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9 Jan 2011
Sep 17, 2010
Theories of Mythology Ctd.
-School of thought of mythology come from anthropologists (ie Levi-Strauss)
oAny field (lang, myth; any human produced system) is a complex system of interrelated
elements, visible elements which belong to a deep underlying structure
oMeaning does not exist in any single element but in underlying structure
-Claude Levi-Strauss: Human thought and society as a constant
oHuman mind uses dualities
Raw/cooked, life/death, hot/cold, hunter/hunted
oHumans attempt to bridge the divide b/w binary opposites; and myth is one of the ways
-Structuralists ignore historical importance; value of contemp changes
oAnother problem: no one has proven that the binary way of thought is universal
oOnly works best for preliterate societies
oCan bring out underlying things that might be overlooked otherwise
-Vladimir Propp: Russian Formalism
oBefore Levi-Strauss; 1910s to 1930s
oTry to separate study of literature from related disciplines (ie psych)
oFind pure literary scholarship
oFound that Russian folktales had 31 constant functions in a fixed sequence; patterns
always happen
Going away; 14. hero gets a magical agent; 30, 31, hero gets punished, marries
princess, gets the throne
Can be helpful to break down somewhat Greek myths and hero sagas, but certain
patters occur across diff myths
- “myth is a traditional tale w/ secondary, partial reference to something of collective importance
Walter Burkert
oTwo components: original tale, then historical development (historical dimension, w/
several stages of development)
oExplains why a myth is diff in Archaic Greece, 5th C Athens, Rome
oHistorical context of myth cant be ignored
- Myth, women, sexuality: ideologies or contextual theories
oIdeological theories grow out of the theories already discussed, especially structuralism
oMakes us ask: what do myths mean in terms of cultural issues ie sex, gender dynamics,
social class, citizenship, economic hierarchies, etc
oThe myths purpose in terms of cultural and ideological work
-Contextual theories: Mary Lefkowitz
oArgument: not to read present values/biases/modern tendencies into past societies
oMartin Bernal Black Athena: Greek civ had to do with not European, but African
Lefkowitz argues decisively against this theory; no evidence for such argument
oApproach contextually by putting aside modern perspective (looking through the eyes of the
oValue of such approach is they recognize the variety inherent in mythology, and no single
universally applicable approach
-Classical myth: a story that, through classical form has attained immortality b/c its inherent
archetypal beauty, profundity, power have inspired rewarding renewal and transformation by
successive generations (26)
oMyth based on its beauty and affect on others (so only if ppl find it beautiful and profound)
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