Literature Major Unable to Let Go of the Myth of Sisyphus

Written by: Aniela Drumonde

“Maybe I need to be bolder,” said Mu. “I’m really trying to push this idea forward.”
Photo by Sharon Roth

Fourth-year Literature major Cameron Mu has, in her own words, “been faced with a Herculean task.” Glancing down at a Moleskine notebook, Mu proclaimed, “It’s my own little personal Kryptonite. Or as the Greeks liked to say, my hamartia, which –– to people who don’t speak Greek or haven’t studied it the way I have –– means a fatal flaw, indicative of the tragedy that I will bring about towards my own self, culminating in agonizing, mournful ruin. Or –– wait. Can I try that again? I think there’s a way to also include the word catharsis, which is a really intriguing, totally Greek word rooted in the theater…” 

When asked to summarize, Mu spoke for another five minutes, before saying, “Well, I guess the most salient part of my troubles is that I can’t stop mentioning the myth of Sisyphus. It just somehow pops up naturally in every conversation that I’ve been a part of! I really do follow the verisimilitude of regular conversation, though. My word choices may seem erudite, but I wouldn’t say I’m profligate. Everyone can get what I mean, even if they can’t understand what I say.” 

Mu has reported feeling “stuck” in classes, always at the precipice of analogy, but never quite making it. “It just really feels like every subject is a slippery slope to mentioning Sisyphus, and then it’s all downhill from there,” she said, “I can never get the reference just right. I’ll probably give up soon. Soonish. I’m almost there, though, just a couple more tries and I really will stop. A few more months of intense study, then I’ll quit. But I’ll get it right one of these days, so I’ll actually try to be a bit more optimistic! I’ll die on this hill before I let it beat me! But, to be honest, I don’t see what the big deal is. It’s totally uh … copacetic.” 

Mu’s friend, Helen Troy, admitted, “I’m getting concerned. As a fellow English major, I understand the constant struggle to make it seem that what you’re learning has real life applications, and I do believe in the all-encompassing power that stories hold — branching out from one place to another, existing as a cornerstone of understanding in multiple cultures, affecting multiple time periods; the inexorable connection literal centuries apart that makes you believe in the beauty and steadfastness of a culture shared by all of humanity, but I can admit when I’m being pretentious. I’m being pretentious.” She paused, then added, “Actually, can I try that sentence again?” 

Troy continued, “I attempted to encourage her to diversify, right? Like, if she wanted to lament at the hubris of the world, she could turn to Arachne. If she wanted to complain about being tortured with something just beyond her reach, Tantalus is right there. And if she wanted to focus on being trapped in an unrelenting, ever-painful cycle of suffering, forced to continue on due to a combination of outside pressure, self-flagellation, and a misguided urge to prove herself against the backdrop of a simultaneously apathetic and actively hostile universe, she could simply look into a mirror. The possibilities are endless.” 

But Mu seems to be incapable of quitting. “I don’t know why I’m pushing this idea so hard, but now that I know there’s a possibility, I can’t stop. It’s like I’m always just about to reach the apex of my argument, and I think ‘Oh, I know how to take this to the next level,’ and then I mention Sisyphus, and the whole argument collapses under me. Once I get the ball rolling, I have to finish it, you know? But I guess sometimes, when it comes to making Sisyphus references, I fly too close to the sun.”

EIC Elect at The MQ

Former Editor-in-Chief. Like an ouroboros, her jokes consume themselves until no one knows whether they were ever funny. But they are.

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