ABSTRACT

This volume has its origins in a thought piece that I shared some years ago with Richard Falk on the contemporary public life of myths. Not specifically the myths of pantheons and their celestial inhabitants. Nor the mythology of early 20th-century psychologists, their drives, complexes, and archetypes, nor their 19th and 20th century counterparts among classicists, anthropologists, political philosophers, semioticians, historians, literary canon keepers (and bashers). Nor again ‘myths’ as equated nowadays with public ignorance or popular delusions, political obfuscations, historical fabrications, fake news, pop culture heroism (and heroics), and their like. Rather, my reflections were about each and every one of these things. This is because all of them contribute something to the background of what it means today to think in a global setting about the public relevance of certain kinds of stories—salient, valorized, significance-bearing conduits of imagination that stir and channel the passions of individuals, groups, nations, whole civilizations. I was thinking here as well in terms of ‘discursive traditions’ that are also about critique and proposal, the stretching of the boundaries of the possible. About identifying that uncertain terrain where utopian imaginings impart both wisdom and restraint. For their diverse audiences, such narratives are part of what shape cultural identity, often playing a significant and at times powerfully affective role in displays of civic political imagination.