Cartoons, Folklore, and Mythology

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2021

Joseph F.Nagy (Department of Celtic Languages and Literatures)
Freshman Seminar 61F     4 credits (spring term)     Enrollment:  Limited to 12 

The creators of cinematic (and later TV) animation have perennially turned to traditional oral and literary tales about fantastic heroes, villains, tricksters, and settings for their story material.  In the world of the animated “short” and feature-length film, myths, epics, legends, and folktales could come to life in a highly stylized, kinetic, and visually arresting way.  Cartooning created a pathway for traditional stories to live on in the consciousness of twentieth century viewers, and also for these old tales to be adapted to changing times.  Hence animation offers not only an influential modern commentary on the folklore and mythology of the past but also a contemporary mythology of its own, deeply meaningful to adults and children alike. In this freshman seminar, students are invited to take what might be considered mere entertainment very seriously, closely reading texts of traditional stories in tandem with critically viewing animation that draws its inspiration from those stories. For a final assignment, each student will be called upon to choose some animation (a short or a clip from a feature-length film) to share with the rest of the seminar, to provide some background for it, and to lead a discussion of the animation in light of what else we will have seen, learned, and said.  While the instructor’s contribution to the seminar will primarily focus on animation from 1900 to 1960, students when choosing which sample of animation to share will be welcome to present later or contemporary examples of the cartooning art—including perhaps even their own.   

See also: Spring 2021