Course Descriptions: Mythological Studies


Course Descriptions

The Mythological Studies Program is a doctoral program designed as an integrated M.A./Ph.D. sequence with courses in four areas of study:

Mythology and Religious Studies

Myth and Literature

Depth Psychology and Culture


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Mythology and Religious Studies
The foundation of Mythological Studies at Pacifica is the close reading of primary texts from a variety of cultural and religious traditions. These courses encourage interdisciplinary scholarship, giving particular attention to myths, iconography, symbols, religious beliefs, and ritual practices. Historical and contemporary approaches to the study of myth are also carefully reviewed.

The Arthurian Romances of the Holy Grail

MS 502, 2 units
An exploration of the origins and development of the mythologies of the Arthurian knights and quests for the Holy Grail. The course begins with the sacred traditions of the European Middle Ages, as manifested in the literature and arts of the period and then tracks the transmission and transformation of the myths in the Romantic and Modern periods of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Hindu Traditions
MS 503, 2 units
This course explores selected aspects and primary texts of Hindu traditions. Special attention is given to prominent myths and symbols in Indian culture, epic literature, and other primary texts, as well as influential philosophical systems such as Yoga, Sankhya, Vedanta, Tantra, and Kashmir Shaivism. Depth psychological interpretations of key thematic issues, doctrines, and practices will also be examined. 

Greek and Roman Mythology I
MS 505, 2 units
This course explores the most important contemporary approaches to the study of classical mythology. It also looks at how the poets of ancient Greece reworked inherited mythic themes and plots. It engages in close readings of the cultic and bardic poems known as The Homeric Hymns and of the lyric poetry of Sappho. Dramatic poetry, both tragic and comic, of the 5th century Athens is also -examined. Attention is given both to the role these myths played in their original -historical context and to their ongoing archetypal significance.

African and African Diaspora Traditions 
MS 506, 2 units
The myths and rituals of Africa are a rich legacy, still vital today. Moreover, they endure in adaptive form, in Vodou, Santeria, and other religions of the African Diaspora. The course explores common mythic characters, themes, rituals, -symbol systems, and worldviews in Africa and traces their connection to New World Traditions.

Myth and Philosophy 
MS 515, 2 units
This course examines the historical relationship between myth and philosophy in the West. Rationality and science emerged as the revolutionary critique of myth, but that revolution is not beyond criticism. Myth represents a meaningful expression of the world, different from, and not always commensurate with, the kind of understanding sought by philosophers. The notion that philosophy has corrected the ignorance of the past is challenged while philosophy itself is shown to exhibit elements of the mythic world from which it emerged.

Native Mythologies of the Americas
MS 522, 2 units
This course explores the meanings of selected mythic texts from North American, Mesoamerican, and South American traditions. It considers these texts not only in regard to their manifest narratives and images, but also seeks an understanding of their potential interpreters. This factor, involving history and hermeneutics within a context of Euro-American colonialism, presents important methodological as well as political issues for working in mythological studies, and the course engages such issues as it surveys these texts.

MS 540, 640, 740, 1 unit each
This series is an exploration of critical issues pertaining to the study of myth in relation to religious traditions, literature, depth psychology, and culture. The course is based on a guest lecture by a major scholar in the field of mythology. Pass/No Pass

Ritual and the Embodied Mythic Imagination
MS 603, 2 units
Myth and ritual are inextricably related. This course proposes that ritual offers an equally eloquent, though non-discursive, commentary on the human condition. The aims are: to make students familiar with classic theories of ritual process; to explore comparatively fundamental ritual phenomena across cultures, such as initiation, divination, purification and healing, pilgrimage, sacrifice, masking, and funerary rituals; and to assess the association of myth and ritual in -religious traditions and depth psychology.

Buddhist Traditions
MS 605, 2 units
This course focuses on selected aspects and primary texts of Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana traditions. Particular attention is given to the life story of Shakyamuni Buddha, as well as the myths associated with major bodhisattvas. Key thematic issues, doctrines, and practices are examined from a depth psychological perspective.

Alchemy and the Hermetic Tradition
MS 616, 2 units
This course focuses on the Hermetic tradition (broadly conceived as a synthesis of alchemy, Kabbalah, Platonic philosophy, theology, and mythology) from its Egyptian, Greek, and Arabic origins during the Hellenistic era, to its development in the twelfth to the twentieth centuries. The approach is interdisciplinary, embracing Jungian psychology, literature, music, and the visual arts.

