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Myth Salon: Myths & the Making of Monsters with Michael Chemers

Updated: Dec 10, 2023

Fresh from the very successful Festival of Monsters that ended today – this month’s presenter, Dr. Michael Chemers, and three of his UC Santa Cruz colleagues, Dr. Renée Fox, Dr. Camilla Hawthorne and Dr. Elizabeth Swensen will bring their scholarship about gender, race, sexuality, outsiders, and the margins into our Myth Salon, testifying to how relevant and far-reaching the stories, tales and myths of monsters are, and why monsters reveal and express the frontiers of culture and determine what is considered subversive and acceptable. Monsters are written into the scripts of the human psyche’s fundamental characters.      

Event Description: Monsters lurk in our culture - out in the open, woven into the inner workings of cultures, and the motivating forces behind the scenes. They rise in times of growing prejudice, discrimination, and othering. As a response to culture’s dominant forces, monsters pervade all forms of media and artistic expression from the arts of ancient cultures to contemporary literary and cinematic genres. Attraction and repulsion dance with each other. This Myth Salon will explore the paradoxical nature of monsters as intensely real, influential, and not-so-imaginary as one might think. Timed with Halloween, this Myth Salon reveals how both fantasy and reality pervade the human experience. Monsters — in all their manifestations, from Dracula to the Wolfman to Godzilla — are products of the human imagination, but they also represent and symbolize real fears, anxieties and obsessions. This Myth Salon on monsters is certain to excite and expand the frontiers of your imagination. 

Dr. Michael Chemers is the Director of the Center for Monster Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz where he has taught since 2012. Prior to that time, he was a professor of Dramatic Literature at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Drama, where he founded and directed the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Production Dramaturgy Program. Michael's work on the dramaturgy of empathy has led him to research and publish in fields as diverse as Disability Studies, New Media Studies, Social Robotics, Shakespearean Studies, Monster Theory, and the Underground Circus Movement. He has also authored chapters in books on South Park, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and Game of Thrones. 



Maria Tatar is an expert on myth and fairytales who served as a dean and chair of the committee on degrees in myth and folklore at Harvard University. Author of several annotated books of fairytales and a number of volumes on their dark sides — especially in relation to the feminine. Maria has joined for conversations about myth and film, and to discuss her recent book, Heroine of 1001 faces.

Dr. Renee Fox: Humanities, Literature Faculty, UCSC, My work examines how British and Irish writers reimagine histories in and of the 19th century, focusing particularly on the political, aesthetic, and gendered forces that transform the past into familiar and useful history.  My monograph, entitled The Necromantics: Reanimation, the Historical Imagination, and Victorian British and Irish Literature (The Ohio State University Press, 2023), looks at the ways monster stories/poems by writers like Mary Shelley, Robert Browning, and Bram Stoker reflect on changing ideas about the form and function of history across the 19th century.  I'm the co-editor (with Mike Cronin and Brian O'Conchubhair) of The Routledge International Handbook of Irish Studies (Routledge 2021) and my published essays have appeared in Victorian Studies, Nineteenth-Century Contexts, Victorian Poetry, New Hibernia Review, and several edited collections and critical editions.

Dr. Camilla Hawthorne: Sociology, Critical Race Faculty, UCSC, I am Associate Professor of Sociology and Critical Race & Ethnic Studies at the UC Santa Cruz. My work addresses the racial politics of migration and citizenship and the insurgent, abolition geographies of the Black Mediterranean. I am co-editor of The Black Mediterranean: Bodies, Borders, and Citizenship (Palgrave Macmillan, 2021) and The Black Geographic: Praxis, Resistance, Futurity (Duke University Press, 2023), and author of Contesting Race and Citizenship: Youth Politics in the Black Mediterranean (Cornell University Press, 2022), translated into Italian as Razza e cittadinanza. Frontiere contese e contestate nel Mediterraneo nero (Astarte Edizioni, 2023). I am co-founder of the UCSC Black Geographies Lab. I am also a faculty affiliate of the Science & Justice Research Center, the Italian Studies Program, the Legal Studies Program, and the Visualizing Abolition Studies Certificate Program. Beyond UC Santa Cruz, I am Past Chair of the Black Geographies Specialty Group of the American Association of Geographers, and I serve on the editorial boards of the journals Environment and Planning D: Society & Space and California Italian Studies.  I am project manager and faculty member of the Black Europe Summer School, a two-week intensive course on citizenship, race, and the Black diaspora in Europe that is held for two weeks each summer in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. In addition, I continue to collaborate with activist collectives in the United States and Europe working at the intersection of anti-Blackness and xenophobia.

