Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Myth-Folklore UnTextbook

Welcome to the Myth-Folklore course for Fall 2016! By this point, you've already completed several different orientation week activities, including the most important one of all: telling a story of your own that is based on another story. As you'll see, "stories from stories" is the central theme of this class: because of their amazing generative power, folktales and myths can live on and on for thousands of years, and they are still going strong in this new millennium. Stories WANT to reproduce, they want to make more stories, and those newly created stories grow and change and develop their own identities, just as human beings themselves do. You are connected to your parents, but at the same time you are your own person, and in a similar way folktales and myths are connected to the past, but they are also their own story, existing in a specific moment in the words of a specific storyteller addressing a specific audience.

An Eternal World of Storytellers. So, when you wrote your storytelling post earlier this week, you were doing just what Homer and Jesus and Scheherazade did in their time: you took an existing story and made it your own. Of course, the tools you used are different from the tools that Homer used — you used writing, while Homer relied on his voice and the power of singing (writing was unknown to him)... but having access to new tools just means more storytelling opportunities! In that sense, you are very lucky to be living in this day and age, with so many storytelling possibilities available to you, both analog and digital. By the end of this semester, I hope that you will have developed a sense of yourself as a storyteller, while also having enjoyed hundreds of stories as told by storytellers from around the world along with the stories told by other students in this class.

Introducing the UnTextbook. For the readings in this class, you will be using something that I call the "UnTextbook," something which I put together during the summer of 2014. Exactly because I see the world of folklore and mythology in terms of unlimited storytelling possibilities, I really wanted to give you MORE to explore and choose from as you do the weekly readings for this class. Before I made the UnTextbook, there was a choice of two reading options every week, for a total of 28 reading units. And that was just fine: there were lots of great stories for people to read and enjoy that way. But with so many myth and folklore books now available online, I kept wanting to do a better job with the reading options in this class. The result is this UnTextbook, an "un-book" that is made up of over a hundred individual books. Each week of the semester, YOU will be putting the pieces together, choosing what you want to read from the various options and creating a unique textbook of your own.

Trillions of Textbooks. As you will see in the sidebar here at this blog, there are 100 different reading units (Aesop's fables, Cherokee legends, Dante's Inferno, Japanese fairy tales, etc. etc. etc.), and those units are organized in geographical groups: Africa, Asia, British Isles, etc. You can also see the units organized week by week using the tabs across the top of this blog post:

There are trillions — literally, trillions — of possible combinations!

So, the UnTextbook is all about variety, both a wide variety of stories and a wide variety of ways that you can combine them as you create your own reading experience for the semester. At the same time, you'll also see how closely connected the stories are, even when they are spread out over great distances of space and time. Stories are created from other stories ("stories from stories," like I said above), so, if you look, you can usually follow a thread of stories that will lead you from one place to another, and from one time to another — often in very surprising ways! As the Chinese proverb says, A cloth is not woven from a single thread.

(Proverb Laboratory)

And, for one last image, here is something really fun that a student made for the class last year: it's a LOLCat for the UnTextbook — enjoy!

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