Ancient, Medieval, and Renaissance civilizations shared the belief that the world was a "cosmic sanctuary" made and sustained by God and that the place humans occupy within it is imitative and reflective of God's/gods' understanding of it. The ancients believed that the earth was a cosmopolis, a micro-expression of God's temple that they, as humans, had a call to work in through worship to God's honor. The consequence of the belief in a cosmic sanctuary was the manufacturing of culture to embody it.
The culture identified as “the West” did not create itself; culture in the "West" was made by real living, breathing humans. Artists and craftsmen and thinkers and writers made cultural artifacts – actual tangible things – to help make meaning out of and give interpretation to their worlds. But one of the most common ways of making meaning is to use words, and to put those words into stories.
Every person and every culture has its own narrative. Narratives provide order to our explanations of the world – where we are coming from, where we are going, what is real, what it means to be human, and things like the meaning of marriage and death. Narratives are told through artifacts: the books, speeches, myths, paintings, music, sculpture, architecture, and practices reflecting the cosmic sanctuary. Narratives tended to be communal and provided peoples with a sense of their identity.
The civilizations from the ancients to the Renaissance/Reformation created myths that tried to explain the who or what or when or why humans and the cosmos exist. C.S Lewis points out that the preChristian and Christian eras share more in common with one another than with the modern and postmodern civilizations we have inherited after those eras. Powerful cultures like the Greeks, Hebrews, and Romans, and institutions like the Church, produced narratives of their own origins to enhance their legitimacy and to unify society. These stories are told in texts, and in other creative ways in poetry, drama, music, art, sculpture, and architecture, and these have shaped human identity. Assimilating these forms of expression with understanding is essential to knowing one's personal narrative; this is the task we set before you in HUM 203.