From Glowing Fire to Flickering Screen: Hermes and Television as Mythological Siblings
Date, Time & Place:
December 20, 2015 at 2:00 pm
Lecture Hall, Lambert Road campus
Television, purveyor of episodic story and moving image, the glowing hearth of countless homes, is an undeniably powerful force in contemporary Western culture. It is a veritable god to many of us. When we invite Television into our living rooms and bed-rooms, we enter into relationship with a mythological sibling of the ancient Greek god Hermes. Though they manifest in cultures separated by millennia and many many miles, Television and Hermes share so many detailed characteristics—from their precocious in-ventiveness to their roles as messengers and psychopomps, and many more—that they seem to have been born of a common mythological parent, an archetype which takes con-crete symbolic form in places where transition, dream, and communication occur.
While numerous scholars from myriad disciplines have analyzed Television and its cultural roles and effects, they frequently tend toward judgment and prescription rather than understanding and active acceptance. In an effort to evoke a deeper hermeneutic of Television, I assemble and apply a mythological methodology to both Hermes and Tele-vision as gods in their respective epochs, so as to illuminate their many shared character-istics.
Relying on the Homeric Hymn to Hermes as a well developed roadmap of Her-mes’ story, this dissertation traces the story of Television as his mythological sibling, so as to illuminate some of the less visible aspects of Television’s own story in our time. The primary focus of this work draws a comparison between Hermes relationship with Apollo and Television’s relationship with Literacy. Whereas Television and Literacy are commonly seen as dissonant competitors, this mythological analysis reveals that, like Hermes and Apollo, they may instead join together as collaborative partners.
This methodology represents a largely postmodern perspective, accentuating the importance of cultural context, multivalent meaning, and a reflexive subject-researcher relationship, and also utilizes several approaches from depth and archetypal psychology, structuralist anthropology, and phenomenology. This precise assemblage of methodologi-cal features invites a complex and symbol-based understanding of the many images and characters which compose Television’s story, whereas such symbolic realities remain in-visible in many of the disciplines which have heretofore handled it.
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- Program/Track/Year: Mythological Studies, Track E, 2008
- Chair: Dr. Laura Grillo
- Reader: Dr. Teresa Blomquist
- External Reader: Dr. Julie Estep