Integrative Studies Process I, II, III
MS 627, 628, 629, 0 units
Preparation for the Comprehensive Exam is -facilitated by class discussion pertaining to -theoretical perspectives and thematic issues raised by first and second year coursework. This process also includes guest lectures on -special topics. Pass/No Pass

Integrative Studies
MS 630, 1 unit
This course is designed to assess students’ understanding of theoretical perspectives on myth and their ability to apply these perspectives to a particular tradition. It also evaluates the ability to reflect on myth in relation to depth -psychology, literature, and cultural issues. This course serves as the Comprehensive Exam for the Mythological Studies Program. Pass/No Pass

Greek and Roman Mythology II
MS 705, 2 units
This course explores the critiques of myth and poetry put forward by Plato and Aristotle in 4th century Greece, as well as the new understandings and revisionings of myth put forward in the Hellenistic period and in early imperial Rome. Particular attention is given to the works of Virgil, Ovid, and Apuleius.

Egyptian Mythology
MS 717, 2 units
The mythology that informs the ancient Egyptian way of life and death is the subject of this course. It explores the principal Egyptian creation myths, gods, goddesses, motifs, symbols, temple ritual, pyramid building, and mummification. The night sea journey of the sun god Re and that of the deceased Pharaoh, and eventually of all deceased Egyptians, is studied through Pyramid, Coffin, and mortuary texts, particularly the Amduat. The Isis and Osiris myth receives particular attention, and its reverberations across literature, alchemy, and depth psychology are followed.

Hebrew and Jewish Mythology
MS 702, 2 units
This course studies Hebrew and Jewish monotheism from a mythological perspective. The focus is on the emergence of monotheism in early Israel and on trying to understand the ways in which this mythic system differs from polytheistic traditions. Attention is given to how this mythology develops and changes in relation to changing historical circumstances, not only within the Biblical period but throughout the course of Jewish history.

Christian Traditions
MS 703, 2 units
This course examines Christian narratives, images, archetypes and symbols within a historical context. It provides an epistemological basis for a mythological and depth psychological hermeneutics. Key themes include cultural influences and theological paradigms of the Greek East and the Latin West, mysticism, iconoclasm, and post-Reformation worldviews.

Islamic Traditions
MS 608, 2 units
This course explores the major historical traditions of Islam, including Sufism, as well as modern religious movements. Special attention is given to central themes in the Qur’an and the life of Mohammad. The cultural clash between Islam and the West is also examined. 

Myth and Literature
These courses focus on the interpretation of classical literature, poetry, and literary works from the medieval, modern, and postmodern periods.

Cultural Mythologies I, II, III

MS 514, 614, 714, 2 units each
These courses are taught on a periodic basis as means for investigating a cultural tradition or thematic topic that is not addressed in the current curriculum. 

Joseph Campbell: Metaphor, Myth and Culture
MS 516, 2 units
Following on Joseph Campbell’s insight that “metaphor is the native tongue of myth,” this course explores the centrality of myth in subjects as diverse as history, cosmology, religion, poetry as well as the wide range of world narratives as inflections of one great monomyth. These explorations examine the nature of mythic consciousness and provide insight into the power of myth in psyche and culture.

Folklore and Fairy Tales
MS 602, 2 units
The archetypal interpretation of folktales and fairy tales is the focus of this course. Principal themes include: theories concerning the origin and dissemination of folktales; review of mythological, sociological, and psychological approaches to the study of fairy tales; the purpose and meaning of violence in fairy tales; parallels between the archetypal motifs of fairy tales and their manifestation on psychology and culture.

Epic Imagination
MS 604, 2 units
Epics are stories created by poets to give an entire people a sense of their history and their destiny. As stories that give shape and coherence to the collective myth, epics engage the figure of the epic hero, who either breaks through the conventional wisdom of the people or re-establishes their most profound wishes.

Myth and the Underworld
MS 619, 3 units
The underworld is place, condition, and situation. This course explores the journey to, the dwelling within, and the departure from, this nether region of the soul. Poetic renderings of the Underworld offer the richest repositories for the insights gleaned in this arena. The inescapable journey down and into the realm of the invisibles, where figures who journey there begin to discern its patterns, its darkness, and its treasures, is the focus of this course. In the Underworld, the archetypal ground of being is confronted most directly. Works from the early Sumerian period to contemporary psychological and literary illustrations amplify the complexity of this depth.

Myths of the Self: Memoir and Autobiography
MS 726, 3 units
This course examines the mythic aspects of two literary genres (memoir and autobiography) and engages questions concerning the relation of memory and the imagination, the individual and the archetypal, self and others, and narcissism and guilt. Attention is given to classic examples of the genres, as well as reflections on the defining characteristics of these genres by literary critics, depth psychologists, and feminists. Pass/No Pass

Selected Topics in Mythological Studies I, II, III, IV
MS 599, 699, 799, 899, 1-4 units each
Course content varies.

