What Happened To Classical Myths?
- Ann Kuttner
- College of Arts & Sciences, History of Art Department
First-Year Seminar Grant
The ancient Greek and Roman world that spanned from Iran to Britain, North Africa to the Black Sea, ended long ago. In it, words and images insistently conveyed widely shared stories – often erotic or violent or fantastic tales – about many gods, supernatural beings, and imagined men and women of a legendary past, the `age of heroes’. This legacy is what gets called, by some people living in the modern world, “Classical myth”; it is known from surviving ancient texts and things. From Byzantine and Islamic Late Antiquity to the global 21st century, a host of peoples and races have seized on these ancient Greco-Roman narratives to think through their own values, hopes, fears, achievements and disasters. Their own images have found varying meaning, always, in what can at first seem the same. This class will think about what makes a myth, who appropriates a `classic’, as we explore together how artists, patrons and viewers have engaged Classical mythology in many media, from illustrated books to statues, paintings, graphic art and filmic creations. Some surviving ancient mythological art has had a popular afterlife too that you will glimpse. Besides reading in some of the enduring ancient works that have inspired artists and audiences, like the Metamorphoses of Ovid or the Iliad of Homer, and of course looking at images in a classroom and on screen, you will also work directly with art in Philadelphia museums as well as Penn’s collections. In the end, this course asks you to ask yourself: what do your myths look like?