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Myth Salon: Phoenix Force and Feminine Jouissance: Reading Myth in Comic Books & Pop Culture wit

On Tuesday, November 13, Renaissance scholar and Director of The Retreat at Pacifica, Dr. David Odorisio will bring us “Phoenix Force and Feminine Jouissance: Reading Myth in Comic Books & Pop Culture.”

David points out, Fire consumes. Powerfully, it reduces to ashes. Fire is not only a great destroyer – it is vital in sustaining life itself. Locally and globally, our current situation heralds great destruction. Are there symbols of hope, healing, and regeneration amidst that which has been – or needs to be – reduced to ashes? Political and environmental uncertainty. On-going and escalating abuses of male authority. Much has been burned already. Much more is yet to be seen.

This is powerful stuff! What do our cultural stories – our popular myths – have to say about the potential for rebirth? In ancient mythology, the Phoenix represents a symbol of great destructive power, but also life-giving rejuvenation. This presentation will examine the continuing incarnation of the “Phoenix Force” over a 35-year span of X-Men history, including her many retellings, resuscitations, and reincarnations, in order to invite reflection on what this ancient symbol of regeneration has to say to modern times.

Reading Phoenix, and her sinister emergence as “Dark Phoenix,” alongside a combined feminist and depth psychological lens, reveals the enduring cultural legacy of a character that has evolved over decades, largely through the imagination of male authorship. Viewing Phoenix through the category of sexual difference raises questions regarding comic books, male fantasy, and the ability of female characters to carry, withstand, and even subvert the male gaze through the erotic subjectivity of what Lacan referred to as “feminine jouissance.” The presentation will include reflections on the forthcoming film, X-Men: Dark Phoenix, and invite the cultural interrogation of “Why Phoenix? Why Now?”

David M. Odorisio, Ph.D., serves as Director of The Retreat at Pacifica Graduate Institute, Santa Barbara, CA, and is Associate Core Faculty in Pacifica’s Mythological Studies graduate degree program. David received his Ph.D. in East-West Psychology from the California Institute of Integral Studies and teaches in the areas of methodology, psychology and religion, and comparative mysticism. He is co-editor of the volume Depth Psychology and Mysticism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018) and has published in a variety of journals, including: Quadrant: Journal of the C.G. Jung Foundation for Analytical Psychology, Jung Journal, Philosophy East and West, The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, and The International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, among others. He currently teaches the following courses in the Mythological Studies program: Methods and Contemporary Issues in Religious Studies; Christian Traditions; Dissertation Formulation; and a Special Topics Course on Comic Books, the Paranormal, and the Sacred. Check out David Odorisio at


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