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Intro to Mythology
Transcript of Intro to Mythology
Intro to Mythology
The word myth derives from the Greek mythos, which has a range of meanings from “word” or “saying” to “story” and “fiction”; the unquestioned validity of mythos can be contrasted with logos (logic), the word whose validity or truth can be argued and demonstrated.
Myths relate the events, conditions, and deeds of gods or superhuman beings that are simultaneously outside ordinary human life and essential, basic even, to it. These events are set in a time altogether different from historical time, often at the beginning of creation or at an early stage of prehistory.
To entertain with purpose. Their broad appeal has enabled them to survive for thousands of years.
To explain the nature of the universe or to instruct members of the community in the attitudes and behavior necessary to function successfully in a particular culture.
Some cultures are interested in the creation of the entire world, and some are interested only in the creation of their particular place—their island, or land—in the world.
Why Tell Myths?
According to many myths, human beings are not perfect, and the god(s) must destroy them, usually through a flood, and start over a number of times.
Cultures use myth to explain how human beings acquire particular foods and tools that are essential to their civilization.
Myths have wide appeal--they're all pretty entertaining (and some are downright crazy). They are still being interpreted and understood. But most of all, myths allow us to examine formative cultural artifacts and compare them to each other
Why should I care?
if this isn't an "interpretation," I don't know what is...
Types of Myths
Cosmogony , or creation myths, detail the origins of the world or universe
Iznami and Iznagi, a Japanese creation myth
Myths of Eschatology, or destruction, deal with “the end.” The end is conceived of as the opposite of the cosmogony; it means first and foremost the origin of death but also, in a wider sense, the end of the world.
Etiologic tales refer to the description or assignment of causes. Accordingly, an etiologic tale explains the origin of a state of affairs, or natural feature in the human or divine world. Many tales explain the origin of a particular rock or mountain.
Myths of time and eternity, which detail the relationship between eternity and time on earth. The number four is often a significant number for the ages of humans or the number of worlds humans must pass through in these myths
Myths of Rebirth and Renewal
Epics, Sagas, and Legends
Epics/Sagas/Legends all mix myth and more traditional storytelling to various effect
Epic tales such as "The Iliad," "The Odyssey," "Gilgamesh," "The Ramayana," and "Sundiata" all draw heavily on myth for content and often mix the mythical with the historical.
Sagas refer to a group of medieval Icelandic prose narratives, such as "Sigurd the Volsung."
Legends such as "King Arthur" and "Robin Hood" are thought to be based on some historical fact, and they tend to eschew much of the interplay between humans and gods in favor of more earthbound accounts of the endeavors of their heroes.
Sigmund Freud viewed myth as an expression of repressed ideas. Freud’s views on myth are unique insofar as they do not rely on cultural history, but rather stem from the inner workings of the human psyche.
Carl Gustav Jung expanded on this in his theory of the “collective unconscious” and the mythical archetypes that arise out of it.
Some scholars emphasize how myth fulfills common social functions, providing a model for human behavior. The deeply imbedded social nature of myth, from their oral transmission to their cross-cultural appeal, plays tribute to this notion.
Claude Lévi-Strauss discerned underlying structures in the formal relations and patterns of myths throughout the world (Structuralism).
Perspectives on Myths
Frame narrative – the result of inserting one or more small stories within the body of a larger story that encompasses the smaller ones.
Anthropomorphism – The process of making gods resemble humans both in physical form and in that they possess idiosyncrasies and flaws.
Hamartia – the Greek term for tragic flaw.
Hubris – excessive pride in oneself or one’s achievements.
Pathos – To experience feelings of sympathy, pity, or compassion generated in the audience or reader
Tragic hero – in classical tragedy, a hero is a man of high estate (noble birth, wealthy family), traditionally handsome and strong, and also a good person. He possess one flaw (tragic flaw) which will bring about his downfall.
Peripeteia – the sudden reversal of fortune in a story
Terms to Know: Literary Terms
Archetype – a universal, symbolic pattern
Attribute – an inherent characteristic; an accidental quality
Catharsis –the feeling of release or purging of emotions experienced by the audience or reader of tragedy.
Contextual symbol – a symbol that acquires its suggestiveness not from qualities inherent in itself, but rather from the way in which it is used in a given work
Cultural symbol – a symbol that is widely or generally accepted as meaning something specific within an entire culture or social group.
Composite monster –a beast composed of the body parts of various animals.
Additive monster –a creature from mythology or legend that has an altered number of body parts
Terms to Know: Monster Types