Creative engagement in this class is measured primarily by small-scale workshop assignments, some of which are to be completed in class, and some at home. Workshops require students to demonstrate their understanding of important principles in the study of myth by producing artifacts that combine creativity with academic practice.

In-class workshops require actual presence in class and may not be made up--although you will be expected to be familiar with the material covered.


Archetypes and Masks

Due week 4. This is a 10-point assignment and must be submitted before week 5 in order for you to earn a passing grade at midterm. It must be completed at home, and presented to the class.

Instructions: Choose an archetype and conduct research into its use and meaning. Seek out as many examples of this archetype as you can, based on your own experience (stories, movies, games, etc.) and on further research using appropriate sources.

Create a mask that “illustrates” your choice, using any materials you deem suitable. Other than being big enough and sturdy enough for you to wear on your face next week, and good reasons for the way it looks, there are no restrictions or further guidelines. A good website on masks is available at 4 2 Explore: Masks and another with basic ideas and instructions for mask making can be found a the Heartland All Species Project page on Mask-making.

Please be able to provide reasons for your choice and design in a short (three-paragraph) concept statement (see my style guide for appropriate format). In addition, list the sources you consult in MLA citation styleand annotate them to demonstrate your awareness of resource quality and college-level suitability. See my research guidelines for format and quality information. You will probably need only two or three sources; check the Course Resources links and the material linked on the schedule to begin with. Remember that the Library has numerous resources on myth as well. Make sure that the sources you consult are appropriate--not new-age, pop-culture silliness. If in doubt, talk to me.

This exercise is designed to accomplish several objectives. Participating students will:

Conduct college-level research on a topic important to the study of myth.
Identify particular archetypes used in contemporary media and popular culture.
Describe the qualities associated with a particular archetype.
Creatively interpret these qualities in a medium appropriate to myth: the mask.

This activity is connected to our scheduled discussion (week 7) on myth in practice. It may also help you to locate a focus for your final project.

Additional mask resources (as promised week 3):

Masquerade: The Mask as Art, by Maurice Tuchman, is available in the Kelley Library (N 8222 .M39 M37 1993). It's essentially an exhibit catalogue for a show at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1993. Please treat this like a reference book and leave it in the Library if at all possible so your classmates can also use it.

Mask and Myth: Lauren Raine has an MFA from the University of Arizona and a BFA from UC Berkeley, and her masks have been exhibited both in the US and abroad. Her Mask and Myth website contains some inspiring examples of her work.

Easy Paper Mache Mask Making by Katerina Kyriakakis is a YouTube video on how to make a mask with paper strips using a plastic form (available at party and costume stores for cheap). The page sidebar also includes other videos that might be helpful.

Good search terms: "mask and myth" is useful for an image search and retrieves some good photos that might provide some ideas. But remember to evaluate any sources you use for appropriateness. You can also try "myth mask" which pulls up similar images (but more specific relationships to myth). "Mask Theory" also turned up some useful text sites. I also got really useful results using "mask anthropology."

An Artist’s Pioneering Masks Shield Us from Future Surveillance (by Australian journalist Tosten Burks in Good magazine) is really interesting. It discusses an aspect of masks that we didn't discuss in class, but is entirely relevant.

The entry on Mask from the Chicago School of Media Theory's list of keywords. This is especially useful in view of our conversation about myth and popular media.

The University of Missouri's Museum of Anthropology has a collection of Masks Around the World. Many of these are connected with the mythic systems of the cultures that make them.

Masks and performance are bound together, as we can see from this excellent article on masks and dancing in Mexico: Danza! Living Traditions in Mexican Ritual Masks. Be sure to look at the images of these masks linked on "View the Collections.

Story Mapping

Due Week 5.This is a 10-point assignment; late work will be accepted, but your midterm grade will be affected negatively.

