Oral Narratives (Sophomore LA)

Talking Myths


Three Aspects of The Absolute (Mehrangarh Museum Trust, 1823)

One of the first questions we ask ourselves when we read a narrative is ‘who is speaking?’ It is important to establish a voice within the stories that we hear because it is the voice that will determine the ways in which the narrative wants to frame itself. But what about the early myths and creation stories?

Drawing on our learnings thus far, the students and I spoke about the ways in which a narrative comes to be framed, who participates in the narrative and how the narrative comes to be. Using Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, we were able to draw a conceptual understanding of the methods we use to tell our stories. The Cave, in Platos’ study, was a means by which tellers of tales can encounter the landscape at one end, frame that narrative and make the narrative assessable to the listener. The question that now begins to show itself is: who has access to the creation of the stories? And in the creation of these varied narratives, who creates or decides access? How do we make sense of the knowledge to be able to being? It is here that myths manifest themselves, because it is a myth that stems from a root which means utterance. This is fascinating because it implies that which is spoken. In speaking about myths we must also encounter the Archetype – the characters or situations that recur across cultures, over time and between borders that are both real as well as imagined.

Drawing on examples from popular culture we were able to think about the ways in which archetypes manifest themselves.This is a good video to watch:

When we read a myth, and it is probably helpful to begin this conversation on Creation Myths, the questions that we begin to encounter is the texture of the written and the visual word itself. While these stories may follow a pattern that weaves the narrative together we also begin to notice the journey of the narrative itself – where narratives work through binaries – from the invisible to the visible, from infinite to the infinite, meanings that are implicit and explicit, and something-that-is to everything-that-was to nothing-that-was-not. Meaning and narratives seem almost as if we are seeing the action or the missing action through a funnel where we can go between spaces but also beyond. Drawing on examples from Hindu mythology (the Rigveda), Navajo myths and the Genesis and creation, we were able to think about these verticals that slice across the horizontal of the narrative flow. But creation myths also begin to engage with the relationship between Body/Mind to Word/World, the interaction of the human form with the abstract, where nature and the world exists within the visual representation of the divine, for example the Vishwarupa of Vishnu in his avatar of Krishna revealing himself to Arjun during the battle in the Mahabharata.

Here is a PDF of the presentation used in our lecture…

Story Telling




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