Living Myths in a Living World: Mythological Studies and Green Studies Implications of Fandom

Living Myths in a Living World: Mythological Studies and Green Studies Implications of Fandom

Amber Lehning (Pacifica Graduate Institute, USA)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3323-9.ch001

Abstract

This chapter considers fan studies in a mythological studies context and examines how green studies might use a similar approach to tap into the cultural and mythic power of modern fandoms. The first part defines the components of myth, considers existing fandom studies theories related to those components, and discusses on how fandom studies could impact the larger mythological studies debate. The second part describes the mythological roots of today's environmental crises and discusses the influence of specific fandoms on environmental activism. The chapter closes with some thoughts on how a mythological and green approach to fandom could provide further cultural impetus to positive environmental values much as feminist, ethnic, and queer perspectives on fandom have highlighted and supported a value shift in society as a whole.
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Defining Myth

Before mythological studies and fan studies can usefully be discussed, it is important to clarify what the first field actually encompasses. For many Western people, the term ‘mythology’ conjures up either serene marble images of Greek gods or charming and childlike collections of tales associated with premodern tribal peoples. The more widely-read individual might also think of Classical literature of the Homer or Virgil persuasion, and possibly recall the cheerful universalism of comparativists like Joseph Campbell, the cultural particularities of structuralists like Claude Lévi-Strauss, or the depth psychological tradition stemming from the archetypal work of Carl Jung. The word ‘myth’ also has strong modern connotations of something falsely believed to be true. This multiplicity of meaning breeds a certain kind of common confusion which every mythologist must face before trying to discuss the importance of mythology in today’s postmodern world.

There are also as many definitions of mythology as there are mythologists, which does little to dispel any of that confusion. While current thought on the subject often veers into semiotic and/or phenomenological territory (Barthes, 1972 and Scarborough, 1994 are representative examples), this chapter will try and avoid delving too deeply into such terrain. Here the terms ‘myth’ and ‘mythology’ will refer instead to a composite concept found at the meeting point between religion, lore, and psychology. The generally understood meanings of religion and psychology are suitable for use in this context, but the term ‘lore’ requires a bit more explanation.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Mythology: A metaphorical framework residing at the meeting point of religion, psychology, and lore.

Ecocriticism: A critical framework which considers how pieces of lore reflect the relationship between humanity and the natural world.

Psychology: A field of study concerned with the metaphors humans use to make sense of the world within them, in the context of identity and consciousness.

Religion: A field of study concerned with the metaphors humans use to make sense of the world beyond them, in the context of mystic and cosmological experience.

Lore: Story-related communicable information.

Metaphor: A cognitive comparison used by humans to shape their understanding of the events in their lives.

Fandom: An intentionally chosen mythology centered around a piece of lore.

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