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Chapter 1

CHAPTER 1 - class 104 (Autosaved).docx

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Classical Studies
Course Code
CLAS 104
Ronald Kroeker

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CHAPTER 1: INTERPRETATION AND DEFINITION OF CLASSICAL MYTHOLOGY  No single theory of myths can cover all kinds of myth  Myth comes from greek word mythos which means “word” “speech” “tale” or ‘story” and that is essentially what a myth is: a story TRUE MYTH OR MYTH PROPER AND SAGA OR LEGEND  True myth or myth proper – used for stories primarily concerned with the gods and humankind’s relations with them.  Saga or legend – has a perceptible relationship to history and is fanciful and imaginative FOLK TALES AND FAIRY TALES  Folktales – stories of adventure; goal is to entertain  Fairytales – particular kind of folktales; short imaginative traditional tales with a high moral and magical content  It is impossible to distinguish rigidly between a folktale and a fairytale, although perhaps a fairytale is often created especially for the young MYTH AND TRUTH  Myth is a many-faceted personal and cultural phenomenon created to provide a reality and a unity to what is transitory and fragmented in the world we experience. MYTH AND RELIGION  True myth is primarily concerned with the gods, religion, and the supernatural  Greek and Roman religious ceremonies and cults were given authority by myths that inspired belief  Mircea Eliade – writer that lays great emphasis upon the mystical in his conception of myth seen as a tale satisfying the yearning of human beings for a fundamental orientation rooted in the religious aura of a sacred timelessness. o This is the nature of true myths, which are fundamentally paradigms and explanations and most important to an individual and society MYTH AND ETIOLOGY  Myth should be interpreted narrowly as an explication of the origin of some fact or sutom. Hence the theory is called etiological, from the greek word cause (aitia).  Myths usually try to explain matters physical, emotional, and spiritual not only literally and realistically but figuratively and metaphorically as well.  The major problem with this universal etiological approach is that it does nothing to identify a myth specifically and distinguish it clearly from any other form of expression (too many essentially different kinds of story may be basically etiological). RATIONALISM VERSUS METAPHOR, ALLEGORY AND SYMBOLISM  The desire to rationalize classical mythology arose far back in classical antiquity and is especially associated with the name of Euhemerus who claimed that the gods were men deified for their great deeds.  Antirationalist who favor metaphorical interpretations, believe that traditional tales hide profound meaning.  Metaphorical approach sees myth as allegory (sustained metaphor), where the details of the story are but symbols of universal truths.  Allegorical Nature Myths: Max Muller. According to Muller, myths are nature myths, all referring to meteorological and cosmological phenomena. MYTH AND PSYCHOLOGY, FREUD AND JUNG  Sigmund Freud – myth in freudan interpretation reflects people’s waking efforts to systematize the incoherent visions and impulses of their sleep world. o Oedipus complex  Carl Jung – interpret myth as a collective unconscious – a revelation of the continuing psychic tendencies of society o Myths contain archetypes – traditional expressions of collective dreams, developed over thousands of years, of symbols upon which the society as a whole has come to depend o Anima – the archetypal image of the female that each man has within him o Animus – the archetypal image of the male that a woman instinctively harbors within her MYTH AND SOCIETY  Myth and Ritual – J.G. Frazer, Jane Harrison, and Robert Graves o One of the most influential and persistent point of view Syas that myth implies ritual, ritual implies myth, they are one and the same  Myth as social characters – Bronislav malinowski o Myths were related to practical life, and they explained existing facts and institutions by reference to tradition: the myth confirms the institution, custom or belief THE STRUCTURALISTS: LEVI- STRAUSS, PROPP, AND BURKERT  Structuralism - an attempt to analyze myths into their component parts  Levi Strauss sees myth as a mode of communication o No one version of a myth is the right one: all versions are valid; for myth, like society, is a living organism in which all the parts contribute to the existence of the whole. o He also assumes that society has a consistent structure and therefore a functional unity in which every component plays a meaningful part o Myths are derived ultimately from the structure of the mind and the basic structure of the mind as of the myths is creates is binary; that is the mind is constantly dealing with pairs of contradictions or opposites o Myth then is a mode by which a society communicates and through which it finds a resolution between conflicting opposites o Problem to this approach: it establishes too rigid, too universal a concept of the functioning of the human mind. o Vladimir Propp – he described his structure as linear, that is, having an unchanging temporal sequence, so that one element in the myth always follows another and never occurs out of order  Prop divided his basic structure into 31 functions
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