While most commentators on myth like to speak about ancient curiosities, such as Aztec or Sumerian myths, or the now disconnected traditions of the classical world, there is in fact a wide range of mythic figures from the European past which still mean a good deal. The nine figures discussed in Stephen Knight’s new book THE POLITICS OF MYTH have all been newly represented on film or television in the twenty-first century, they all offer both a set of values and a set of threats, and they provide ways in which we can reflect on the forces at work our modern world.
The figures are discussed in three thematic groups: **POWER **(King Arthur, Queen Guinevere, Queen Elizabeth I), **RESISTANCE **(Robin Hood, Joan of Arc, Ned Kelly) and **KNOWLEDGE **(Merlin, William Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes)
In this presentation Stephen will discuss the remarkable ways in which these figures have changed over time as the concerns of specific period have caused the reworking of their stories. Robin Hood can be a tough anti-authoritarian, a genial aristocrat, a Saxon patriot. Queen Elizabeth I has been seen as a Protestant heroine, a love-lorn lady, even a grumpy manipulator. Guinevere has, after centuries of disapproval, suddenly started doing very well in post-feminist historical fiction. These and similar major variations will be discussed – with some visual illustrations – as will the ways in which these figures can still mean things to help us to understand our present world.