IN ENGLISH CLASS, we were able to further our study of how best to memorialize the past by comparing a literary classic, Homer’s The Odyssey, with Argentina’s cultural epic poem, Martin Fierro. The style of a cultural epic memorializes the past by capturing a snapshot of a culture’s habits and beliefs from a certain point in time. A short video of the beginning lines of the poem being read in its original spanish and accompanied by a guitar, as gauchesque poetry was traditionally shared and passed down orally, can be seen below.
While the Odyssey captured the values and norms of ancient Greek culture, we were able to debate, based on what they had learned in Global Studies class with Nick Martino, whether or not Martin Fierro appropriately captured the culture of Argentine gauchos during the early 20th century.
Additionally, we studied what Joseph Campbell termed the monomyth. Campbell, a pioneer in the field of mythology, was able to look at myths from cultures around the world and find common plot elements. Because these cultures had never interacted or shared their stories, Campbell determined that these were not separate stories with different plots but one plot engrained into our humanity (or the monomyth). Campbell believed so strongly in the power of myth that he was heard to have said:
Myth is much more important and true than history. History is just journalism and you know how reliable that is.
Campbell had his own unique view on how to memorialize history; to exemplify this philosophy, students wrote their own modern Argentine epics following the plot of the monomyth while exemplifying elements of current Argentine culture. Additionally, to engage in the epic poetry tradition of telling stories orally, students recorded and uploaded their epics as audio files online.
While you listen, see if you can determine the elements of the monomyth and pick out some key elements of Argentine culture.