Ways of Interpreting Myth by Pxj1drTY


									Ways of Interpreting Myths
     about Hercules
       Modern Theories
    Modern Interpretations of
  Two modern meanings of “mythology”:
  • a system or set of myths
  • the methodological analysis of myths

A monolithic theory of myth vs. the multifunctionalism of myth
The autonomy of myth
See: Some Theories of Myth
  Externalist Theories: Myths as Products of the Environment

  Internalist Theories: Myths as Products of the Mind
        Externalist Theories:
Myths as Products of the Environment

    Myths as Aetiology
    Comparative Mythology
    Nature Myths
    Myths as Rituals
    Charter Myths
                Myths as Aetiology

myth as explanation of the origin of

myth as primitive science
      myth as primitive science

                          "The Origin of the Milky Way” (c.1575)
                          Jacopo Tintoretto (1518-94)
                          National Gallery, London
               F. Max Müller
               Nature Myths
             Founder of the social scientific study of religion

             Comparative approach:
             Study of Vedic peoples of ancient India applied
             to myths of other cultures (Greece and Rome)

                      For Müller, the culture of the Vedic
Max Müller            peoples represented a form of nature
1823-1900)            worship, an idea clearly influenced by
           Zeus as the Sky
                 • Dyaus pitr    Sanskrit
                   – Dyaus = “he who shines”
                   – pitr = father
                 • Zeus pater    Greek
                 • Jupiter       Latin
                 • Tiu Vater     Teutonic
             Herakles (Heracles)

                   Italian         Roman
Etruscan           Renaissance

                   Myths as Ritual
Sir James Frazer’ The Golden Bough

Comparative mythology

myths as by products of ritual enactments

stories to explain religious ceremonies

   The Golden Bough On-Line:
                Turner’s “Golden Bough”

Joseph M. W. Turner (1775-1851) The Golden Bough 1834
Tate Gallery, London
   Hercules and Ritual

                                            Coin from Cyrene showing Zeus Ammon
                                            (Kunsthistorisches Museum,Vienna)
Diodorus Siculus
book 2.42 - To reluctantly meet with Herakles, Zeus killed a ram
and used the ram’s head as a mask when he spoke to his son; for
that reason, the Egyptians portray Zeus with the head of a ram

Frazer. The Golden Bough. Chapter 52. Killing the Divine Animal
Jupiter (as Ammon with Horns) Seducing Olympias (mother of
by Giulio Romano (Orbetto; 1499-1546)
        Charter Myths
belief-systems set up to authorize
and validate current social customs
and institutions.


Selected Bibliography:

Does the myth of Hercules validate
social customs and institutions?
Hercules, Admetus and Alcestis
   Xenia (Guestfriendship)

  Hercules Fighting Death to Save Alcestis by
  Frederic Lord Leighton (1869-71).
Hercules Restoring
Alcestis. Pietro Benvenuti
(1769 - 1844)
Claude Lévi-Strauss (1908-)

Jean-Paul Vernant

Pierre Vidal-Naquet
                    Claude Lévi-Strauss (1908-)

• myth reflect the mind's binary organization
• diachronic vs. synchronic reading of myth
• humans tend to see world as reflection of their own physical and
cerebral structure ( two hands, eyes, legs, etc.)
• Left/right, raw,/cooked, pleasure/pain
• Myth deals with the perception and reconciliation of these opposites
• mediation of contradictions
           How does Hercules mediate contradictions?

 For more on Levi-Strauss see
                        Hercules Mediating
 Human                  Animal (Lion Skin)
 Human                  Divine
 Virtue                 Vice

The Drunken Hercules c. 1611
Peter Paul Rubens
Gemäldegalerie, Dresden, Germany
Hercules and

Vlaimir Propp (1895-1970)

Propp argued that all fairy tales were constructed of
certain plot elements, which he called functions, and that
these elements consistently occurred in a uniform
sequence. Based on a study of one hundred folk tales,
Propp devised a list of thirty-one generic functions,
proposing that they encompassed all of the plot
components from which fairy tales were constructed.

What narrative functions are in the myth of
Johann Jakob Bachofen
    (1815 – 1887)
      Feminist Approaches to Myth
Marija Gimbutas (1921-1994)

Marija Gimbutas was an archaeologist with a scholarly background in
folklore and linguistics, making her uniquely qualified to synthesize
information from science and myth into a controversial theory of a
Goddess-based culture in prehistoric Europe. Joseph Campbell said
that, if her work had been available to him, he would have held very
different views about the archetypes of the female Divine in world

                Primacy of Matriarchy

What about Hercules? (Glory of Hera)
               Myths as Products of the Mind

          Individual Mind

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)
       id / ego / superego
      dream world of the individual

Does Hercules appeal to our individual
dream world?
                      Myths as Products of the Mind
                    Collective Mind

Carl Jung (1875-1961)
dream world of society

collective unconscious

 archetypes: recurring myths characters, situations and

archetype as primal form or pattern from which all other
versions are derived

Does Hercules appeal to our collective unconscious?
   Students of Jung
Ernst Cassirer (1874-1975)

Mircea Eliade (1907-1986)

Victor Turner (1920-1983)

Joseph Campbell (1904-1987)
                      Mircea Eliade

Eliade's analysis of religion assumes the existence of "the
sacred" as the object of worship of religious humanity.
Myths reflect a creative era, a sacred time, a vanished epoch of
unique holiness. Is Hercules living in a vanished epoch?
More on Eliade: http://www.angelfire.com/electronic/bodhidharma/mircea.html
                         Joseph Campbell

Hero's rite of passage
journey of maturation
Growth into true selfhood (Jung's individuation)
More on Campbell: http://www.jcf.org/about_jc.php
          Myth and Dream
Myths as Products of the MIND
The Monomyth (James Joyce’s Finnegan’s
Hercules’ Rite of Passage
      (See Hero Pg. 30)
Tragedy and Comedy in the
   – “The universal tragedy of man”
   – “The happy ending of the fairy tale, the
     myth, and the divine comedy of the soul, is
     to be read , not as a contradiction, but as a
     transcendence of the universal tragedy of
     man.” (pg. 28)
   – It is the business of mythology proper, and
     of the fairy tale, to reveal the specific
     dangers and techniques of the dark interior
     way from tragedy to comedy.
   – Is Hercules part of the Monomyth?

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