CHAPTER 1. CLASSICAL MYTHOLOGY
INTERPRETATION ADN DEFINITION OF CLASSICAL MYTHOLOGY
TRUE MYTH / MYTH PROPER
term used for stories primarily concerned with the gods
and humankind's relations with them.
SAGA / LEGEND
a story with a perceptible relationship to history;
however fanciful and imaginative, it has its roots in
often stories of adventure, sometimes peopled with
fantastic beings and enlivened by ingenious strategies
on the part of the hero or heroine, who will triumph in
the end; their goal is primarily, but not necessarily
solely, to entertain. ie. monstrous giant, wicked
sorcerer/ess, distrahgt maiden in peril, wicked
sisters, mistaken identitiy, imposition of labours,
solving riddles, romance, etc.
particular kinds of folktales that are "short,
imaginative, traditional tales with a high moral and
magical content" usually created esp. for the young.
- rarely do we find a story that fits precisely into
only one of these categories.
"Myth provides us with absolutes in the place of
ephemeral values and with a comforting perception of
the world that is necessary to make the insecurity and
terror of existence bearable." "myth and factual truth need not be mutually exclusive,
as some so emphatically insist. A story embodying
eternal values may contain what was imagined, at any
one period, to be scientifically correct in every
"Indeed one can create a myth out of a factual story,
as a great historian must do: any interpretation of the
facts, no matter how credible, will inevitably be a
approach to mythology that posits myths as being
scientific and explicative of certain facts or customs
as they were understood at the time of the myth's
development. This theory is accurate for some myths but
not all. Etiological - the assignment of causes or
If interpreted as only meaning "explanatory," the
etiological approach may be the most applicable of the
Major criticism: This approach does nothing to
distinguish a myth from any other form of expression:
scientific, religious, or artistic. (but i don't
necessarily agree that it myths should be distinguished
from other forms of expression except in literary
MIRCEA ELIADE prolific 20C writer on myth, laid great
emphasis upon th emystical in his conception of myth,
myth seen as a tale satisfying the yearning of human
beings for a fundamental orientations rooted in the religious aura of a sacred timelessness.
EUHEMERUS tried to rationalize classical mythology
ca.300BC. claimed gods were men deified for their
opposite extreme from EUHEMERISM is the metaphorical
interpretation of stories. ANTIRATIONALISTS favour
metaphoric interpretations, tales hiding profound
meanings. Sees myth as allegory. Universal truths
MAX MULLER an infulential theorist of 19C, myths are
all nature myths, all referring to meteorological and
cosmological phenomena. It is true that SOME myths are
His metaphorical approach took many forms in the 20C,
one of which was Psychoanalysis. Relevance of his
theories in pointing the deep-rooted recurring patterns
Emphasis on Sexuality, particularly infant sexuality.
His theory of the unconscious.
His interpretation of dreams.
His identification of the Oedipus complex.
Dreams are fulfillments of wishes that have been
repressed and disguised. in DREAM-WORK, three
● CONDENSATION of elements (abbreviated/compressed
● DISPLACEMENT of elements (changed empahsis and allusions and mis-steps and disguises from the
actual object of repression), and
● REPRESENTATION, the transmission of elements into
imagery or symbols.
and so he and his followers analysed the similarities
between dreams and myths.
For FREUD, myths represent people's waking efforts to
systematize the incoherent visions and impulses of
their sleep world.
Patterns in the imaginative world of children,
savages,a nd neurotics are similar, and these patterns
are revealed in the motifs and symbols of myth.
For Freud, the Oedipus complex inspired the beginning
of religion, ethics, art, and society.
called myths the projection of the entire "COLLECTIVE
UNCONSCIOUS" of the race, a revelation of the
continuing psychic tendencies of society.
Distinction between personal and collective
myths contain ARCHETYPES, like the Oedipus complex,
which is one of many.
ARCHETYPE: dramatic abbreviation of the patterns
involved in a whole story or situation, behaviour
pattern, an inherited scheme of functioning.
COLLECTIVE UNCONSCIOUS: the archetypes of behaviour
wiht which human beings are born and which find their
expression in myth. heroes like Heracles and Theseus are models who teach
us how to live.
ANIMA - the female that each man has within him. he
responds to this when he falls in love.
ANIMUS - the archetypal concept of the male that a
woman instinctively harbours within her.
The value of JUNG is that his theories emphasize the
psychological dependence of all socieites upon their
traditional myths, often expressed in religion and
CLAUSE LEVI-STRAUSS mythographer who combined the study
of human societies with psychological theories that
explain the origins of myth in terms of the minds of
J.G. FRAZER, JANE HARRISON, ROBERT GRAVES.
ritualist interpretation of mythology. influential and
persistent view. Frazer attempted to link myth with
ritual. Graves, a novelist and poet, is singled out
because he realized that literary distinctions may be
as enlightening as other types of classification for
the study of classical mythology.
Criticism: Their theories say that myth and ritual are
inseperable and thus one, which is not always true.
stranded among the trobriand islanders during WWI. His
great discovery was the close connection between myths
and social instititutions. he explained myths NOT in
cosmic or mysterious terms, but as "charters" of social customs and beliefs. MYTHS EXPLAIN EXISTING FACTS AND
INSTITIUTIONS BY REFERENCE TO TRADITION, they are
practical and everyday life oriented.
STRUCTURALISM - the theoretical approach to mythology
which attempts to analyze myths by seperating them into
their component parts.
more anthropological approach. connected to Malinowski.
Sees myth as a mode of communication like language or
music. myth is like music: it is not the sounds but the
structure, the relationship of soun