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Chapter 1


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Craig Taylor

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 historical fact. FOLKTALES 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. FAIRYTALES 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 factual detail." "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 mythic invention." ETIOLOGICAL MYTH 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 origins. If interpreted as only meaning "explanatory," the etiological approach may be the most applicable of the monolithic theories. 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 style) 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 deeds. opposite extreme from EUHEMERISM is the metaphorical interpretation of stories. ANTIRATIONALISTS favour metaphoric interpretations, tales hiding profound meanings. Sees myth as allegory. Universal truths embedded. 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 nature muths. SIGMUND FREUD 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 of mythology. 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 activities occur: ● CONDENSATION of elements (abbreviated/compressed activity/plot), ● 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. CARL JUNG 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 unconscious. 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. some archetypes: 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 ritual. 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 individuals. 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. BRONISLAV MALINOWSKI 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. CLAUDE LEVI-STRAUSS 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
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