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The Modern Construction of Myth

Andrew Von Hendy

Publication Year: 2002

"... one of the richest, clearest, and acutest surveys to date of the course of theorizing about myth from the eighteenth century on. I know of no more useful volume on the topic. Despite the postmodern connotations of the title, Von Hendy is writing not to expose the concept of myth but simply to show the array of ways in which it has been used from time to time and from place to place. A superb work." -- Robert A. Segal,
University of Lancaster,
author of Theorizing about Myth

Andrew Von Hendy offers an integrated critical account of the career of myth in modernity. He takes as its starting point some crucial moments in the 18th-century reinvention of the concept and then follows the major branches of theorizing as they appear in the work of theologians, philosophers, literary artists, political thinkers, folklorists, anthropologists, psychologists, and others.

Von Hendy pursues each of these four fundamental strains of theory through the 20th century: the rise of neo-romantic theories in depth psychology, modernist literature, and later in religious phenomenology, philosophy, and literary criticism; the establishment of folkloristic theory in ethnological fieldwork and in classical studies; the growth of ideological theories from Sorel to Barthes and Derrida; and the recent ascent of constitutive theories of myth as necessary fiction. Finally, Von Hendy examines the work of five theorists who attempt to come to terms with the lessons of the ideological critique, yet regard myth as a constructive phenomenon.

Published by: Indiana University Press

CONTENTS

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pp. vii-

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-

Thanks to Editions Rodopi B. V. for permission to reprint as chapter 6 of the present work a (somewhat shortened) version of “The Modernist Contribution to the Construction of Myth,” first published in Modern Myths, edited by David Bevan (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1993), 149–188. ...

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Introduction

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pp. xi-xvii

The essay that follows is an attempt to write a critical and interdisciplinary history of the concept of “myth” since its invention, or, perhaps more properly, reinvention, in the eighteenth century. My assumption that the modern construction of “myth” arises only in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries ...

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1 From Fable to Myth

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pp. 1-24

A claim that “myth” is a modern invention had better begin with explanation. It’s widely known, after all, that the modern world inherits the word and, in some sense therefore, the concept from ancient Greece. The Greeks had come out of the Mycenaean Age with a very rich tradition of oral story, ...

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2 The Invention of Myth

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pp. 25-48

Belief in myth as a solution to the crisis expressed in the poetry of religious nostalgia presumes the presence within modern persons of some inalienable faculty for producing it. The confidence that tips the balance from longing for this power to affirmation of its presence arises in the larger context of what we know ...

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3 The Struggle between Myth and “Suspicion”

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pp. 49-76

The romantic inventors of “myth,” theorists and poets alike, consciously construct it as a privileged site in the modern agon between belief and disbelief. And the history of the new concept remains during the nineteenth century largely the record of an intensifying struggle between what Schlegel called “enthusiasm” and “irony.” ...

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4 Myth as an Aspect of “Primitive” Religion

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pp. 77-111

Although the romantic or transcendentalist conception of myth dominates the first half of the nineteenth century and endures in belletristic and religious circles to this day, it loses its cultural hegemony in the latter part of the century to its anthropological or folkloristic counterpart. ...

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5 The Role of Depth-Psychology in the Construction of Myth

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pp. 112-133

This chapter concerns what Eugen Bleuler, the Swiss psychiatrist, usefully christened early in the century as tiefenpsychologie, an umbrella term for the range of psychologies of the unconscious developed by Freud and Jung and their followers. These have been so consistently associated with “myth” since early in the twentieth century ...

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6 The Modernist Contribution to the Construction of Myth

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pp. 134-153

This chapter is an examination of the important mediating role of modernist literary art in the twentieth-century construction of “myth.” The artists’ contribution is not so much innovation in theory as it is the rich embodiment of a set of assumptions, the success of which inspires a later revival of theorizing. ...

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7 Neo-Romantic Theories of the Midcentury I: Myth as Mode of Thought and Language

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pp. 154-177

The construction of “myth” grows exponentially in diversity and popularity through the middle decades of the twentieth century before peaking, as it now appears, in the late sixties or early seventies. The next two chapters follow only one of the increasingly entangled skeins of this general expansion. ...

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8 Neo-Romantic Theories of the Midcentury II: Myth and Ritual in Quotidian Western Life

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pp. 178-201

The midcentury revival of transcendentalism includes ambitious attempts to theorize what the modernist artists sampled in chapter 6 maintain in practice—the active presence of myth (and ritual) in the daily life of the ordinary person. These efforts focus accordingly less on the aesthetic, linguistic, and epistemological features ...

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9 Folkloristic Myth in Social Anthropology I: Malinowski, Boas, and Their Spheres of Influence

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pp. 202-229

In the four preceding chapters we have observed transcendentalist constructors of myth quick to buttress their theories with the authority of ethnographic evidence. But the decades of sedentary speculation based upon the likes of Frazer and the Cambridge Ritualists are also those of the rise of modern social anthropology, ...

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10 Folkloristic Myth in Social Anthropology II: From L

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pp. 230-261

The first two-thirds of this chapter takes up the grandest of grand theories, while the last third tracks the more recent subsidence from such totalizing aspirations. Claude L

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11 No Two-Headed Greeks: The Folkloristic Consensus in Classical Studies

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pp. 262-277

The lessons of modern social and cultural anthropology have been especially taken to heart in the last generation by scholars in the fields of comparative mythology and classical studies. The romantic exaltation of the civilization of ancient Greece, so entangled in the very invention of modern “myth,” ...

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12 Myth and Ideology

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pp. 278-303

“Myth” is one of the small set of words that we are accustomed to employing in contrary senses. The word signifies in everyday parlance either a traditional story commanding special respect or a widely disseminated falsehood. This contradiction appears even more odd if we recollect the highly successful romantic launching of “myth” ...

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13 Myth as Necessary Fiction

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pp. 304-340

Myth has indeed been subject to a process analogous to that undergone by its diacritical partner, ideology. When the romantic inventors of the concept desiderate a new mythus, they have in mind a story capable of transforming the social and intellectual disarray of the modern West into a coherent whole. ...

Notes

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pp. 341-362

Works Cited

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pp. 363-378

Index

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pp. 379-386


E-ISBN-13: 9780253108807
E-ISBN-10: 0253108802
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253339966

Page Count: 408
Illustrations: 1 index
Publication Year: 2002