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Lecture

Lecture 3

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Department
Classics
Course
CLA160H1
Professor
J.Ramsay
Semester
Winter

Description
Lecture 3 - Frazer Thursday, Jan. 17/2013 Frazer’sApproach to Myth The Golden Bough is very important for the entire school of ritual theory. Frazer interprets a whole lot of myth and many stories are interpreted as distorted reflections of rituals. Particular to the Golden Bough involving death and rebirth. Orestes fleeing to Italy to the grove ofArtemis Hippolytus dying and then brought back to life and flees to Italy where he is established as King of the Grove in the cult of Diana. Hippolytus specifically involves violent death and rebirth Frazer would say that these myth explore the primitive rebirth (ritual slaying of old king, then symbolically reborn in the new king) The idea that myth reflects or reenacts ritual is central to Frazer’s thinking in Golden Bough. He does not present myth as subordinate, but after him it is thought that myth is developed after ritual in order to explain. For Frazer ritual and myth can start out side by side: the cyclical birth of fertility in the natural world and then death and regeneration. The ritual and myth related to can be connected to the fundamental process. The myth reflects your obsession with and ritual ensures its success. BUT for Frazer, ritual is fundamentally conservative. Myth is not. This is because ritual can involve a set of steps which can be repeated identically generation after generation. But stories within an oral tradition cannot be told identically - they change with every telling. Another underlying characteristic of Frazer: ritual is expensive, talk is cheap. Frazer would tie ritual into fundamental life and death situations, whereas myth, Frazer would say it allows freedom in speculation. Myth can be much more wide-ranging. Myth is less reliable according to Frazer.He would rather compare rituals, even from widely divergent cultures. Myth as we see it in Frazer is distinctly secondary, but the whole point of the Golden Bough is not to explain myth, so Csapo saying it fails in explaining myth is smily incorrect; he is explaining ritual. Where Frazer is concerned to talk about myth per se is in his translation of the Library ofApollodorus. It is a lot more subtle than Csapo gives him credit for. How does he break myth down? Three categories of traditional stories promoted by Bascom: Myth Legend Folktale These three categories are adopted by Frazer Myth for Frazer is involved with explaining natural phenomena Legend is recounting the history of real people/places in an oral tradition Folktale is imaginative entertainment. Where do our modes of interpretation come from? We start with reason, from which flows myth (an attempt to give a rational explanation of myth). Then we have the basic faculty of memory, which is where legend comes from. Finally we have imagination which gives us a folktale Lecture 3 - Frazer Thursday, Jan. 17/2013 But all of these operate at the same level as being a primitive human attempt to explain the world (?) Each of them has the corresponding modern practice Reason - Science Memory - history Imagination - romance For Frazer these modern practices happen after myth, legend and folktale and draw a line between the primitive and modern Prof thinks this is a shortcoming For Frazer Myth is the wrong way, Science is the right. Thought people viewed Myth as inadequate and so adopted science. But as the Greeks developed what was modern is rooted in mythic heritage - so the line cannot be so definite. one way of looking at legends as looking at heroes as faded gods. Achilles was once a god but has become a mortal in stories Euhemerism: Euhemeris in antiquity proposed that the gods were originally just great men who became divinities. They were heroes who became gods Frazer sees the transition of Great man -> Hero -> God. The idea of this transition is very appealing because it ties in with his own thinking of religion: Magic - Religion - Science Agreat leader of magic becomes invested with semi-divine characteristics which culminates in the idea of the incarnate god, which takes a life of its own, the god having an independent existence This is dear to Frazer’s view of the relationship between Magic and Religion Heracles is an example of someone who bridges the mortal/divine realm He integrated into the system of mortals but at the same time a god The idea that he ascends to god-hood during his final agonizing moments when he is burned alive on a pyre. This burns away his mortal side and he becomes a god. Frazer warns agains Euhemerism. For him, myth springs from curiosity, guided by reason. So then