Dr. Elizabeth Swensen: Digital Arts, New Media Faculty, UCSC, As a game designer, Elizabeth’s research has focused on metacognitive development outcomes and strategy-based learning in games, taking advantage of the medium’s strength in establishing learning through systems-thinking and social interaction. Her artistic focus is in exploring issues of imposed identity and on the powerful role language plays in enforcing that identity. Her work has been shown at the Independent Games Festival, IndieCade Festival, and the Games For Change Festival. Games as personal narrative, games and learning, games and social impact, dynamics of language and identity through play

Dennis Patrick Slattery, Ph.D. is a Distinguished Emeritus Professor in the Mythological Studies Program At Pacifica Graduate Institute. He has authored, coauthored, edited or coedited 33 volumes of poetry, non fiction and fiction. His most recent titles include The Way of Myth: Stories' Subtle Wisdom and The Fiction in Our Convictions. His web site, contains a series of blogs, paintings, adventure invitations and online courses.


Dana White, Ph.D. a contributing faculty member to Pacifica's myth degrees and author of numerous volumes on mythology. Over the course of his career, Dana has worked in radio and industrial television, as a vice president of marketing for Merrill Lynch, and as an academic department chair at an art college. He edits and designs books, produces films and motion media for universities, corporations and non-profits, and is a professional photographer with more than 40 books to his credit.He currently produces and hosts the Myth Salon, a venture he co-founded in 2016 with Dr. Will Linn,


Will Linn, PhD, Will is a Creative Mythologist. For three seasons and thirty episodes, he anchored the Sky, ZDF and History Channel TV show, Myths: The Greatest Mysteries of Humanity as one of the two recurring “meta experts.” He is the founder of and Head Mythologist for Fascinated by Everything—a visionary experience company that creates narrative art in next-generation mediums. Will served as a leader for the Joseph Campbell Foundation over an eight year period and was the founding chair of an innovative film and performing arts college called Relativity School in Los Angeles Center Studios. From 2015-2023, he taught myth, anthropology, writing, story and philosophy at the college while leading high school, graduate and professional coursework in the United States and Europe. His media and conference appearances, publications and roundtables have been focused on the poesis of nature and technology, meta-narratives of transformation, historical arcs in the mythic imagination and the archetypal revolution of meteor-steel.


The Myth Salon is all about cultivating community – bringing people and ideas into a delicious convergence every month to explore ideas of substance. Dr. Will Linn and Dr. Dana C White, the indefatigable moderators of our Myth Salon, congregate the mythological community to explore upon this rich and fertile path, and increase the amperage of myth and substance wherever we are. When we nurture and sustain our community relations and involvement, we all benefit! The full playlist of Myth Salons since the Spring of 2020 can be found Here.

MYTHOUSE INVITATIONS - Mythic Calendar: The Mythic Calendar integrates the world’s major holidays into a single calendar of media and information rich portals that explore the mythic dimensions of each holiday, sign of the zodiac, flower of the month, birth stone and celestial event. Check in with the mythic calendar each month and with every holiday to stay engaged with mythic time.

Mythology Channel: Explore ten years of mythic radio series, round tables, myth salons and special events in the Mythology Channel’s content library.

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