A Cat on the Head: in Search of a New Word to better Read Ancient Mythology

Svetlana Slapšak


The author proposes a lesser known Greek term mythourgy to cover a conception of myth-making that falls between the conceptions of Roland Barthes, who studied contemporary personal and everyday myths, and Jean-Pierre Vernant, who dealt with ancient myths. By focusing on mythourgy as the art / process of making myths, we avoid both the idea of myth as a 'pre-truth', the main object of Vernant's criticism, and Barthes' understanding of mythology as the everyday activity of producing compulsive lies in order to adapt to social discursive rules. It is suggested that the term proposed, and the concepts behind it, help us address more productively the topic of myth, ancient and modern. To exemplify mythourgy, we give two examples: first, the arbitrary use of mythical narratives and the 'protrusion' of ancient mythical patterns into a most unexpected (religious) context, and, second, the ideological (anti-feminist) manipulation of mythical narratives in the popularization of science. As a conclusion, we propose a mildly provocative piece of affirmative action through myth-making (mythourgy), based on available scientific data from the same discipline.

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