National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version



Published in Innovations in Undergraduate Research and Honors Education: Proceedings of the Second Schreyer National Conference 2001, ed. Josephine M. Carubia & Renata S. Engel. Copyright © 2004 The National Collegiate Honors Council.


This Honors seminar examines a number of myths generated by diverse cultural groups (American Indian, Central and South American, African, and Asian) both in their ancient context and, wherever possible, in their actualizations in modem society. The title of the seminar should be viewed rather as a question than as a statement: Can we observe the traces of myths and/or forms of mythic thinking in the various structures, activities, and beliefs of modem societies? The scope and the diversity of cultural content makes the course appropriate as a general education course; it requires the student to think critically and analytically about the nature of mythic thinking, the role of myths in society, and the significance of mythical expressions (myths, legends, poems, tales) in the development of a self-concept as well as the concepts of cultural identity that underlie societal organization. The course does not deal with cultural areas in isolation from one another but rather emphasizes cultural diversity and the cross-cultural aspects encompassed by the universal nature of mythic thinking. A student should emerge from this course with a new respect for and understanding of the unity of mythic thinking within the diversity of cultural representation, i.e., the actual forms that myths take in cultural transmission over time.