Theories of Mythology (Anglais) Broché – 22 novembre 2004
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Description du produit
Revue de presse
"An integrated, historical, broad–based, wide–ranging general study of the interpretation of myth that covers all the major schools and shows how they relate to one another, grow out of one another and are still interesting today. He enlightens his deep understanding with wit and delight and a clear, lucent style. A superb achievement." Barry Powell, University of Wisconsin–Madison
"What Csapo has done is lucid, illuminating, refreshing and extremely informative. I recommend it to anyone looking for an intellectually engaging overview of theories of interpretation of myth." University of Toronto Quarterly<!––end––>
"It should certainly be in all academic libraries." Journal of Classics Teaching
"It is a pity that J.G. Frazer appropriated the title "The Golden Bough". This image is far better suited to Csapo′s luminous guide through a forest difficult to see for the trees." Phoenix
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur Amazon.com
Take for example this passage from pages 29-30 (available in the Amazon preview): "Miller's 'noble Aryas' sits at an opposite end of the Victorian imaginary from James Frazer's savage: the childish romantic and dreamy Aryas, whose very impracticality is a protest against utilitarianism and economic determinism, could hardly be more different, as he stares gooey-eyed at the sunrise like Dickens's Sissy Jupe at a circus, from Frazer's hardheaded Gradgrindian savage who is interested in nothing but reason, economic productivity, and applied science." Now, some of these obscurities are the topic of the surrounding chapter, and so they are admirably well explained elsewhere. However, it is more or less assumed that the reader is already familiar with imaginaries in general, the Victorian imaginary in partiular, romanticism, utilitarianism, and the characters of Charles Dickens's "Hard Times." Passages like this abound.
(Just for fun, here's an especially difficult passage from earlier in the same paragraph. It begins as a relatively straightforward summary of the discussion that precedes it, but it quickly descends into dense, unelucidated jargon: "In section 2.1 we noted the contradiction whereby Europeans regarded the same primitives at once as "noble savages" and subhuman. Much depended upon the European's attitude to developments in his own society, and particularly whether he thought the trends of recent history degenerative or progressive. To this extent Muller's theory had a more fundamentally deteriorationist appeal in sympathy with religious orthodoxy and aristocratic distemper in an age of growing materialism and bourgeois hegemony.")
This is a good book for intellectuals or advanced students. For true beginners, Robert Segal's "Myth: A Very Short Introduction" might be a better choice. Both books introduce common scholarly perspectives on myth. Segal's is more accessible; Csapo's engages with those perspectives more critically.
I removed a "[sic.]" from this review today. I had thought that he had misused the word "imaginaries" in a passage that I quoted, and so I had marked that perceived misuse with a "[sic.]". But I've recently become acquainted with "imaginary" as a sociological term, and as far as I can tell, he's using it correctly. My mistake!
Despite those efforts, both good and bad, our students are still not being taught what myth is essentially. Even a complete theory could remain open to individual expansion or improvement, and not be paraded as monolithic truth. Yet none of those scenarios has unfolded.
Skeptics, whether of the Socratic or a more scientific temperament, might be viewing the failure of theories as evidence in their favor. Scholars such as Stephen Halliwell have thought about limits to rational mythology. Those concerns should be lent a voice by Csapo, because mythology uniquely exhibits the theme of limits both in its object and as do all studies or sciences. That is, heroism is a quest for knowledge or power, so that the study of mythological heroism must ultimately be regarding itself. This would fit the literary atmosphere of Csapo's last chapter and epilogue in which the book's main topic all but disappears. But none of this means that we cannot better understand myth, and ourselves in terms of it.
Psychology should be given a more central place in this book. Csapo does not mention that psychologists of the early 20th century had the beginnings of a theory of myth more sophisticated than the vague associations with this field, that he describes in Chapter 3. In that chapter, as also by Freud himself, various isolated elements of myth are treated often symbolically. The point of view is of an individual, perhaps archaic unconscious, or one free of context and ahistorical. Freud's ambitions for the theory of myth, unfulfilled though expressed in his letters, went much further than this. Csapo, like other theorists generally, does not recognize that the notion of collective unconscious if properly applied points toward a strong theory yet unpresented, as Jung and a much more obscure writer, Clarence O. Cheney, also suggest. While he cannot present what is simply absent from philosophy and theory (a coveted explanation of the central meaning of myth), Csapo could have better evaluated the several theoretical schools in terms of what level of contribution they make. Anthropology here should be recognized as marginal. In his famous treatment of myths including Oedipus the King, Lévi-Strauss apparently rested an entire reading on the premise that there was a transition, contemporary with the origin of myths, with regard to the rules of marriage or the periphery of society and to which myths responded. There was no such contemporary movement at the time in antiquity. In later anthropology, Jean-Pierre Vernant and more recently Jean-Joseph Gioux (see the latter's Oedipus, Philosopher, Stanford Press) have fared no better, contributing only still more trivial and pedantic ideas.