Mythical Encounters: The Fantastic in Global Culture

Discipline: English Writing
Instructor: Miller
Credits: 3
Day: A
Start: 1425
End: 1540
Field Work: Day 1 - Yokohama - Monday, 26 January | Japan Download Syllabus

The liberal arts tradition has always presented two faces: one, the “good person speaking well” tradition, faces outward, toward the civic and public space; the other, the philosophical tradition, faces inward, toward the more formalized and systematized space of the academy.  This course, designed to meet generally accepted goals for college-level composition and reading courses, will examine the elements of argument common and different within these two “voices” of the liberal arts (with greater focus on the academic side), to the aim of helping you as a student grow into a full, contributing member of the communities within which you live.  Our focus will be writing.  Through reading others’ writing and producing our own, we will seek to understand and master some of the moves writers make as they endeavor to have their voices heard in what the rhetorical theorist Kenneth Burke calls the “human barnyard.”

Because full literacy develops especially well among communities of discoursers engaged in a common human project, we will employ a theme for the course: “Mythical Encounters: the Fantastic in Global Culture.”  Beginning with a focus on western popular culture, the theme will explore theories and practices of imaginative art and literature—their purposes, pleasures, and pitfalls.  From that base, we will embark on adventures both academic (through reading and writing) and experiential (during our excursions ashore) that will open up the scope of human imaginative exploration and help us understand, to some extent, whether western concepts of the fantastic do or do not apply cross-culturally.

Field Work

Country: Japan
Day: 1 - Yokohama - Monday, 26 January

For our Field Lab, we will visit the Ghibli Museum in MItaka (Tokyo), Japan and also visit a culturally important site to be named (perhaps a Shinto shrine or an art museum).  The great Japanese anime director Hayao Miyazaki, widely acknowledged as one of the great film fantasists of our era, combines in his films motifs from traditional Japanese culture (such as Shinto) and storylines from the West.  Thus he offers a fascinating case study of a mythopoet working in a global, transcultural frame.  By visiting the museum for Studio Ghibli (Miyazaki's studio) and also sites important to traditional Japanese spiritual life, we will deepen our understanding of the uses of the imagination and fantasy—uses that are both human in general and culture-specific. Academic Objectives: 1.  Gain an understanding of the status and role of Hayao Miyazaki in his homeland 2.  Trace the influence of specific Japanese traditional motifs in Miyazaki's films 3.  Trace some of the impact of western story-motifs in Miyazaki's films, in so doing developing an understanding of his creative theory and philosophy