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Classical Mythology: Ways of Interpretating Myth

by: Samantha Work

Classical Mythology: Ways of Interpretating Myth CLAS 160D2 - 002

Marketplace > University of Arizona > Classical Mythology > CLAS 160D2 - 002 > Classical Mythology Ways of Interpretating Myth
Samantha Work
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About this Document

Notes on different ways to interpret myth from Chapter 1 of the Morford reading.
Classical Mythology Lecture
Michael Teske
Class Notes
Teske, Classical Mythology, myth




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This 3 page Class Notes was uploaded by Samantha Work on Wednesday January 27, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to CLAS 160D2 - 002 at University of Arizona taught by Michael Teske in Winter 2016. Since its upload, it has received 87 views. For similar materials see Classical Mythology Lecture in Classical Mythology at University of Arizona.

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Date Created: 01/27/16
Classical Mythology: Second Class  Wednesday January 20, 2016 @ 2pm WAYS OF INTERPRETING MYTHS: Rational (i.e. Euhemeristic) Approach:  Euhemerism (ca. 300 B.C.) –gods were originally just men who were glorified for their great deeds on earth; later generations came to believe (mistakenly) that  these earlier humans were, in fact, divine beings and so worshipped them  accordingly.  Example: Zeus was once the king of Crete who later came to be regarded  as a sky­god. Allegorical Approach:  Myths are like extended metaphors; they contain obscure symbols which must be  deciphered to understand their hidden meaning.   Example: Cacus steals Hercules’ cattle but is caught and strangled   The late roman writer Fulgentius (ca. 500) A.D.) Says Cacus represents cacon  “evil”, so “virtue triumphs over evil”.  Example: Daedakus and Icarus myth: notion of “golden mean” is  promoted­moderation in all things.  Aetiological Approach:  Myths explain the origins of practices, beliefs, or natural phenomena o Aetiology derives from the Greek word aition “reason, or cause”  This is myth functioning as a prelude to science, or as a kind of primitive science.   Example: The peacock’s eyelike adornments were created when the  goddess Hera placed the 100 eyes of the slain creature Argus on its tail  feathers, or poisonous snakes were created in Libya’s deserts when the  Gorgon Medusa’s blood dripped down from her decapitated head as  Perseus flew by with it.  Psychological Approach:  Freud – Myths may be an organized telling of subconscious fears or desires  Example: Oedipus complex – males have a subconscious urge to possess  their mothers and destroy their fathers (or, at least, get them out of the  way). Also, Freud described myths as the collective dreaming of society.   Jung (Freud’s disciple) claimed that myths arise from “the collective  unconscious” of mankind and contain archetypes, “primordial images” from early stages in the evolutionary development of the mind  Example: the Great Mother, the Wise Old Man, aspects of the Universal  Hero, the Trickster, etc.  Anthropological/Sociological Approach:  Mythic themes, structures, etc. can be traced cross­culturally in search of mythic  universals   (data­based approach)  Example: the external soul motif, the idea that a man’s destiny may be  contained in or controlled by an external object, animal, etc. is found in  many cultures (consider the Meleager myth – “Log­Man”) – sire James  Frazier, The Golden Bough Structural Approach:  Linear Structural Analysis was pioneered by the Russian folklorist Vladimir  Propp in The Morphology of the Folktale (1920’s)  Myths can be broken down into basic units of narrative sequence. Propp identified 31 basic plot elements (later called motifemes) that every traditional tale draws  upon to produce its story­line. Each tale only contains some of these motifemes,  but the order in which they appear (if they are present) is inalterable.   Example: the modification of Propp’s motifemes to produce the “standard  heroic biography”: the hero’s mother I a royal maiden, the circumstances  of his conception are unusual, etc.   Binary Thematic Analysis was advanced by the French anthropologist Levi­ Strauss in 1950’s o He theorized that the function of myth was to mediate between the polar  opposites encountered in the human experience:  Night and day  Good and evil  Male and female  The hunter and the hunted  Nature and civilization Hope this helps guys!  ­Sam


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