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Classical Studies
CLAS 104
Ronald Kroeker

1 LECTURE 1 WHAT IS MYTHOLOGYMODULE 1 DEFINITIONS OF MYTH Greek word speech story o Comes from greek word mythos th Goes back to 8 century BCTextbook A story that has proven itself worthy of becoming traditionalW Burket Traditional tale with secondary partial reference to something of collective importance as a society B Powell Traditional tale which maintains contact with the past and hand on inherited wisdom to the future They explain a society to itself promulgating its concerns and values They describe patterns of behaviour as models for members of a society especially in times of crisis o Eg When 911 happened people turned back to the Pearl Harbour as the model as a narrative to help them deal with the 911 incident In this case Pearl Harbour is a historical story but it can also act as a mythEssence of myth 1 Tradition o Eg Homer was the first writer in the grekoroman times 700BC who wrote the Trojan horse war and odyessus Though he was writing stories in 700BC his stories were from 1200 BC which was 500 years before homer In his stories he made references to the Boar tusk helmet and other armour that were only present at that time2 ResonantUsefulo Some people took myths from Homer and used them in practical wayso Eg Alex the Great and the Iliad noted he had 2 things under his pillow every night copy of the iliad and a daggero In terms of resonant its hard to pin down why certain myths draw us in resonant even if its not something practical3 FlexibleAdaptable o Myths change from gen to gen o If theres a more practical way of interpreting the myth people will change it so it fits to a specific situationgenerationo Eg Oedipus in Homer and Sophocles in both stories Oedipus was a king who killed his father and married his mother and when he was discovered there are 2 different conclusions from Homer and SophoclesHomer version he stays in Thebes and deals with the situation This fit to the society back then late dark ages where there were stable social classes so there was no need to leaveSophocles version he goes into exile During this time when he was writing society had become more of a democratic state meaning people could vote people off into exile Social classes werent as stable o Eg Spidermanand Zombies2Myth and Truth 1 In ancient timeso Myths doesnt mean something untrue It might not be scientificallyhistorically true but its used for other purposes o Ex Xenophanes criticized the anthropomorphic gods Anthropomorphic gods were thought of gods like humans but they were more powerful People just made gods after their own imagesMonotheist theres 1 god thats unknowableo Ex Plato had a moral and philosophical critique Morally traditional stories about the gods doesnt make them seem like how theyre supposed to beHe made up new mythical stories ie Atlantiso Eg Aristotle myth and history He thought that traditional myths were good He compared myths with history and thought that myths were more philosophical and truthful than history The real difference between the myth and history is that one tells what happened and the other what might happenMyths were in poetic formtells what might happen thus its more philosophical and seriousHistory were in prose formtells what has happened He looked at whether the stories embodied the reality and myths in some ways can be more effectiveo2 Our approachINTERPRETATIONEg Tolkens story of Beowolf was seen as a dumb story that didnt reflect the historical reality1 Ancient to reject or to allegorize more commono Allegorize stories speak to a deeper reality and not supposed to be read on the surface Stories began to be allegorized because people didnt like to be criticized continuouslyo Physical allegoriestells about the physical world Eg Theagenes of Phegiuma greek philosopher who suggested to not reject the myths because it talks about the forces of nature Gods came down on earth to fight with each other reflects the battles that happens in the physical worldo Ie When Posideon vs Apollo fought it was like hotcold or drywet He had the debatable question is the world static or constantly changingo Historical AllegoryEg Euhemerus gods arent really gods but historical kings ie Zeus Euhemerism metaphoric interpretation of stories3o Moral allegory Stories of gods and heroes making a moral point but its not obvious to seeEg Daphne in this story Apollo fell in love with Daphne but she really didnt like that idea and ran away but shes unable to hide from him so she prays to her father who was a river god So her father changed her into a tree so Apollo couldnt find her The moral of this story was to show that Daphne was so morally upright that she wanted to preserve her chasity and went through lengths to do so Eg Judgement of Paris2 Medieval moral allegory o People often gave outlines for their myths3 Enlightenment o rationalistic denigration of myths During the renaissance they were more focused on beauty and feelings But in enlightenment time myths were more rational because they thought that basing stories off beauty and feelings were too primitive and not good enough to explain the worldoromantic reaction Some people are solely on the rationalistic POV Ie Beowolf even though its not historically correct it brings forth important ideas 4 Modern Psychologicalread in textbooko Freud He was struck by dreams and what they said about the human psyche unreal events and characters dreamworks He thought that dreams were able to tell us about the persons subconscious thus myths were like dreamsMyths expressed the desires and fears that run through our subconscious and deal with them and work them out in our lives Eg Oedipus complexOedipus killed his father and married this reflected the possibility that when a male comes into the world they have a sexual desire for the mother and will want to kill their father He believed that all guys have to fight this internal struggleo Jung collective unconsciousArchetypes traditional expressions of collective dreams developed over thousands of years of symbols upon which the society as a whole has come to depend o Kind of dramatic abbreviation of the patterns involved in a whole story or situation including the way it develops and how it ends its a behaviour pattern an inherited scheme of functioning his definition of mythology is a pronouncing of a series of images that formulate the life of archetypeso for example Heroes like Heracles are models who teaches us how to behave
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