This exercise allows students to choose a favorite myth-related story, and analyze it according to the concept of the Hero Journey as outlined by Joseph Campbell. The procedure is simple; create a visual map of myth or myth-influenced story of your choice. We will discuss the idea of concept mapping and visual information-delivery in class week 4, and you may choose any creative medium in which to visualize the journey of your chosen hero. In addition to the "map," please include an annotated bibliography of the sources you consult. The quality of your bibliography will influence the workshop score substantially, so be sure to seek appropriate, college-level resources that demonstrate information fluency.

You can use any medium you wish, and the map can be digitally created or hand-built. Try to be as visual as possible, and minimize text elements. The idea is to use appropriate sources to become as familiar as possible with the mythic structure of a particular story.

Campbell's The Power of Myth is available in the Kelley Library (BL 304 .C36 1988)--but there's only one copy, so don't check it out unless you have to, and return it ASAP.

For general information and advice about the visual presentation of information, consult some of the works by Edward Tufte in the Library. He's the guy who coined the phrase "Power currupts; PowerPoint corrupts absolutely" and you can learn a greate deal from what he has to say about how to convey information through images. Check the catalogue for holdings (there are several books available).

For a quick overview of the hero journey a la Campbell, see this TED-Ed video designed for kids by Matthew Winkler: What Makes A Hero. If nothing else it provides an example of how one can explicate a tale in a medium other than pen and paper.

The Internet Movie Database has a list of films that follow Campbell's idea of the monomyth--in case you're fresh out of ideas of what to map. For more advice on possibilities, see this Quora discussion on which movies are the best examples of the Hero's Journey.

A simple image search for "hero journey" or "hero's journey" will turn up zillions of images--some better than others. But try not to let these influence your version, since a component of your grade will be the originality of your approach. One thing that might amuse you is the sheer variety of uses people have found for Campbell's model. A somewhat better search phrase is "mapping the hero's journey." The problem is that there are numerous non-scholarly applications--so be able to tell the difference.

One way to explore the idea of how one maps a story is to look into maps and mapping; it's possible to be inspired by actual maps used in interesting ways. Try an image search for "map art." I have a whole links page on maps & mapping which is probably hopelessly out of date (and I don't really have time to go through the links)--but it's there if you're interested.

Astronomy and Cosmology

Many preliterate cultures paid close attention to the heavens, using the moon, sun, planets, and constellations to help guide everything from marriages to crop plantings and harvesting.

Due to the human tendency to see patterns where they don’t necessarily exist (a phenomenon called pareidolia), many cultures assigned shapes to particular heavenly arrangements, and attached stories to these shapes. The Greeks, for example, often saw the figures of mythic heroes in particular star patterns, and these are still reflected in Western notions of the Zodiac.

For this exercise, small groups (2-4) will view a Hubble Space Telescope photograph taken of a selected region of space and “locate” or “see” a convincing figure of a beast or other object. Using the tracing media supplied, draw this figure on the printout of the photo, and tell a story about it.

The story must relate to a contemporary or recent historical event, and must not be just silly; it must both provide an account of the event (in the language of myth) and provide a reasonable explanation for the image your group has "seen."

When each group has finished, we will discuss the results in conjunction with our conversation about ancient astronomy, cosmology, and architecture. Representatives tell their story at, and demonstrate the "image" they have made from their photo.

The exercise is worth 10 points, and cannot be made up. You must be present and participate in order to earn the points

Just for fun, check out my AstroLinx page.

Project development and information literacy

This 5-point workshop is designed to help students locate appropriate sources for the two major assignments in this class: the Group Presentation and the individual (or small-group) final project. A mandatory in-Library instruction session will be held in conjunction with the workshop, after which students can meet informally to discuss the group presentation and/or work on locating sources for individual projects

Project completion

This wokrshop will be held week 9 to assist students in completing their individual projects, trouble-shooting difficulties, and completing/editing the essay and bibliography required by the assignment. Students must consult with the instructor either prior to or during the workshop in order to earn the 5 points available.