Classical Mythology Images and Insight, Third Edition

Following is an outline of the chapter along with the main learning objectives.  To help coordinate your studies, this outline and the learning objectives are organized to match your textbook.  This organization is also utilized in the chapter review section.

Key Concepts: (pgs. 34-53)      

  1. You should be aware that for many cultures, myths serve as factual accounts of the past.
  2. You should understand that myths also serve to give meaning to traditional practices, explain natural phenomenon, or give a retro- explanation for social conventions.
  3. You should recognize the Parthenon as an architectural work serving the social, political and religious concerns of the Athenians, and as a medium of representing the major myths surrounding the Goddess Athena, in conjunction with the annual festival held in honor of Athena -- the Panathenaea.
  4. You should be aware of the significance of the underlying theme of civilization/ rational order over savagery within the myths about Athena.

Part 1: Ancient Ways of Viewing Myth (pgs. 34-37)

  1. You should understand the significance of the fact that the Greeks did not have written religious scriptures, nor a hereditary priesthood, therefore myths were seen as providing a generally accurate account of the world's origins, the nature of divinity, and the way things were in the distant past.
  2. You should be aware of the philosophical movement throughout the Greek culture in the 6th century BC that led to alternative interpretations of Greek myth, including: myth as symbols of natural forces or human qualities and myths as allegory.
  3. You should be able to examine theories about why myths can show gods behaving badly, or how myth exposes the results of evil conduct and promotes virtue.
  4. You should recognize that Greek deities were also thought as differing aspects of the "One God" or as transforming themselves into the varying guises of different cultures' deities -- such as the cow-headed Hathor, Goddess of the Egyptians.
  5. You should understand the term allegory to refer to a complex narrative, a story, all elements function through symbolism through the use of metaphorical, figurative language.
  6. You should recognize that in an allegory, the gods might symbolically represent natural forces, such as the moon being represented by the Goddess Artemis.
  7. You should recognize the term Euhemerism as referring to a theory that the Ancient Greek gods were actually mortal kings whose people, posthumously, immortalized them.

Part Two: Some Modern Interpretations of Myth (pgs. 37-53)

  1. You should be aware that belief in the ancient Greek gods held sway until the Legitimization of the Christian church as the official religion of Rome -- approximately 4 AD.
  2. You should be able to discuss the impact on mythology of the renaissance, the "re-discovery' of ancient learning brought a scientific interest in myths from such new-born, evolving disciplines as anthropology, sociology, psychology, cultural history.
  3. You should understand the definition of "Mythology" in terms of two general meanings; the vast collection of ancient Greek and Roman tales or the term can also refer to the methodological analysis of myths -- their form, purpose and function.
  4. You should recognize the two broad categories of scholarly theory regarding mythological study: those that assume an external basis for the creation of myths and those that see myths as spontaneous and an internal, instinctive expression of the human mind.
    1. You should be able to discuss the primary types of external myths, including: attempts to explain natural phenomena, or to provide justification for social customs -- as a "quasi-rational" response to the social and natural environment.
      1. You should understand the concept of personification in terms of mythological deities, as regarding a natural phenomenon such as Rain, as a God-like personality or presence.
      2. You should recognize the existence of Greek myths relating to deities that preceded the Olympians -- such as Helios (the Sun) or Selene (the Moon).
      3. You should recognize the theory put forth by some scholars such as F. Max Muller, that myths represent the tension of the culture in regard to such natural phenomenon as seasonal changes, alternating periods of flood and drought, especially concerning agricultural needs of the community.
      4. You should recognize another theory that relates myth to ritual, as evidenced by the traditions of various festivals and celebrations dedicated to the Gods and Goddesses.
      5. You should recognize the concept of the Charter theory that sees myth as a means of justification or validation of cultural customs or institutions.
      6. You should understand the term "etiology" in terms of its two schools of thought: myth as functioning as primitive science and myth as means for the interpretation of the human condition.
  1. You should be able to discuss the basic theories regarding myth as an internal, spontaneous expression of the human mind.
      1. You should understand the relevance of psychology to theories which "intimately" link myth to several mental processes.
      2. You should be able to discuss the theories of Freud, as they relate to myth as another function of the unconscious mind (the "id") much like dreams in their use of "displacement" by helping the mind "relieve anxiety and release psychic tension". You should also recognize the primary components of the mind according to Freudian theory: the "id" /sub-conscious; the "ego" /conscious mind; the "superego" the social conscience function of the mind.
      3. You should be able to discuss key themes in various myths in terms of these basic Freudian theories, incorporating the concepts of wish fulfillment and the mind's ability to symbolically (within the constructs dreams and myths) confront obstacles, such as social taboos.
      4. You should understand the basic concept of Jung in relating the symbolism of dreams and myths to "archetypes" -- images or concepts with universal themes. You should recognize some universal archetypes in the characters of ancient Greek Gods and Goddesses (i.e. the superior intellect of the God Mercury who "delights in deceiving lesser intellects"). You should also be able to discuss the concept of major life events (such as fraternal rivalry, struggles for power, sickness, death) as archetypal, and depicted in myth through the lives and actions of the deities.
      5. You should recognize the myth of Daedalus and his son Icarus as representing archetypal themes such as the desire to escape oppression, or the concept of consequences for impulsive actions.
      6. You should recognize the term "collective unconscious" as part of Jungian theory that is used to denote the images and concepts a given culture holds "in common" and that this collective unconscious "spawns virtually all creative activity".
      7. You should understand the concept of the "shadow" in Jungian theory as it relates to the unrecognized, repressed aspects of the personality that functions self-destructively.
      8. You should recognize the terms "anima" and "animus" as they refer to archetypal feminine and masculine principles.
      9. You should be aware of the work of Joseph Campbell in delineating the archetypal hero's adventures in terms of rite of passage relevant to psychological rites of passage.
      10. You should also recognize other work on mythology that looks at mythmaking in terms of: spontaneously creation of a satisfying cosmos imposed on the external world; "sacred tales emanating for a singularly creative era of prehistory"; serve a purpose in the present in relating liminal, threshold experiences thus helping people through life's transitions.
      11. You should understand the term of "structuralism" as relating to myth in terms of the elements of myths as a reflection of what is perceived as the mind's "binary" (comparison/contrast function) order, dividing everything into polar opposites. Myth serves to reconcile these differences/conflicts/contradictions of perception (such good/evil, civilized/savage, pleasure/pain).
      12. You should recognize the term of "narratology", the study of narrative structure -- the sequence of events that follow a common order or pattern, usually a progression of time, linear and irrevocable (and in Greek myth toward Death, the chief factor that distinguishes heroes from gods, usually focusing on the condition of human mortality -- unlike folktales which usually end in "happily ever after".)
    1. You should understand how feminists scholars such as Marija Gimbutas and Carol Gilligan have added to the contemporary study of mythology in areas such as archeology and psychology.
    2. You should know what the Lens theory of mythological interpretation is.
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