Prof. James Howe
MIT Course Number
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Human beings are symbol-making as well as tool-making animals. We understand our world and shape our lives in large part by assigning meanings to objects, beings, and persons; by connecting things together in symbolic patterns; and by creating elaborate forms of symbolic action and narrative. In this introductory subject we consider how symbols are created and structured; how they draw on and give meaning to different domains of the human world; how they are woven into politics, family life, and the life cycle; and how we can interpret them.
The semester will be devoted to a number of topics in symbolism.
- Metaphor and Other Figurative Language
- The Raw Materials of Symbolism, especially Animals and The Human Body
- Cosmology and Complex Symbolic Systems
- Ritual, including Symbolic Curing and Magic
- Narrative and Life