It has started!
It’s the IV International Conference of Myth Criticism!
Do you like The Lord of the Rings? Do you like Star Wars? Do you like John William Waterhouse? Those were just some of the topics we have talked about today—come on in and I’ll tell you all about it!
There is this funny thing about me which goes very much against every stereotype of the typical Andalusian: I always arrive early. Too early. Like today.
I arrived at the Facultad de Filosofía y Letras at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid at 9:00, even though the first lecture was to be given at 10:00. Unsurprisingly enough, not even the stalls had been set up yet, so I had to wait for an hour. Oh well! At least there was tea! They also gave this pretty sweet bag, which I’ll be using for the remaining days:
At 10:00 José Manual Losada, the coordinator of the conference, gave the inaugural speech, followed by Peter Arnds’s lecture on “Myth, Emotion, Trauma: Mapping Myth and Metaphor in World Literature”. This was a very detailed account of the “wolf figure”, the man or woman who was been cast out of society for a number of reasons, usually related with violence. Witches, berserkrs, werewolves—they all stand in this category; wounded, scarred, incapable of ever going back.
Afterwards, we had a session with Paloma Díaz Mas, who talked about “The Treatment of Feelings in the Arthurian-themed Romancero poems in the 16th and 17th Centuries”; Abdeljabbar Oumerzoug discussing “The Erotic-Romantic Uses of Myth in Elogio de la madrastra”; and, most importantly, María Victoria Álvarez Rodríguez discussing “The Romantic Pulsion of Female Characters in the English Paintings of 1900: Martyrs, Seductresses, Sorcerers, and Goddesses in the Paintings of John William Waterhouse”.
I’d like to focus on this last one because it was the lecture that has made the deepest impact on me today. María is obviously very well-versed in Waterhouse’s work and all maters of art history, and she showed her expertise in a fluid, coherent exposition. Her main thesis was that women are the main characters in Waterhouse’s paintings, and that they were almost invariably divided between two archetypes: femme fatale and donna angelicata. The painting below is a clear example of the former, where a mermaid looks impassively as she watches a man drown at her feet.
John William Waterhouse, The Siren (c. 1900)
And… we’re back!
At 15:30, I attended Vicente Penalva Mora’s lecture on “The Origin Myths: the Path to the Sacred”, which was closely linked to his friend Manuel Ruiz Torres’s talk on “Current Myths in Search of Meaning”. It is particularly surprising that Manuel himself is a biologist, rather than a philologist or an anthropologist, which made his contribution all the more valuable—it was definitely one of my favourite ones. Vicente discussed Joseph Campbell and the myth of the Hero’s Journey, which was the basis for the Star Wars movies and which sees a sublime expression in The Lord of the Rings. Finally, we listened to Irina Dogaru, who discussed “The Re-Elaboration of Myth in Mircea Eliade’s La Noche de San Juan”, which I enjoyed because I had never come into contact with Eliade’s fiction. And, from what she said, I must bridge that gap post-haste!
The last sessions came from María del Pilar Couceiro, who discussed “The Thanatos Myth and Literary Seduction”; and Gemma de la Torre Bujones and Luis Enrique Montiel Llorente’s “Descent to the Underworld: Emotions for Initiation”. I particularly enjoyed both of them not only because they were delivered brilliantly and because of the wealth of knowledge of all the speakers, but also because they correlate very closely to my own lecture.
And that was the day! I will present my own lecture on “The Myth of the Apocalypse: Why Do We Need the World to End?” on Wednesday, somewhere around 11:00. After seeing how brilliant everyone was today, I’m starting to get really nervous! I hope I’ll do an okay job—and even if I don’t, I’ll be here to tell you! If you want to read a related article I published some time ago on the same subject, just click here.
That is all for today! I promise I will keep you posted about the comings and goings of this conference 🙂