Euhemerism is backwards. Then he has a passage on over-analyzing: stories can suffer from dissection. Booktales are pure fictions not to be didactic but to be amusing. Our curiosity needs to be fulfilled by stories. Grove of Nemi Frazer’s description of Nemi explains why Virgil would put it in hisAeneid. Agolden bough reading of theAeneid: This is written in the 20s BC after a century of civil war and the fall of the Roman Republic Old troy is gone just like the old rome is gone. But from the ashes something new and great will rise. Renewal and destruction is key to the grove of Nemi This set of rituals would be a very good symbolic vehicle for him to express his views The Grove is a going concern Lecture 3 - Frazer Thursday, Jan. 17/2013 We know that the slave who hold title of Rex Nemorensis, we know that he aroused popular interest: he’s a bit of a rockstar Caligula was jealous of a Rex who managed to hold of all challengers. He is fed up with him so he hires an assassin to go into the grove to knock him off. Caligula would not have done that if there wasn’t popular interest. So this is a set of rituals that are still meaningful for the Roman people in terms of their need to guarantee fertility. Vergil could expect his readers to pick up on details associated with the Grove Ancient commentary: public opinion holds the view that this bough in vergil represents the branch at Nemi The episode of the “golden bough” occurs in the book 6, at the epic’s midpoint. This is a darkpoint forAeneas: fall of troy, death of father, temptation of Dido, loss of ships Aglorious future awaits him in Italy but it is only through bitter struggle In preparation he undergoes the symbolic death and rebirth of databases (common motif in myth) Ahero’s descent int (and return from) the underworld He does this to obtain enlightenment from his father’s ghost Modelled on a similar scene in Odyssey, Book 11 Bu there are significant differences: Precondition for Odysseus visit: various sacrificial offerings to the dead Preconditions forAeneas’visit: 1) to obtain the golden bough 2) Ritual burn a newly deceased comrade (Misenus) on a funeral pyre Misenus is cremated in a massive conflagration, for which all his grieving crewmates cooperate in felling an ancient grove This is a massive public mourning ritual Compare this to the annual fire-festival at Nemi and compare Frazer’s hypothesized burning of the newly slain Rex Numerousness Compares to the pyre of Julius Caesar - “The Dying God” Caesar’s spirit lives on. His adopted son Octavian takes the name of Caesar to rally caesar’s veterans to his cause. In essence he became caesar.And Caesar’s spirit was believed to ascend in his comet Vergil explains the bough as being “sacred to the underworld’s Juno”. It is light in the darkness. “When the first bough’s wrenched off, it’s replaced...by another growing identically golden” Vergil compares it to Mistletoe and that the life-force of mistletoe continues (it does not die in winter) Charon is a figure of death, suitable to be the ferryman. The golden bough tames him. OnceAeneas arrives in Italy there is a king Latinus who makes an alliance withAeneas, tries to marry his daughter to him. Latinus people are starting war with Trojans. Latinus is seen as not being able to control his people. He is old, weak, out of touch.Awar btweenAeneas and Latinus is Virgil’s choice - the narrative is not always like this - he wants to suggest that the old regime of Latium needs to be swept aside, replaced by the new vigor ofAeneas and his band of hardy proto-Romans As Th. Eold, rotten, corrupt senatorial regim of the Roman Republic (led by Pompey) deserved to be replaced by Caesar andAugustus Lecture 3 - Frazer Thursday, Jan. 17/2013 As an old Rex Nemorensis deserves, needs to be slain by his vigorous young successors in order to preserve the land’s fertility Vergil presents Latinus as being tied to trees. His home is like a sacred grove. So he is the Rex Nemorensis Another adversary in second half of poem: Aeneas vs. Turnus Aeneas’principal antagonist in the second half of the epic is not the decrepit Latinus but the young warrior Turnus CompareAugustus vs.Antony He is not old himself but belongs to an old order Aeneas conflict with Turnus is likewise configured in terms and images reminiscent of the rituals at Nemi And turnus is an anachronism, standing in the way of Roman progress In order to bring death to Turnus (and thus bring life to Th. Eenw Roman order),Aenas must first pull out his wooden spear, which has become stuck in a tree-stump sacred to a local native deity (faunus) Duh, the bough! Faunus helps the spear get stuck for Turnus, bu his mum Venus strides in and takes it out T
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