As her senior project and final paper for her East/West major, BA graduate Inga Thornell wrote a research paper on the role of women and myth in society.
The study of mythology and literature can be a useful means of determining the paradigms of a culture. This paper will examine examples of Goddesses and women from Greco-Roman and Indian mythology and epic poetry to determine what these stories show us about women's roles in these cultures and how these characters compare to what is known of real women in each society. The historical period under examination is each culture's "Epic period." The Epic period encompasses different years for each civilization in the same way that the term "iron age" does.
Myths and literature can teach us how another culture views its life events and how they view their gods. They provide insights about the religion, customs and rituals of a civilization. They also provide models of societal expectations and demonstrate human behavior. Myths also teach us about ourselves. In fact, it is too easy to read myth without acknowledging its own cultural milieu, and while its relevance to all eras is part of myths' appeal, this can cause misunderstandings of the myth itself. The myth of Persephone is a good example of this propensity to misunderstanding since moderns tend to read this myth through their own lens and to emphasize the violence of the "rape" motif without realizing that this is a tale of ancient marriage customs. While the event of Persephone’s abduction and non-consensual marriage is shocking, the modern understanding of the word "rape" is not an accurate description of it.
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