Why classical myth and autism?

Why classical myth 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.

Tuesday, 11 May 2021

Liminality, heroism and a *possible* further perspective on why Hercules can chime with autistic experiences interrupted by news of a presentation acceptance

Like my current two postings, this current one is practising what I preach. I'm currently recommending that the students I'm teaching should blog each week for the Myths and Mythology module assignment - and my goal is, likewise, to blog each week in response to what comes up in class. 

Choice of Hercules chimney piece, Adam Room, Grove House -
collage of photos by Maria Vorovieba

I am motivated to do this blogging because I have tied myself into doing it. But I'm motivated, too, due how how lively classes this week have been due to the engagement of students and the guest tutors: yesterday Grace Page and Cristiana Lucidi on heroines and heroes and, today, Aimee Hinds on myth and reception.

This posting responds both to yesterday's exploration of how to make sense of hero myths. It also looks at what it means to create receptions today of heroes from classical myth.

One thing that each session was concerned with was what it is about classical myth that can "speak" to people today. As we explored in both sessions, classical myths are culture-specific but the cultures in question can be contemporary ones.

My initial plan had been to turn again to one of the images I looked at last week: the lip cup showing Herakles being pulled by Athena to Zeus - and to see whether if could fit Van Gennep's schema of initiation myth, which Grace discussed, of separation - liminiality - intergration.

But I'll put that plan on hold for now - beyond saying that I think it can - my thinking is that it can validate each term in turn, and validate all three at once...

Here's why I'm putting it on hold - as I was teaching the news came though that a session I proposed for next month's Learning and Teaching Festival at Roehampton has been accepted. Along with two Roehampton students, who have been doing placements with the Our Mythical Childhood project including for its autism "wing," I'll be discussing the impact the students have had. The focus will include a discussion relevant to the one we had in class today around why classical myths can continue. The presentation's topic will, also, be relevant to our discussion in class today around what the responsibility are of those who are creating the receptions.

I'll share session's goals and abstract soon,along with the references pulled from the application form.

And I'll get back to the initiation schema at a later point - but I'll throw out for now that Hercules is ever being separated, ever liminal, ever and being reintegrated, before being separated, liminal, and integrated all over again. And it's being stuck in what can be envisaged as an ongoing cycle that can help explain, I think..., what makes Hercules so appealing in relation to experiencing the world as an autistic person...

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