Ways of Interpreting Myths about Hercules Modern Theories Modern Interpretations of Myth 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 things 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 Romanticism Zeus as the Sky • Dyaus pitr Sanskrit – Dyaus = “he who shines” – pitr = father • Zeus pater Greek • Jupiter Latin • Tiu Vater Teutonic (German) Indo-European Herakles (Heracles) Hercle Hercules American Greek Italian Roman Etruscan Renaissance Hercules and Nature Myths http://www.constellationsofwords.com/Constellations/Hercules.html Myths as Ritual Sir James Frazer’ The Golden Bough (1890-1915) Comparative mythology myths as by products of ritual enactments stories to explain religious ceremonies The Golden Bough On-Line: http://www.bartleby.com/196/ Turner’s “Golden Bough” Joseph M. W. Turner (1775-1851) The Golden Bough 1834 Tate Gallery, London http://www.tate.org.uk/servlet/ViewWork?cgroupid=999999996&workid=14718 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 Alexander) by Giulio Romano (Orbetto; 1499-1546) Charter Myths belief-systems set up to authorize and validate current social customs and institutions. Bronsilaw Malinowski (1884-1942) Selected Bibliography: http://www.vanderbilt.edu/AnS/Anthro/ Anth206/malinowski.htm 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) Structuralism 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 http://www.mnsu.edu/emuseum/information/biography/klmno/levi -strauss_claude.html Hercules Mediating Contradictions Human Animal (Lion Skin) Human Divine Virtue Vice The Drunken Hercules c. 1611 Peter Paul Rubens Gemäldegalerie, Dresden, Germany Hercules and Centaurs Nessus Pholus Chiron Narratology 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 Hercules? 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 mythology. 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 events 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 (1907-1986) 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 1904-1987 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 Wake) Hercules’ Rite of Passage separation—initiation--return (See Hero Pg. 30) Tragedy and Comedy in the Monomyth – “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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