Mythological and
Archetypal Approaches
I.Definitions and Misconceptions
The myth critics
study the so-called
archetypes or
archetypal
patterns. They
wish to reveal
about the people’s
mind and
character.
Myth is the symbolic projection of the
people’s hopes, values, fears, and
aspirations. The illustration is
Pandora’s Box. According to
mythology, Pandora’s Box is the
source of all misfortune but also
hope.
Comparisons between these two approaches
Both mythological
criticism and the
psychological
approach are
concerned with
the motives that
underlie human
behavior.
Psychology tends to
be experimental and
diagnostic; it is
related to biological
science. Mythology
tends to be
speculative and
philosophical; its
affinities are with
religion, anthropology,
and cultural history.
II. Examples of Archetypes:
A. Images
Archetypes are universal symbol.
This is Ouroboros.
1. Water:
a. The sea
b. Rivers
2. Sun
a. Rising sun
b. Setting sun
3. Colors
4. Circle:
wholeness, unity
a. Mandala
b. Egg (oval)
c. Yin-Yang
d. Ouroboros
5. Serpent (snake,
worm)
6. Numbers
Mandala
Yang-yin
8. The demon lover (cf.
Blake’s “The Sick Rose”
and the Jungian animus)
9. Garden
10. Tree
11. Desert
12. Mountain
B. Archetypal Motifs or Patterns
1. Creation: perhaps
the most
fundamental of all
archetypal motifs
2. Immortality (cf. “To
His Coy Mistress”)
a. Escape from time
b. Mystical
submersion into
cyclical time
Andrew Marvell
The dueling match in Hamlet is
a pattern of sacrificeatonement-Catharsis
3. Hero archetypes
a. The quest (cf.
Oedipus)
b. Initiation
c. The sacrificial
scapegoat (cf.
Oedipus and
Hamlet)
Oedipus the Rex
C. Archetypes as Genres
Northrop Frye, in his
Anatomy of Criticism,
indicates the
correspondent genres
for the four seasons:
1. Spring: comedy
2. Summer: romance
3. Fall: tragedy (cf.
Hamlet)
4. Winter: irony
Louis Bouwmeester (18421925) as Oedipus
III. Myth Criticism in Practice:
A. Anthropology and Its Uses
• Sir James G. Frazer, in his
monumental The Golden Bough,
demonstrates the “essential
similarity of mans’ chief wants
everywhere and at all times.”
Photo from
1990 Main
Stage
Production of
Oedipus Rex by
Sophocles
The book cover of
Shirley Jackson’s The
Lottery
The central motif with
which Frazer deals is
the archetype of
resurrection,
specifically the myths
describing the “killing
of the divine king.”
Corollary to the rite
was the scapegoat
archetype.
1. The Sacrificial Hero: Hamlet
• Hamlet was not the
playwright’s invention but was
drawn from legend.
• Philip Wheelwright’s The
Burning Fountain, explaining
the organic source of good and
evil, is directly relevant to the
moral vision in Hamlet,
particularly to the implications
of Claudius’s crime and its
disastrous consequences.
2. Archetypes of Time and Immorality:
“To His Coy Mistress”
• “To His Coy Mistress” is a poem about
time. It is concerned with immorality.
• The last stanza presents an escape into
cynical time and thereby a chance for
immorality.
B. Jungian Psychology
C.G. Jung’s “myth
forming” elements are in
the unconscious psyche;
he refers them as
“motifs,” “primordial
images,” or “archetypes.”
He also detected the
relationship between
dreams, myths, and art
Carl Gustav Jung is known
as one of the foremost
through which
psychological thinkers of
the 20th century.
archetypes come into
consciousness.
Individuation: Shadows, Persona, and Anima
Process of individuation:
1. acknowledging that
these unconscious
tendencies are part of
oneself, of one's
personality
Individuation is a
psychological growing
up, the process of
discovering those
aspects of one’s self
that make one an
individual different
from other members
of the species.
Shadow
2. refusing to allow one's
personality to be
compelled by these
tendencies through
possession or projection
The shadow is the
darker aspects of our
unconscious self, the
inferior and less
pleasing aspects of the
personality, which we
wish to suppress. (cf.
Shakespeare’s Iago,
Milton’s Satan,
Goethe’s
Mephistopheles, and
Conrad’s Kurtz)
The anima is the
“soul-image.” It is
the contrasexual part
of a man’s psyche,
the image of the
opposite sex that he
carries in both his
personal and
collective
unconscious. (cf.
Helen of Troy,
Dante’s Beatrice,
Milton’s Eve)
Anima
Persona
If the anima is a kind of mediator between
the ego and the unconscious, the persona
is the mediator between our ego and the
external world. It is the actor’s mask that
we show to the world.
2. “Young Goodman Brown”: a
failure of individualization
• Just as his persona has proved inadequate in
mediating between Brown’s ego and the
external world, so his anima fails in relating to
his inner world.
• In clinical terms, young Goodman Brown
suffers from a failure of personality
integration, because he is unable to confront
his shadow, recognize it as a part of his own
psyche, and assimilate it into his
consciousness.
3. Creature or creator: who
is the real monster
• Speaking archetypally, we may say of
Frankenstein, just as we have said of Brown,
that he suffers from a failure of
individualization. He himself has conjured up
and manufactured from his own immature
ego.
• Even in his dying moments Victor insists upon
projecting his shadow-image upon the
monster, calling him “my adversary” and
persisting in the sad delusion that his own
past conduct is not “blamable.”
D. “Everyday Use”: The
Great [Grand]Mother
• In the story, the archetypal woman
manifests herself as both Good Mother
and Earth Mother.
• The Good Mother is associated with
such life-enhancing virtues as warmth,
nourishment, growth and protection.
• Dee, the daughter and antagonist, has
broken that tradition.
IV. Limitation of Myth
Criticism
• Back to the beginning of humankind’s oldest rituals
and beliefs and deep into our own individual hearts.
• The work of Jung is based upon culturally specific,
Western mythology-so that other cultures might be
informed by significantly different mythic structures.
• The discreet critic will apply such extrinsic
perspectives as the mythological and psychological
only as far as they enhance the experience of the art
form, the structure and potential meaning of the work
consistently support such approaches.
Related works and links about
mythological approaches
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Jung, Carl Gustav. Four Archetypes: Mother, Rebirth, Spirit, Trickster.
Trans. R. F. C. Hull. London: Routledge,1969.
---. The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious. Trans. R.F.C. Hull.
Princeton, N.J.: Princeton U P,1980.
Frye, Northrop. Anatomy of Criticism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP,
1957.
Grazer, James G. The Golden Bough. Abridged ed. New York:
Macmillan, 1992.
Introduction to Individuation.
http://www.cnr.edu/home/bmcmanus/persona.html
Personality and Consciousness– Major Archetypes and
Individuation.http://pandc.ca/?cat=car_jung&page=major_archetypes_a
nd_individuation
The Individuation Process
http://www.soul-guidance.com/houseofthesun/individuationprocess.htm
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