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)
- You should be aware that for many cultures, myths serve as factual accounts
of the past.
- You should understand that myths also serve to give meaning to traditional
practices, explain natural phenomenon, or give a retro- explanation for social
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- You should recognize that in an allegory, the gods might symbolically
represent natural forces, such as the moon being represented by the Goddess Artemis.
- You should recognize the term Euhemerism as referring to a theory that the
Ancient Greek gods were actually mortal kings whose people, posthumously, immortalized
Part Two: Some Modern Interpretations of
Myth (pgs. 37-53)
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- You should recognize the existence of Greek myths relating to deities that
preceded the Olympians -- such as Helios (the Sun) or Selene (the Moon).
- 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.
- 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
- You should recognize the concept of the Charter theory that sees myth as a
means of justification or validation of cultural customs or institutions.
- 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.
- You should be able to discuss the basic theories regarding myth as an
internal, spontaneous expression of the human mind.
- You should understand the relevance of psychology to theories which
"intimately" link myth to several mental processes.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- You should understand the concept of the "shadow" in Jungian theory
as it relates to the unrecognized, repressed aspects of the personality that functions
- You should recognize the terms "anima" and "animus" as
they refer to archetypal feminine and masculine principles.
- 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
- 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.
- 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).
- 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".)
- 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.
- You should know what the Lens theory of mythological interpretation is.
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