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4.Universal truths? Discuss the role of Greek myth in modern theory.

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Universal Truths: Discuss the role of Greek Myth in Modern Theory The impact of Greek Myth on modern theory cannot be underplayed. As Williams points out, myth only came into English in the early nineteenth century; 1 yet it pervades our cultural heritage, its art and literature, and has contributed to shaping our understanding of humanity and our place in the universe. Its influence, however, has not always been positively received, as the divergent voices of the opening of Griffin's "The Mirror of Myth" reveal.2 Of these, Larkin's reaction is, of course, a response to a literature which was almost taken over by classical allusion and had thereby become increasingly elitist. It contributed to the interplay and sometimes confusion in the reading of myth as literature. Greek myth, reworked and reinterpreted in our art and literature, predominated; it had also become the muse and the construct of much of modern theory. Since its introduction Greek myth has acquired - beyond its literal meaning of a speech act and its earliest understanding of a story or a tale - a new tradition of significance reflected through its link with ritual and theories of origins. New definitions of myth recognise the concern with "creation" as Mercia Eliade states: ...It tells how something has come into existence, or how a way of behaviour, an institution, a way of working, were established; this is why myths constitute paradigms for every meaningful human act; -that in knowing the myth one knows the 'origin' ...read more.


His understanding of the myth as an expression of repressed ideas (hence the Oedipus complex) established the concept of the unconscious psyche and a key developmental process in a child's growth to autonomy. Yet, while Freud forms an important connection between dreams and myths, his paradigm cannot cover all myths. Caldwell, however, writes a compelling argument in support of the psychological functions of myth, recognising the role of Freud.12 For Carl Jung, who had collaborated with Freud in his work, it is the symbolism of a word, image or object which is most important in connoting meaning and function. Jung extended Freud's theories through his concept that dreams and art were the source of universal images which belonged to a "collective unconscious" too long repressed by civilisation - which Freud had described as the "products of ethnic imagination".13 In many ways Jung was less negative than Freud in exploring archetypes and "archaic" patterns in myth which he described as "unconscious images of instincts themselves"14 of primordial man. These he argued were the traditional symbols that society has come to depend on like the persona/ self (character of an individual), the animus and anima (man's soul image of woman and woman's soul image of man respectively), the shadow, the old wise man, and so forth. This concept of the unconscious mind's primitive mentality of ancestry is one of his most original contributions to psychology and further investigations of the psychic tendencies of societies. ...read more.


in his psychoanalytical study of Antigone which focuses primarily on the eponymous heroine. In Lacan, she no longer represents the clash of the social against natural moralities as in Hegel's dialectic study. Hegel translated the Antigone myth into a series of binary oppositions of the conflict between family and the state; the individual and the polis. While Lacan interprets Antigone as the image of the aesthetic by making her the voice of unconscious ethics, he confirms the Hegelian dialectic he wished to subvert. Consequently, as Caldwell argues, the ways in which myths function in modern theory is not as mutually exclusive as theorists may argue. In many ways modern theories are woven into one another through the mythical allusions and dramatically represented in Brian Friel's Translations. As a play of ideas and of staged inaction, Friel explores the Odysseus/ Ulysses and Oedipus myth through the stories of Jimmy Jack Cassie and that of Manus, the lame schoolmaster, recollecting the essential meaning of the name, Oedipus, foregrounding the meaning of names such as Manus. In Act Two the crossroads alludes to that of the Oedipus myth reinterpreted as a metaphor for Ireland with its reflection on history and identity set against the potential for change. It may, also, symbolise the philosophy of the age as the stasis at the crossroads may be seen as a reflection of Barthes' claim that the purpose of myth is to "immobilise the world."26 Friel's reconfiguring of myth in his drama emphasises both the myths and the theories in which they operate to convey universal truths about identity and culture. ...read more.

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