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.

Wednesday, 12 May 2021

Why I'm planning to animate the Higher Education and autistic classrooms guided by Panoply

I didn't plan to blog today, but I've been inspired to by a session on animating ancient vases this morning with Sonya Nevin! 

This was the session I mentioned previously, when I blogged last week. It's the second of two sessions where the Myths and Mythology class I'm currently teaching at Roehampton joined the weekly Our Mythical Childhood seminar in Warsaw.

Vase animation-linked activities in action, from the
 Panoply vase animation pages on the
Our Mythical Childhood website here
What Sonya showed was just how far an animations approach to ancient vases can open up new ways to look at ancient art, myth and at contemporary people's own relationships with that material.

It is possible, as Sonya set out, to explore different perspectives on vases, to think in fresh ways about what people think they know or see - and the there is potential too for using vases in activities beyond the Higher Education classroom, for example with children and with displaced people.

Further examples of Panoply-inspired creativity
 - also from the Our Mythical Childhood website here

Sonya showed two of the animations she has created with Steve Simons, starting with Hercules capturing and bringing the Erymanthian Boar to Eurystheus.

I commented in the zoom chat that I could see potential for using the animation in activities with autistic children. At the same moment, independently, one of the Warsaw students said that she would like to use the animations with autistic children. We have arranged to follow up!

The possibilities, I would say, for dealing with issues like anxiety, empathy and emotions is huge. As Sonya set out, activities linked with the animations can include looking at vases from different characters's point of view. In the case of the Boar vase, this could be the queen, or Eursytheus, or as I suggested - on the day when new UK legislation acknowledging that animals can feel pain and joy has been announced - the point of view of the Boar.

For more on the Boar animation - and for other animations, including the extraordinary Sappho animation, visit the Panoply site here or the Our Mythical Childhood Panoply page here. The Our Mythical Childhood webpage is here

Coming back to the vase I have written about in my previous two postings - the one where Herakles is being brought by Athena to Zeus - Sonya mentioned during the session an activity I tried out in class several years ago where students story-boarded that vase. The side they story-boarded, however, was the other side, the side where Athena is coming out of the head of Zeus while a third figure - Hephaistos? Hermes? Prometheus? - moves away with an axe: 

Sixth century BCE lip cup now in the British Museum.
Image source and further details here

I know that, somewhere, I have the story-boards the students created. For now, here is one of them along with what I  wrote in a learning and teaching portfolio I was creating at the time, in 2015:

"To encourage students to think in fresh ways about evidence I have recently tried out an innovative learning activity, story-boarding in  a module I am currently convening for the first time – an introductory module on mythology for first year students. My colleague Sonya Nevin, the co-founder of the project Panoply: Animating Ancient Vases uses this technique in her workshops with school children and students and the story boards are subsequently animated by her partner. Struck that the storyboarding itself could have pedagogic value I asked the class to make storyboards for a specific artefact we were discussing in class: an archaic Greek lip-cup depicting the birth of Athena. I include here an example of the innovative, thoughtful resulting work that was produced – with students taking different perspectives on the mythological moment being depicted and the messages about divinity and mythology being asserted. This fed back into class discussion of the multiple ways of reading individual pieces of evidence and on the meaning created by each new user of a given artefact. The activity is helping to skill the students for one of their assignments: a report on a classical mythological artefact in the British Museum"

Actions for me:

1. Use animations further in the HE classroom
2. Use animations further in activities for autistic children

Sonya (left) and me (right) at a myth and education conference in
Cambridge in February 2020, the last time we met in person before lockdown...


Adelaide Dupont said...

Hi Susan:

the Panoply links send us to our own blogs and the editing space in Blogger.

If the readers don't know to go to OUR MYTHICAL CHILDHOOD and the relevant search ...

Susan Deacy said...

Thank you so much Adelaide. I'll correct now! Susan