University of Malta

Study-Unit Description
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TITLE The Mediterranean - Representations in the Canon and Popular Culture

LEVEL 05 - Postgraduate Modular Diploma or Degree Course


DEPARTMENT Faculty of Arts

DESCRIPTION The first part of this study-unit, “Precariousness of the Mediterranean” (Dr. Adrian Grima), traces the birth and construction of the concept of the “Mediterranean” as a cultural imaginary in nineteenth century Europe led by the Saint-Simonians and French geographer Élisée Reclus and its popularization and canonization in the 20th and 21st century, all the way up to the promotion of “the taste of the Mediterranean” and “Mediterranean diet” in advertising and the celebration of the “Mediterranean spirit” in canonical literary texts. This analysis will take note of the issue of precariousness raised, amongst others, by Braudel in his account of most Mediterranean islands, but it will also look at the precariousness of discourse about the Mediterranean. Following Herzfeld, claims of Mediterranean unity are seen as excuses expressive of, and enmeshed in, a global hierarchy of value in which “Mediterranean” comes somewhere between ‘modern’ and ‘primitive,’ as suggested by popular culture and canonical texts of literature, films and adverts.

The second part, “Cultural Migrations of a Mythologized Sea” (Dr. Bernard Micallef), begins with a discussion about the Mediterranean’s fundamental paradox of strangeness within close (and navigable) proximity, a paradox that acquired a rationalizing narrative through classical myth. A special focus on archetypal figures in The Odyssey, such as shape-shifting Proteus, will illustrate how mythical constructs from the classical canon have long accounted for the metamorphosing features of an inland sea whose ethnic, cultural, and geographical diversity demanded protean literary depictions. It will subsequently be discussed how these mythical constructs of the Mediterranean gradually evolved into culturally mobile archetypes, becoming denizens of a global culture sustained by popular art as much as the literary canon itself. The passage of such mythical constructs across different civilizations, periods, and media will be examined as a constant adaptation of archetypal beliefs to new political and social settings. Proteus, the Old Man of the Sea who yields the infallible truth once his shape-shifting tactics are overpowered, will be analyzed in depth as a major synecdoche of the Mediterranean’s similar ability to yield new truths once its changing ethnic, cultural, and geographical features are overcome, whether through mythical narrative itself or through the transcultural migration of its popular representations. Throughout the lectures, different types of transcultural migration will be examined, including such popular modes as Greek vase-painting, American fantasy-adventure books (with their film adaptations), and Parisian wrestling. The more canonical renditions of classical Mediterranean archetypes will be drawn from such works as The Odyssey, Paradise Lost, and Ulysses.The online sessions will provide students with intensive, if synoptic, presentations (documentaries, slide shows, and debates produced by Museums, Cultural Institutes, and Universities) on Mediterranean representations in literature and culture.

Study-unit Aims

This study-unit aims to:
1. instill in the students a questioning outlook towards the Mediterranean as an open discourse;
2. provide canonical literary illustrations, ranging from classical to modern times, of the precariousness of this discourse as it is appropriated and reshaped by different literary contexts;
3. disclose and investigate those popular cultural media that extend this process of appropriation and reshaping into fields of transmission accessible to a wider audience.

Learning Outcomes

1. Knowledge & Understanding: By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

1. interpret canonical literary representations of the Mediterranean that have formulated our founding myths and notions of the Inland Sea;
2. decipher ideological and cultural values implied in the semiotics of representations of the Mediterranean, as articulated by popular media such as advertisement and film;
3. construe the Mediterranean as a paradoxical discourse whose representative archetypes are subject to transcultural mobility and metamorphosis.

2. Skills: By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

1. discern and creatively participate in the open-endedness of cultural constructs such as the Mediterranean;
2. analyse in depth the semiotic techniques and mechanisms involved in the literary and popular construction of cultural entities;
3. evaluate the ideological (political, religious, social, etc.) implications of popular and elite cultures;
4. Recognize transcultural adaptations of lasting cultural constructs.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings

