December 12, 2020

Comprehensive Exams

These are the comps wrote I as part of the requirements of my PhD program in Religion and Philosophy. Basically they are giant book reports in which I had to review previous relevant research that informed my dissertation. I chose mythology as the subject of my first comp because myth is a potent human way of ordering the world and focusing consciousness. I chose eco-feminism as the subject of my second comp because it is an exciting area of study that encompasses the new thinking that is occurring in philosophy, social justice, feminism, physics, biology and spirituality that is influencing our culture-making strategies in these tumultuous times.

The Function of Myth: Transmission of Ancestral Memory and the Shaping of Cultural Consciousness


Western Theories of Myth
Greek Mythology
Pueblo Mythology

Elisabeth P. Sikie
PARW 9600 Comprehensive Exam I – Fall 2008
Professor Mara Keller

The Western study of myth is inherently interdisciplinary and the myriad of voices contributing to this field include religious historians, classicists, anthropologists, folklorists, psychologists and theologians. It is a field of study that offers theoretically rich and often complex academic analysis, and is dynamic because the core theoretical assumptions have shifted over time from the nineteenth century diachronic focus on origins of myth to the twentieth century synchronic focus on the function and structure of myth. This theoretical change in a relatively small span of historic time is due to the influx of data from anthropological field work and archaeological discoveries.

This transformation was in part facilitated by the advancements in technology that occurred during this time period. More advanced technologies allowed for increased access to the world for Western people in the form of international travel, quicker and more thorough ways to obtain and disseminate information from foreign lands, and more accurate analysis of such things as material finds and field specimens.

As Western thought evolved so did the ability to articulate it via technologies. In the case of the study of mythology, the theoretical arena shifted from being the sole realm the British classists to incorporating the observations of anthropologists.

As a result, academics expanded their scholarship from what had up until that point been primarily focused on Greek and Indo-European history to include indigenous and non-Western societies. As more myths were recorded by travelers, missionaries, colonialist administrators, ethnographers, and folklorists, the similarities in content and narrative patterns of global myths became apparent.

These new ideas shifted the study of myth from a subject no longer seen primarily as a branch of literature or art but as within the realm of religion and cult. This new focus facilitated the adaptation of a comparative method borrowed from the comparative study of language, philology and religion.

Theories of myth began to be grounded within particular disciplines such as anthropology, psychology, comparative religion, and folklore. Schools of thought arose within these disciplines and the nineteenth century idea that myth was a pre-scientific explanation of nature began to be replaced by theories that interpreted myth from historical, psychological, social, and structural perspectives.

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Ecofeminist and Feminist Philosophy:
A Bibliographic Overview of Current Theory

Sustainability and Politics
Gaia Theory and the New Science

Elisabeth Sikie

PARW 9600 Comprehensive Exam II– Spring 2009

Professor Charlene Spretnak

Ecofeminism is a new term for an ancient wisdom as a great and difficult idea. -Gloria Orenstein and Irene Diamond

Ecofeminism is a relatively new field of study encompassing our most ancient human sensibilities and our most modern ideas. Philosophically, ecofeminism is a constellation of diverse theories representing an exciting and necessary evolution of Western thought. The term écoféminisme was coined by the French writer Françoise d’Eaubonne in 1974 to name the parallels between the systematic subjugation of women and the exploitation of nature and to call upon women’s unique potential in creating an ecological evolution. The term describes women’s diverse efforts to further environmental sustainability. It describes restructured theoretical perceptions of women’s relationship to nature and the ways in which that relationship has been used by modern Western culture to validate the oppression of both.
Ecofeminism includes fundamental ideas of feminism and some insights that are common to the deep-ecology movement. Feminism, as Rita Gross puts it, is the “radical assumption that women are human beings.” It is both a method and a social vision calling for equality for women as one half of the species and for historic visibility of women’s experiences and contributions. Further, it asserts that women have the right to full and equal participation in the making of culture and access to resources. Philosophical ecology maintains that our current environmental crisis is the inevitable conclusion of the history of Western culture. It is also fundamentally concerned with the study of nature’s subtle web of interconnected processes and how the principles of relation, interdependence, diversity, and flexibility may inform our human relationship with the earth and with ourselves.

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