Presentation on theme: "Myth What is it?. What is myth today? Take 2 minutes. Write it down. Discuss it with your neighbor. Stick it in a jar and sail it down the Hudson. This."— Presentation transcript:
What is myth today? Take 2 minutes. Write it down. Discuss it with your neighbor. Stick it in a jar and sail it down the Hudson. This doesn’t have to be a “dictionary definition.” (Be prepared to share what you wrote ;-) )
Myth Today (psst…this is the part where you tell me what the word “myth” means to you)
Myth Today – My 20 second Answer ;-) Usually old folktales or stories, maybe with a grain of historical truth to them, but essentially fantastical & fictional. –How’d I do?
Academic Definitions of Myth This course analyzes Greek myths via a few different methods: –Allegorical –Comparative –Psychological –Functional –Structural Structural and Psychological methods will be especially important to us. Allegorical, comparative, and functional methods, however, are often subsumed by both structural and Psychological approaches.
Joseph Campbell Comparative mythology –It’s difficult to avoid some of the similarities in theme or action that occur in the myths of disparate cultures. For example: Christian Old Testament/Hebrew Torah (Genesis) Mesopotamian epic (Gilgamesh) Indian epic (Mahābhārata) Greek epic (Iliad) Roman epic (Aeneid) Anglo-Saxon/Scandinavian epic (Beowulf) Modern epic (Star Wars, Lord of the Rings)
Structuralism Roland Barthes –20 th Century, French philosopher –“myth is a system of communication…a message” –“since myth is a type of speech, everything can be a myth provided it is conveyed by a discourse.”
Roland Barthes Myth is a semiological system (a system of signs) –A sign is a signifier + signified. You might think of it as a representational system: the alphabet is a system of signs where the letter A is a signifier for the sound of a short A in “pat” or a long A (ā) in “plate.” –“But myth is a peculiar system, in that it is constructed from a semiological chain which existed before it: it is a second-order semiological system.” Again, language is a second- order system. It starts with the alphabet, which represents sounds, and uses those sound- signs of the alphabet to create words that are signifiers of other things. Thus, the word tree is the signifier of the idea of a tree (the mental image of a tree or an actual, physical tree). The point is, one sign system is built by using another.
Roland Barthes Myth naturalizes events: “We reach here the very principle of myth: it transforms history into nature.” “myth is a semiological system which has the pretension of transcending itself into a factual system.” “What the world supplies to myth is an historical reality, defined, even if this goes back quite a while, by the way in which men have produced or used it; and what myth gives in return is a natural image of this reality.” “In passing from hisotry to nature, myth acts economically: it abolishes the complexity of human acts, it gives them the simplicity of essences…it organizes a world which is without contradictions because it is without depth”
Roland Barthes “Myths are nothing but this ceaseless, untiring solicitation, this insidious and inflexible demand that all men recognize themselves in this image, eternal yet bearing a date, which was built of them one day as if for all time.”
Myth – the history of the Word Myth is a direct transcription of the Greek word muthos. Its most basic meaning in ancient Greece was story, tale, or narrative. But there is no one, clear-cut definition of “muthos” in any ancient Greek lexicon.
Defining Muthos From approximately 700s BCE to the 400s BCE, the word muthos primarily meant narrative or story in the widest sense. 5 th Century BCE (400s) saw creation of new disciplines that directly influenced “mythology” as Greeks knew it: –Philosophy –History These new disciplines challenged the truth value of poetry (poetry was the medium of Greek myths – Homer, Hesiod, et al.).
Truth and Fiction Truth = Alêtheia in Greek A + lêthê = not + forget –Truth = not forgetting How do people not forget (i.e., remember) something? –They talk about it. They tell stories. In short, they spread myths.
J. P. Vernant “Between the eight and fourth centuries B.C. a whole series of interrelated conditions couased a multiplicity of differentiations, breaks, and internal tensions within the mental universe of the Greeks that were responsible for distinguishing the domain of myth from other domains: The concept of myth peculiar to classical antiquity thus became clearly defined through the setting up of an opposition between muthos and logos, henceforth seen as separate and contrasting terms.”
Vernant Myth “has nothing to offer anyone who seeks to understand, in the strict sense of the word, because understanding refers to a form of intelligibility that muthos does not encompass and that only explanatory discourse possesses.” –Logos cannot codify muthos. Logos cannot fit the semiological system of myth within its own system of signs. “From now on to choose one of the two types of language is in effect to dismiss the other.” –Logos vs. Muthos –Non-fiction vs. Fiction –Truth vs. Lie
Vernant Three basic characteristics of Greek myths: I.Different version can coexist in the same collected mythology: Despite the divergences of myths (about the same basic event), “they are all connected with the same tradition.” II.The myths deal with fundamental truths of human life: “the mythical accounts have to be ‘serious’; they adopt a fictional, fantastical manner to speak of things that are essential, touching upon most fundamental truths of existence.” III.A kind of knowledge is attained: “they present ‘agents’ who, in the course of the story, perform such actions as to alter the initial situation so that by the end it is quit different from what it was at the beginning.”
Enough about structure. What about content? There are two kinds of Greek myths: –Klea Andrōn Fames of men –Klea Theōn Fames of gods