- Al-Kharrat, Edouard and Mohamed Afifi. Les représentations de la Méditerranée. La Méditerranée égyptienne. Paris: Maisonneuve et Larose, 2000.
- Barthes, Roland. Mythologies. Trans. Annette Lavers. 2nd ed. London: Vintage. 1993. LIBRARY
- Belhaj Yahia, Emna et Sadok Boubaker. Les représentations de la Méditerranée. La Méditerranée tunisienne. Paris: Maisonneuve et Larose, 2000.
- Boardman, John. “The Sixth-Century Potters and Painters of Athens and their Public.” Looking at Greek Vases. Ed. Tom Rasmussen and Nigel Spivey. Cambridge, UK: Cambrigde University Press. 1991. 79-102.
- Braudel, Fernand. The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, vol. 1. Trans. Siân Reynolds, 2nd edn, 2 vols. London: Fontana, 1966.
- Cassano, Franco and Daniele Zolo (ed.). L'alternativa mediterranea. Milano: Feltrinelli 2007.
- Cassano, Franco. Il Pensiero Meridiano. 3 ed. Roma: Laterza, 2007.
- Chambers, A. B. “Milton’s Proteus and Satan’s Visit to the Sun.” The Journal of English and Germanic Philology 62.2 (Apr., 1963): 280-287.
- Chevalier, Michel. Politique industrielle et Système de la Méditerranée (1832)
- Fabre, Thierry and Jean-Claude Izzo. Rappresentare il Mediterraneo. Lo Sguardo Francese. Trad. Costanza Ferrini and Egi Volterrani. Messina: Mesogea, 2000.
- Foxlee, Neil. Albert Camus's 'The New Mediterranean Culture': A Text and Its Contexts. Oxford: Peter Lang, 2010.
- Fusaro, Maria, Colin Heywood and Mohamed-Salah Omri. Ed. Trade and cultural exchange in the early Modern Mediterranean: Braudel’s maritime legacy. London: I.B. Tauris, 2010.
- Greenblatt, Stephen et. al. Cultural Mobility – A Manifesto. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. 2010.
- Grima, Adrian. "The Taste of the Mediterranean and other Kinnies." Forum 21 - European Journal on Child and Youth Research (Berlin, London, Paris), no. 2 – 12/2008
- Grima, Adrian. "Precariousness and the Erasure of the Mediterranean." The Fight against Poverty. Ed. Peter G. Xuereb. The European Documentation and Research Centre, University of Malta, 2008.
- Grima, Adrian. "L’arte della traduzione e la costruzione di un altro Mediterraneo." Paesi e popoli del Mediterraneo. VII Rapporto sul Mediterraneo. Ed. Bruno Amoroso, Gianfranco Nicolais and Nino Lisi. Catanzaro: Rubbettino, 2008.
- Harris, W. V. Ed. Rethinking the Mediterranean. Oxford: Oxford UP, USA, 2005.
- Herzfeld, Michael. “Practical Mediterraneanism: Excuses for Everything, from Epistemology to Eating.” W. V. Harris (ed.), Rethinking the Mediterranean. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005.
- Homer. The Odyssey. Trans. E. V. Rieu and revised by D. C. H. Rieu. 1946. London: Penguin Books. 1991.
- Journal of Mediterranean Studies. University of Malta.
- Joyce, James. Ulysses. 1922. Harmondsworth: Penguin. 1984.
- Horden, Peregrine and Nicholas Purcell. The Corrupting Sea: a study of Mediterranean history. Oxford: Blackwell, 2000.
- Malkin, Irad. Myth and Territory in the Spartan Mediterranean. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1994.
- Miles, Geoffrey. Classical Mythology in English Literature – A Critical Anthology. London: Routledge. 1999.
- Matvejević, Predrag. Mediterraneo. Un nuovo breviario.
- Nisbet, Gideon. Ancient Greece in Film and Popular Culture. 2nd ed. Exeter: Bristol Phoenix Press, 2010.
- Riordan, Rick. Percy Jackson and The Lightning Thief. New York: Hyperion Books. 2005.
- Salvatores, Gabriele. Mediterraneo (1991). A.M.A. Film, Italy.
- Storey, John. Cultural Theory and Popular Culture – An Introduction. 4th ed. Georgia: University of Georgia Press. 2006.
- Strinati, Dominic. An Introduction to Theories of Popular Culture. 2nd ed. London and New York: Routledge. 2003.
- Ursu, Anne. The Siren Song. New York: Atheneum Books. 2007.

STUDY-UNIT TYPE Lecture, Seminar & Independent Study

Assessment Component/s Resit Availability Weighting
Presentation Yes 40%
Take Home Examination (48 Hours) Yes 60%

LECTURER/S Adrian Grima
Bernard Micallef

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It should be noted that all the information in the study-unit description above applies to the academic year 2017/8, if study-unit is available during this academic year, and may be subject to change in subsequent years.
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