Saturday, June 19, 2010

American Mythology

On the writing front lately, there has been good news and bad news. The good news is that I have been given a section of freshman writing comp to teach in the fall. The good news that went along with that was that the school gave me a blank lesson plan and said, "Go!" The bad news is that I've never done this before, so all of my extra effort lately has gone into building a syllabus.

I feel like I'm writing a research paper again, except I have to find enough research to write like ten research papers, on all sorts of different subjects. After only having a week to come up with a topic, I finally chose American Myth. At first I thought it would be interesting to go beyond Paul Bunyan and Johnny Appleseed and dive deeper into indigenous myths and how they evolved over time. I thought I could throw in a fun reading on urban legends to keep their interest. And then I realized that just as America is a melting pot of people, we are too a melting pot of myth - just because the American Indians were the only ones native to the land the United States now occupies does not mean their tales are the only things we can deem "American."

Neil Gaiman's incredible novel American Gods is giving me almost every topic I wish to cover in the fall, like how America changed and shaped myths that were brought here with the people, how the modern world views ancient myths, and how the new "gods" of technology are replacing the old "gods" of some of the ancient religions (literally, in the novel, or if you want to think more figuratively, how technology is replacing traditions of oral storytelling). There's also the idea of the American Dream as a mythos in itself: what about these stories are still true, and how are we building a new mythology in our society today?

I look forward to talking a little bit more about my class as I form the syllabus a bit better, but for now I'm deciding which readings to assign and which books to order. My own writing has been limited to the few precious hours every other week with my writing group doing creative prompts and exercises. But I figure that something has to give after graduation (July 3rd!) and I can get into my own work again. It will always be a balancing act, I keep telling myself, between what makes money and what fills the soul. The result will be one of my greatest life accomplishments.