Why do contemporary writers use myths from ancient Greece and Rome, Pharaonic Egypt, the Viking north, Africa's west coast, and Hebrew and Christian traditions? What do these stories from premodern cultures have to offer us? In her new book, The Metamorphoses of Myth in Fiction since 1960
, Professor Kathryn Hume
examines how myth has shaped writings by Kathy Acker, Margaret Atwood, William S. Burroughs, A. S. Byatt, Neil Gaiman, Norman Mailer, Toni Morrison, Thomas Pynchon, Kurt Vonnegut, Jeanette Winterson, and others, and contrasts such canonical texts with fantasy, speculative fiction, post-singularity fiction, pornography, horror, and graphic narratives. She argues that these artistic practices produce a feeling of meaning that doesn't need to be defined in scientific or materialist terms. Myth provides a sense of rightness, a recognition of matching a pattern, a feeling of something missing, a feeling of connection. It not only allows poetic density but also manipulates our moral judgments, or at least stimulates us to exercise them. Working across genres, populations, and critical perspectives, Hume elicits an understanding of the current uses of mythology in fiction.
Kathryn (Kit) Hume started as a medievalist in Old English, Middle English, and Old Norse, but has become a specialist in contemporary fiction. Her books have investigated fantasy, Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow
, Italo Calvino’s novels, and a great many contemporary Anglophone writers. She also drew on her experience as a job placement officer to write Surviving your Academic Job Hunt: Advice for Humanities PhDs
Carrie Lynn Evans is a PhD student at Université Laval in Quebec City.