Myths, and Mythologies as Meta-Myths

22 Aug 2019 15:17

First order myths: As stories. Empirical evidence for archetypes (apparently all negative; see Kirk's Myth); for other "deep" meanings and interpretations. Cross-cultural patterns. Historical patterns.

Mythologies as meta-myths: Starting roughly with the late 19th century, there has been a lot of scholarly interest in general theories of myths, in "mythology" as a subject. These mythologies have in turn been taken up by writers and other artists and been used in some ways rather like myths themselves; there are ways in which mythologies have functioned like myths for highly literate societies whose members are used to thinking abstractly. (Exhibit A, because of its tremendous cultural reach, is how George Lucas used Joseph Campbell's ideas about myths in Star Wars, but it's not hard to find much more elevated examples, e.g., the influence of Frazier's The Golden Bough in the first half of the 20th century.)c

(I say "since the late 19th century" becuase the first such figure I'm thinking of as I write this is Max Müller. But it wouldn't surprise me to find general-theories-of-myths, and their artistic use, at any point from Romanticism onwards. [I am not counting the Enlightment conviction that myths are an amalgam of ignorance, cognitive illusions and deliberately manipulative priestcraft as a general theory of the kind I mean here, though it is of course a very good explanation of a lot of myths.)

See also Joseph Campbell; Ernst Cassirer; Conspiracy Theories; Mircea Eliade; Sigmund Freud; Carl Jung; Millenarianism; Narrative Communities; Religion; Structuralism; Superstition; Universal Signs, Images and Symbols