-age at some point. They have invitations to adventure, which they either pass up or accept. If we read by spotting the archetypal patterns or molds that are common to all of us, we can derive more from fiction than we might by simply trying to understand a plot.
In any event, I am really excited this semester about a new course I am teaching. The course focuses on folklore, rituals, and traditions in human cultures. Students get to examine their own lives by tracing patterns in their relationships and in the cultures they enjoy.
I pose the following questions: Do you have any special traditions that have been part of your life since birth? Are there rituals you and your family adhere to, perhaps not even knowing why? Are many of your personal beliefs based on folklore, even though you might not realize it?
. . .