Why mythology and autism?

Why mythology and autism?

The idea for this project started to take shape at a meeting in 2008 with a special needs teacher, who mentioned that, in her experience and those of her colleagues, autistic children often enjoy classical myth. I began to wonder why this might be the case, and whether – as a classicist who researches, and loves, classical myth – there was anything I could contribute. I started this blog to report on my progress which was often sporadic until the launch of the Warsaw-based European Research Council-funded project Our Mythical Childhood (2016-21) to trace the role of classics in children’s culture. My key contribution to the project is an exploration of classics in autistic children’s culture, above all by producing myth-themed activities for autistic children. This blog shares my progress, often along Herculean paths.

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Mythical Hope 1 - what I plan to do on this blog during autumn 2019

I have been collaborating with Professor Katarzyna Marciniak for several years now - Katarzyna is the Principal Investigator of Our Mythical Childhood, for which I'm creating activities for autistic children. Quite regularly, we are struck by coincidences which take place connected in some way with the project. Earlier today, I was contemplating a theme for set of blog postings for the next few weeks. The topic I was considering was around 'Mythical Hope,' the first of three themes for the project team's collaborative research. While I was doing this, I began rooting round in my office desk to have a tidy-out and I pulled out a lanyard which turned out to be mine from the Our Mythical Hope conference in Warsaw in May 2017.

Here it is, in the photograph at the start of this posting, along with the conference information that was attached to my conference bag, also found in my desk. For this rest of this posting, I shall elaborate on the coincidence while also introducing what I'm planning to blog about in upcoming postings.

Earlier this week, I met a group of students for the first time. These are the new first-years in Classical Civilisation and Ancient History at Roehampton who will be taking a module I convene on ancient Athens ('History and Myth'). During the class, I mentioned this blog while we were discussing how the module will be assessed, which is either by a reflective journal or a video diary. I mentioned my blog as an example of the kind of writing that might be found in reflective academic work rather than in more traditional academic books and articles. But the students were interested in the topic of the blog, including why I came to develop a project on autism and classical myth. As a result, I have decided upon a particular focus for the rest of September and into October and perhaps November too.

This will be to reflect on why I began the blog in 2009 and how it has developed since then. This seems a suitable way to close out the first decade since I got started. My plan is to focus around the theme of Hope as noted above. This was the first of three steps where, as Katarzyna phrases it in the conference booklet for Our Mythical Hope, we explore "the role of Classical Antiquity as a marker of changes on a regional and global scale" (p.16). Over the weeks, then, I'll look back at what prompted the blog, how it grew, and how it took a 'Mythical Childhood' turn, and - from there - a Herculean one.

Soon - hopefully in the next post (I think I write the word 'hope' quite a lot when I blog...), I'll put out some reflections on the potential of Hercules as a bearer of hope, though not hope as some might expect it to be phrased in relation to autism...

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