As we predicted last time we talked about them (at 33’44) Crash Course finally reached the part of the manuals they relied on that treated Campbell (a priori it was Thury and Devinney) and joined the millions of TED Talks already blabbering about the hidden virtues of the Monomyth, asserting them rather than discussing them. They were a bit critical, pointing out for example the obviousest of facts that the Monomyth is a bit heteronormative and that they only mentioned it as a broad outline, and the example they bring up in their second half has female protagonists, instead of the usual male hero.
Beware: English is not my maternal language so a few oddities might pop up in the following article.
Recently, Crash Course purported to take a look at myths and to teach you about « mythology », in a series presented by Mike Rugnetta. I quite like some of their other shows so as a learning scholar on the history of religion, and myself producing a few videos on the topic with a few friends I thought that I’d watch them.
The risk is, of course, falling into a simple listing of gods and stories that forgets to put them in context or analyse them. Feminine figures all become « mothers earths », any celestial being is a Sky Father or a Sky God or, god forbid, a Sun God. All nuance is lost to endless paralellism, attempting to erase difference or even influence : similarities become some sort of doorway into a shared human prehistory, although many times you can clearly see pattern of diffusion rather than shared inheritance. Of course who wrote down our sources is hugely important in such matters. For example, in colonial contexts, maybe the indigenous myths resembles christianity because of missionaries’ attempts to retrofit christianity into local myths to help convert the locals? Maybe if all our sources come from after they made contact with the West we should be wary to not extrapolate the state of their religion in the previous centuries from that? Maybe when the christian Church Fathers talked about paganism they weren’t entirely 100% objective? I don’t know, maybe carefully analyzing the material from which we create narratives about ancient religion and myth is important, something we attempted to do with Antoine and Camille in our video on the links between Samhain and Halloween.
As to Crash Course Mythology, as far as the credits let me see, by people with no training in actual religious studies.
- Raoul Meyer is credited as writer. He seems to be trained mainly in history/litterature?
- Alexis Soloski is credited as content consultant, seems to be mainly a drama critic.
- Meredith Danko and Zulaiha Razak are listed as script editors, and Zulaiha Razak alone as script supervisor. They worked on Mental Floss I think, I don’t know their background.
That’s not a huge problem, but if they draw from a wide varieties of approaches and schools of analysis they might just provide an introduction to the vast and varied study of myth.
Which I think they didn’t for now.
In fact, I think they lifted pretty much the entirety of the episodes written for now from David Leeming’s The World of Myth : an Anthology (1992). I think there’s a good case for plagiarism, or at least copy-pasting of the utmost laziness and dishonesty and as I’ll attempt to show, it doesn’t require much research to show it. Let’s look at their episode #2 « Creation Myths : Creation from the Void« .