Dante’s Commedia: A Triple Journey into Depth and Individuation
MS 727, 2 units
Beginning with a brief study of La Vita Nuova, a collection of Dante’s poems that placed him on the poetic path to write his grand work, the Commedia, this course studies the three canticas that comprise the poem: Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso. Through a close reading of the text, students engage in Dante’s progression through these three stages of increased awareness to investigate the 14th century mythos that guided the poet and to ask what relevance such a worldview might have for us today.
Depth Psychology and Culture
Depth psychology is an important resource for the study of myth, literature, religious traditions, and culture. These courses draw substantially on the work of Freud, Jung, and Hillman and provide hermeneutical approaches that complement methods used in other disciplines such as religious studies and literature.

Jungian Depth Psychology
MS 511, 2 units
Key Jungian concepts such as the collective unconscious, archetypes, and the individuation process are surveyed with attention to the evolution of these theoretical constructs. The influence of Jung’s ideas on the arts, literature, and religious thought is explored.

Dreams, Visions, Myths
MS 521, 2 units
Examination of dreams arises out of certain assumptions: that psyche is nature revealing herself in images, that psyche is multidimensional, and that the images of dreams give form to the various expressions of psychological life. The focus is on dream theory and amplification methods. Pass/No Pass

Archetypal Psychology and Neuroscience
MS 611, 3 units
The depth psychology of C.G. Jung and his successors enables us to see how mythology expresses psychology and how psychology may be understood as mythology. Special attention is given to insights from James Hillman’s archetypal psychology, including the notions of personifying, pathologizing, psychologizing, and dehumanizing. The works of other post-Jungian writers are also examined to exemplify selected aspects of the archetypal approach.

Psyche and Nature
MS 615, 2 units
Geographies of paradise, wilderness, frontier, desert, and ocean are mythic interior landscapes as well as external habitations of divinities and demons, where individuals experience tests, revelations, and illuminations. This course explores external landscapes and their (archetypal) analogues as mythopoetic spaces to discern how mythic consciousness is rooted in the poetry of landscapes.

Mythic Motifs in Cinema
MS 626, 2 units
An application of the concepts of depth psychology to the analysis of film. Using the archetypal method, the instructor presents selected portions of films to disclose underlying themes and archetypal patterns, in an effort to illustrate as wide a range of archetypal characters as possible. Television fiction series may occasionally be included.

The God Complex
MS 711, 2 units
Nietzsche’s announcement of the “death of God” still ripples through the Western psyche. In its wake lies both a decline of religiosity and the emergence of new God images. Alongside these trends we may place Jung’s notion that lost divinities return as symptom. Against the backdrop of individual and cultural dependence on a fundamental mythos, this course examines our “God-complex” from a depth psychological and mythological perspective. Pass/No Pass.

Research skills are cultivated through a series of courses leading to dissertation writing.

Theoretical Approaches to Mythological Studies
MS 620, 2 units
This course investigates different approaches to the study of sacred narratives, stories derived from oral traditions, and cultural events that invite symbolic analysis. These approaches are examined with reference to their historical and disciplinary contexts. Sir James George Frazer’s The Golden Bough exemplifies anthropological approaches to study of traditional myths and archetypes in early cultures. Psychological, structural and folkloric approaches are studied in relation to how polarity functions in myth. Contemporary approaches are considered to elucidate some of the ways in which literary, philosophical, and ethnographic scholars interpret myth.

Theory and Methods in Mythological Studies
MS 720, 2 units
In many ways Religious Studies can be seen as a forerunner of Mythological Studies. Awareness of the debates that shaped this field and the methodological approaches that emerged from them can help students determine how best to hold the phenomenon of myth up to view. The aim of this course is to understand these various possible approaches and the wider implications of those choices.

Research Strategies for Dissertation Writing
MS 730, 2 units
This course examines dissertation research options supported by the program including theoretical studies in the humanities, humanistic social sciences approaches, and production style projects. It explores the technical aspects of conducting research such as style, rhetoric, and utilization of library resources. The psychological aspects of research and writing processes are also addressed. Pass/No Pass

Dissertation Formulation
MS 733, 2 units
The issues, tasks, and processes of conducting research and drafting initial concepts are addressed. This course provides the framework for implementing a research idea and writing the concept paper which serves as the basis for the dissertation proposal. The classes also teach strategies and techniques for research and completion of the concept paper. Pass/No Pass. No incompletes are allowed in MS 733.

Dissertation Writing 
MS 900, 15 units 
Under the supervision of a Dissertation Committee, students submit a proposal, conduct original research, write and defend a doctoral dissertation. Additional fees will be assessed for this course. Pass/No Pass. Prerequisite: MS 733