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Approaches to Ancient History Week 10: Myth and Rationality.

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Presentation on theme: "Approaches to Ancient History Week 10: Myth and Rationality."— Presentation transcript:

1 Approaches to Ancient History Week 10: Myth and Rationality

2 Approaches to Myth Key question: how to study ancient mentality. How far is there a universal human nature or a constant in mental processes? Myth: often taken as emblematic of primitive thought, pre-modern and pre-scientific. Wide range of theories to explain its nature and social function; most tend to question whether it is in fact primitive.

3 Structuralism Draws on modern linguistic theory: language has regular underlying structure; humans have capacity for language, hence for structure; hence analyse products of thought in terms of underlying structures. Polarities, oppositions, relations, processes. Not just myths, but also marriage customs, eating practices, kinship, war, clothing.

4 The vowel/consonant triangles a (k) compact diffuse u (p)i (t) grave acute (low frequency)(high frequency)

5 The culinary triangle raw normal transformed cookedrotten culture nature

6 Psychoanalysis Humans are not wholly rational or wholly in control of their emotions or behaviour. Driven partly by the unconscious, the contents of which consist of repressed thoughts and desires, mostly sexual. Need for release of the repressed, in dreams, myths, art or neurosis. Oedipus: catharsis, vicarious pleasure.

7 Culture Wide range of definitions and theories; structures of mentalite, computer programme for social behaviour, systems of signification. Clifford Geertz: Cultures contain their own interpretations, need to be understood in their own terms; reductionism is both ethnocentric and misleading. Thick description. What matters is not underlying regularities but variation in content of myth, cooking etc.

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