Myths revisited in 20th century literature in EnglishMyths revisited in 20th century literature in English
One of my favorite stories that revisits classic Greek myth is "The House of Asterion" by Jorge Luis Borges (the story is collected in both Ficciones and Labyrinths). Borges's story revisits the story of the Minotaur--it is told from the Minotaur's point of view and explores how he feels being in the labyrinth and being so different from everyone else. The story is riddled with paradoxes, irony, and symbolism, and although it is short in length, it is dense in meaning. The Minotaur says that he knows his way through the turns of the labyrinth and that there is no door to the entry-way, yet he feels locked inside because those on the outside fear him. He describes his loneliness, and once Theseus comes and slays him, the narrative shifts to third-person and describes the look of peace on the Minotaur's face. It's interesting to hear the voice of a character that is silenced in traditional myth.
Anything written by Neil Gaiman. The man is a master of combining ancient narratives and bringing them new life. His novel American Gods incorporates Norse, Slavic, Egyptian, Irish, and Sumerian myths into the story of a man who's lost everything, only to be offered a job by "Mr. Wednesday". If you're familiar with the origins of "Wednesday", you can guess which god he is. Eventually, the old gods must battle new gods of plastic and technology on the warfront of rural America. An incredible novel!
Also, his seminal comic series The Sandman weaves together countless narratives in its pages. From Oberon and Titania, to Bast (the Egyptian cat-headed goddess), to Orpheus and Calliope, to Odin, Thor, and Loki, to Abel, Cain, and Eve: it's a powerhouse of world mythology. Like American Gods, these stories are retold through a completely original lens.
On a more general note, I'm always struck by the ubiquitous use of Sisyphus in music and literature. Camus used the myth as a theme for many of his writings, and the theme is a common one in lots of literary works. I'm convinced there's a musicality to the name which is as, if not more, appealing to people who are looking for interesting titles. It's in book titles, music titles, and I think there's even a children's book character named Mrs. Sisyphus. I've seen a Red Bull commercial using the actual myth (though not the name) in a major advertising campaign, as well. There's something very accessible about this guy--in addition to his cool name.
Rick Riordan has written a wonderful series of young adult novels, starting with The Lightening Thief. Hollywood has even jumped on the series and made the novel into a recent movie. The premise of the books is that the Greek gods are alive and well and still influencing life on Earth. There are a select few humans who know this and they are training a few young people to have this knowledge as well. The main character, Percy Jackson, is confronted with the knowledge that he is the son of Poseidon, and he must come to terms with what that may mean for him, all while contending with other characters from the myths. The stories are great!
Allusions to Prometheus are in William Golding's Lord of the Flies. For, in Chapter 8 when Jack and the other hunters steal the fire, they acquire power in this scene and unleash violence just as Prometheus unleased violence and chaos in the mortals by giving them fire. In Jack's hands, the fire no longer represents the hope for rescue, a symbol of responsibility. Now, it represents a symbol of savage authority; with the fire the hunters can now roast pigs and have their savage ceremonies.
I think of film as visual text and used it frequently when I taught high school literature classes. O Brother, Where Art Thou? visited several classical Greek myths, including Odyssyeus's journey, the Cyclops, and the Sirens.
I remember when my son, who was in middle school at the time, went to see this film with his dad. He called me that night and said, "Oh Mom, it's The Odyssey, except with bluegrass music, and it's in the 1930s, it's AWESOME!"