Emily Pothast

Independent Researcher

Emily Pothast is a visual artist, musician, curator, and critic whose research-based, interdisciplinary practice is informed by the history of mass media and its influence on politics, belief, and the construction of popular narratives. She holds an MFA from the University of Washington and currently lectures on art history at Gage Academy of Art in Seattle. Emily is a regular contributor to The Wire Magazine, and her writing has also appeared in HyperallergicThe Stranger, The Seattle Review of BooksArt Practical, and the journal Monday. In addition to Gage, she has lectured at Seattle University, Portland State University, and Northwest Film Forum. As a musician, she has released several albums and toured extensively as founding member and frontwoman of the bands Hair and Space Museum and Midday Veil.

The Great Mother and the Dragon of Chaos: Jordan Peterson's Misuses of Mythology

Abstract

Jordan Peterson’s books and lectures have struck a deep chord with audiences hungry for the kind of insights that Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell once extracted from mythological sources. Central to Peterson's cosmology is a perceived virtue in slaying dragons—a metaphor for controlling chaos and dominating the unruly “feminine” principle of nature—which he sees exemplified in the Babylonian creation epic Enuma Elish. Peterson argues that the archetypal significance of this dragon-slaying hero story has roots in nothing less than our evolutionary history. But according to Peterson's own sources, the Enuma Elish is more correctly understood as a piece of political propaganda created to justify patriarchal changes to the Babylonian pantheon made during a period of imperial power consolidation. In this slide talk and accompanying research paper, artist and culture critic Emily Pothast navigates the implications of Peterson's stated disregard for this history, offering possibilities for the extraction of more accurate, yet equally resonant narratives from the Enuma Elish and other ancient, cosmic stories.