This quotation by Vikram Chandra is central to my research and writing about the ways in which myth has been used in politics, literature, and daily life. In the ways in which the stories we have been told about the world and its people can have a profound effect on our opinion and treatment of those people. I am interested in the denotative and connotative aspects of myth–how the former demands to be taken as fact and thus seeks to control while the latter admits of its own mythical nature as it seeks to heal.
Repressive regimes that have desired to gain the complicity of the populace in othering, persecuting, and finally disappearing “undesirable” people have often created myths of origin and purity to justify their actions. Writers of historical fiction who seek to recuperate the unbearable absences of disappeared individuals may use myths within their novels, plays, and films in order to reinscribe the missing people into the story of the world. I am especially interested in how these myths, both political and literary, and these tragic absences may develop agency, becoming what Bruno Latour would term actants, as they take on lives of their own, so to speak, and begin to impact the world around them. I approach this subject particularly as it relates to Spain’s Franco regime and contemporary historical fiction that deals with the Spanish Civil War and the subsequent dictatorship.
As a comparatist, my research draws from the theories of myth, political myth, genre fusion, narrative, thingification, and absence; from 20th century European (particularly Spanish) history; and from historical fiction authored by contemporary novelists, playwrights, and filmmakers. I work in the intersections between literary and political myth, between memory and absence, between story and history. These in-between spaces have proven to be very rich and interesting places to explore.
Header image: Orpheus before Pluto and Persephone by François Perrier, 1645