Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Myth-Folklore UnTextbook


(This is a Week 2 assignment for MLLL-3043-995.)

Welcome to the Myth-Folklore course for Fall 2017! By this point, you've completed the Orientation week, and now you are ready to get into the real class activities: reading stories, and then telling stories of your own based on what you have read. 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 stories this semester based on the stories from the past, you will be doing just what Homer and Jesus and Scheherazade did in their time: you will be taking an existing story and making it your own. Of course, the tools you are using are different from the tools that Homer used — you will use writing, while Homer relied on his voice and the power of singing (writing was unknown to him)... and having access to new tools like this creates more storytelling opportunities! In that sense, we are very lucky to be living in this day and age, with so many storytelling possibilities available to us, 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 created during the summer of 2014. 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 anthology that draws stories from over a hundred different books. Using this resource, you will be choosing what you want to read each week from the various options and in that way you will create 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)

So now, please take a half hour or so just to EXPLORE: look through the different units in the sidebar, clicking on anything that grabs your interest and saving links to the units and/or stories that you think you will want to return to later on. Write up your thoughts and put those links in a blog post that you will then can refer to later when the regular reading assignments begin in Week 3.

~ ~ ~

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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