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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Origin Myths: Performativity and the Geography of Meaning
by Quentmeyer, Patrick, M.A.L.S., Georgetown University, 2018, 115; 10810094
Abstract (Summary)

Origin myths tell the founding of a place. They signify membership and locate in time and space by providing a context and etiology for identity that is historical, theological, social, and geographic. This identity, however, does not remain static as origin myths take on a performative quality because of the values they express. This thesis seeks to explore what origin myths reveal about the human relationship with place in an effort to understand the human values at stake in these myths.

As complex narratives, origin myths demand an analysis that accounts for their density. This thesis applies Heath’s concept of centrifugal poetics to unpack the thematic plurality of origin myths, focusing on Thebes and including both the Cadmus and the Amphion and Zethus stories. My analysis exposes the human values embedded in those themes and considers the implications of myth’s role in perpetuating these values.

This thesis starts with a survey of ancient Greek origin myths, finding they recast the beginning of a place in the present through memory, meaning, and metaphor to tie the contemporary character of a place to how it began. I then offer to reconcile philosophy and poetry by arguing origin myths engender belief rather than reveal truth. Next, I investigate the values exhibited in the foundation of Thebes. Finally, this thesis identifies aspects of origin myth performativity alluded to by Aeschylus’ Seven Against Thebes.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: McNelis, Charles
School: Georgetown University
Department: Liberal Studies
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: MAI 58/01M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Classical studies, Geography, Philosophy
Keywords: Aeschylus, Amphion and Zethus, Cadmus, Human values, Origin myths, Thebes
Publication Number: 10810094
ISBN: 978-0-438-27141-8
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