Chapter 2 -

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Transcript Chapter 2 -

Chapter 2
Ways of
Understanding Myth
Who Studies Myth? Other
than you…
 Psychologists
 Sociologists
 Anthropologists
 Folklorists
 Historians
 Archeologists
 Scientists
 Philosophers
 Artists
Interests and Concerns
 The mind and mental processes
 Origin, development, organization, and
functioning of human social relations and
human institutions
 Origins, physical and cultural development,
and social customs and beliefs of humans
 Traditional beliefs, legends, and customs of
 Past events
 Culture of people as revealed by their
artifacts, inscriptions, and monuments
 Physical and material world
 Principles of being, knowledge, or conduct
 Production of work according to aesthetic
How Myths Are
 Myths are old stories, often from oral cultures told
by poets
 Later myths are often written in the same style as older
myths, because the oral style has become the trademark
of mythology.
 Oral myths contain A LOT of repetition and names
(people, places, titles)—unlike retellings you are
used to (Stupid Edith Hamilton!!)
 Oral poets made poems up on the spot, they learn a
large repertoire of fixed phrases/formulas to build their
story on instead of starting from scratch and would
repeat them often in the same poem
 Staled while they thought ahead to where the story would go.
 Ancient audiences LOVED repetition, like the chorus of a song.
Characteristics of Oral
1. Extensive Repetition
Example from the Epic of Gilgamesh:
Then Siduri said to him, “If you are that Gilgamesh who
seized and killed the Bull of Heaven, who killed the
watchman of the cedar forest, who overthrew Humbaba
that lived in the forest, and killed the lions in the passes of
the mountain, why are your cheeks so starved and why is
your face so drawn? Why is despair in your heart and your
face like the face of one who has made a long journey?
Yes, why is your face burned from heat and cold, and why
do you come here wandering over the pastures in search
of the wind?”
Characteristics of Oral
Abundance of Names and Titles– Poet’s success depended on their memory.
The more names and minute details they could remember, the more it
proved they mastered the story, the more impressed the audience was
EX: The Illiad
Now will I can only tell
the lords of the ships, the ships in all their numbers!
First came the Boeotian units led by Leitus and Peneleos:
Arcesilaus and Prothoënor and Clonius shared command
Of the armed men who lived in Hyria, rocky Aulis,
Schoenus, Scolus and Eteonus spurred with hills,
Thespia and Graea, the dancing rings of Mycalessus,
men who lived round Harma, Ilesion and Peteon,
Ocalea Medeon's fortress walled and strong,
Copae, Eutresis and Thisbe thronged with doves
fighters from Coronea, Haliartus deep in meadows,
and the men who held Plataea and lived in Glisas ...
Characteristics of Oral
3. Paratactic vs. Syntactic Storytelling
Example of paratactic storytelling:
“I was running through the forrest and I tripped
and died”
most myths are told this way
Logical inconsistencies/ contradictions in story
 Audience didn’t care
Example of syntactic storytelling:
When I was running in a dangerous forrest, I
tripped over a branch and broke my neck,
causing me to die.
Examples of
Paratactic Storytelling in
 Creation of Pandora in Hesiod does not fit
with the story of the Ages of Man.
 The stories don’t match up as to how man
was created, even though it was told my the
same author
Common themes in myths:
 Each cannon of myths in an ancient society
contains these themes
Monsters/Grotesque creatures
The Underworld/afterlife
The Hero’s Journey
Myths are not consistent!
 These stories have been retold over centuries in
different ways
 Each author puts their own spin on it, often
reflecting their own time
 Homer and Burial
 Many try to rationalize the myths and make them fit
together (Ovid)
 Everyone who tells a story changes it and so we
have sometimes have two or versions of the same
 Echo and Pan
 Echo and Narcissis
 Lets play telephone!