Mythological Criticism

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  • 1. MythologicalCriticismandArchetypesBY: TO:AYTEKIN ALIYEVA Prof. SHAHIN KHALILLI
  • 2. QAFQAZ UNIVERSITYSPRING, 2013
  • 3. Mythological literary critics look for archetypes, characters and/or symbols with traitsthat are seen throughout literature regardless of time or place. Mythological criticscompare one work to others with similar story lines to uncover the archetypes andcompare the differences as well as the similarities how it helps to define the underlyingexistence of the human condition.The important thing to remember when discussing mythological literary criticism is therecurrent patterns of characters in the different works. Mythological critics do not takesimply a dog or cat for example and compare that dog or cat to any other dog or cat. Themythological critic is looking for the evil dog or the heroic cat, so that he or she cancompare that animal as an archetype to other evil dogs and heroic cats found in otherliterary works. Mythological criticism is about the symbolic meaning, the undertones ofthe archetypes: The moon that looms large over the horizon is different than the moonthat sits quietly unnoticed in the heavens. Each has a different undertone of the archetypeof the moon. While they share certain qualities, they also vary in certain qualities andmeanings.Many were skeptical of this approach, since it appears to lean towards the mystery, butthen anthropological studies began to advance at the end of the 19th century, and it hasbeen one of the biggest influences on mythological criticism. They study ofanthropology have a new understanding to the Greek myths, which are the most wellknown and often used allusions.Mythological Criticism has references to famous mythological stories in works ofliterature. These references are included in the hopes of getting universal reactions fromall readers. It is similar to a psychological approach because it also is concerned with thethings that underlie human behavior. Myths are symbolic of people’s hopes fears, values,and other philosophical ideas. Unlike the more traditional form of criticism that focuseson the history of the author and the piece itself, mythological and archetypal focuses onthe history of the gods, goddesses, and other allusions mentions in the piece that involvemythology.There are certain characters that the mythological critic looks for, such as the avenger,who is driven to avenge the death of his father or another family member. Themythological critic also looks for inanimate symbols such as the sun, the moon, or someother natural phenomenon that is repeated in literature to give it significant underlyingmeaning. Those are called archetypes. Archetypes are similar ideas, motifs, and imagesfound in many different myths and normally defined as “universal symbols".Carl Jung believed that these archetypes served to trigger the collective unconscious afundamental collection of shared memories that reside in the unconscious of every humanbeing. Jung believed that these memories are triggered by certain symbols. Whether thereis any truth to this or not, the mythological critic seeks to find these archetypes, andrecognizes that they are helpful tools in solving the concepts in the work as a whole.These archetypes recur in many literary works and often enough that whether they arepart of the collective unconscious as Jung believed, they are definitely a part of thecollective conscious as they share certain unspoken meanings to just about everyone whosees them or reads them. For example, the character of Iago in Othello could becompared to the devil in traditional Christian belief. This character, by different names ofcourse, appears in different literary works throughout the world and throughout history.The mythological critic seeks to find these and compare them to each other.
  • 4. Some Examples of Archetypes:Mandala: It is a geometric figure based upon the squaring of a circle around a unifying centerand means the desire for spiritual unity and psychic integration.Yang-yin: A Chinese symbol representing the union of the opposite forces of the yang(masculine principle, light, activity, the conscious mind) and the yin (female principle,darkness, passivity, the unconscious)Ouroboros: the ancient symbol of the snake biting its own tail, signifying the eternal cycle oflife, primordial unconsciousness, the unity of opposing forces.
  • 5.  Water: the mystery of creation, birth, death, resurrection; life cycle; eternity, fertility andgrowth. Colors: Red: blood, sacrifice, violence, disorder and so on. Green: hope, fertility,sensation, growth, in negative context can be death, decay and so on. Black: the unknown,death, evil, chaos, mystery, melancholy, primal wisdom and so on. Blue: virginal, Mary,security, highly positive, spiritual purity, religious feeling and so on. Numbers: Three: spiritual unity, light, male etc. Four: life cycle, four seasons, fourelements, earth, nature, female etc. Five: integration, the four limbs and the head thatcontrols them, the four cardinal points plus the center etc. Seven: powerful because it unitesthree and four (male and female), perfect etc. Garden: paradise, innocence, unspoiled beauty etc. Tree: immorality, inexhaustible life etc. Desert: spiritual aridity, death, nihilism, hopelessness. Mountain: aspiration and inspiration, meditation and spiritual elevation. Circle (sphere): wholeness, unity Oval: the mystery of life and the forces of generation.Finally, in addition to appearing as images and motifs, archetypes may be found in evenmore complex combinations as genres or types of literature that conform with the major phasesof the seasonal cycle:• The mythos of spring: comedy• The mythos of summer: romance• The mythos of fall: tragedy• The mythos of winter: ironyMyth is a structural organizing principle of literary form and an archetype is an essentialelement of one’s literary experience.
  • 6.  Water: the mystery of creation, birth, death, resurrection; life cycle; eternity, fertility andgrowth. Colors: Red: blood, sacrifice, violence, disorder and so on. Green: hope, fertility,sensation, growth, in negative context can be death, decay and so on. Black: the unknown,death, evil, chaos, mystery, melancholy, primal wisdom and so on. Blue: virginal, Mary,security, highly positive, spiritual purity, religious feeling and so on. Numbers: Three: spiritual unity, light, male etc. Four: life cycle, four seasons, fourelements, earth, nature, female etc. Five: integration, the four limbs and the head thatcontrols them, the four cardinal points plus the center etc. Seven: powerful because it unitesthree and four (male and female), perfect etc. Garden: paradise, innocence, unspoiled beauty etc. Tree: immorality, inexhaustible life etc. Desert: spiritual aridity, death, nihilism, hopelessness. Mountain: aspiration and inspiration, meditation and spiritual elevation. Circle (sphere): wholeness, unity Oval: the mystery of life and the forces of generation.Finally, in addition to appearing as images and motifs, archetypes may be found in evenmore complex combinations as genres or types of literature that conform with the major phasesof the seasonal cycle:• The mythos of spring: comedy• The mythos of summer: romance• The mythos of fall: tragedy• The mythos of winter: ironyMyth is a structural organizing principle of literary form and an archetype is an essentialelement of one’s literary experience.