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Mythic politics

From a 1969 book entitled Hamlet's Mill...

"Tolkien's effort at reviving the genre [myth], whatever the talent employed, carry as much conviction as the traditional three-dollar bill."


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 28th, 2003 06:51 pm (UTC)
What a screwup that was! But I can remember Tolkien's books being banned for satanism back then too. It was a troubled time, with the teenagers getting blamed for all the country's troubles. So it's no wonder so many 'tuned in, turned on and dropped out.' Our wonderful government had decided to squander young lives for nothing more than money and to put an entire country on the rack for not wanting to be a slave to capitalism. Sort of like what's happening now. At least there's no jungles.
Sep. 29th, 2003 06:15 am (UTC)
On the other hand, although the quote still reads as very outdated and short-sighted, it's not entirely wrong. It depends what the authors thought Tolkien was actually trying to accomplish. His myth-writing, after all, hasn't been incorporated into our own to any great extent. Few would argue that the LOTR trilogy is our own past.

It's funny how the LOTR series has had its reputation cleaned up in the meantime, especially the current contrast between Harry Potter = satanism and the correctly Christian nature of LOTR.
Sep. 28th, 2003 09:23 pm (UTC)
That book, Hamlet's Mill is rather special in other ways, though. Rather universal-myth and race-memory, which I don't much hold with (not when Carl Sagan did it, and not there).... But not much bad as a source book to look up avenues when researching Hamlet versions, at least.
Sep. 28th, 2003 09:30 pm (UTC)
I wandered across the quote when making use of it quite productively for a somewhat more focused agenda than its overarching agenda. I'm researching the different symbolisms which mills possessed in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, so there're a handful of quite useful chapters in there for that. It read rather abstractly at first - the book took several chapters to admit to what it was going to be about. That seemed unnecessarily coy. The rest of the chapters dabble around the Prometheus-mill-whirlpool-death-incest-Hamlet themes, more as a series of thoughts hinting at an argument than a sustained argument per se.

I wonder to what extent current anthropology is still interested in pancultural archetypes?
Sep. 28th, 2003 09:55 pm (UTC)
Anthropology is only moderately interested in cross-cultural symbolism (even though it is a subject I wrote on in grad school) for two reasons. First, anthropology is strangely opposed to cross-cultural studies at this point in its history, primarily because of the attitude that each culture is unique and that there is no basis for cross-cultural universals or regularities. Second, efforts in this regard (e.g. Jung's original work, Joseph Campbell's pop-Jungian analysis, and Levi-Strauss's structuralism) have all been thoroughly discredited. Many archetypes that were thought to have some cross-cultural basis can now be shown to have been absent in areas that weren't in contact with the West.
However, in cognitive anthropology, a small but well-respected sub-field, there is still some interest in identifying the basis of some regularities seen in symbols and the meanings attached to them. However, the concept of archetype is no longer accepted, and it is also admitted that it is very unlikely that specific pairings of symbols and referents are not going to be panhuman - at best, they'll be found more often than would be expected by chance. I wrote a 50-page paper on this subject about five years ago, so I have a substantial bibliography if you'd like to see it.
Sep. 29th, 2003 01:01 am (UTC)
Actually, if I might also take a peek at it...? Admittedly, I'm dealing with ritual for one of the things I'm studying right now, which is slightly tangental, but very frustrating to try to find theory for. The only thing I've found so far as an outsider to anthropology is the Frazer myth-and-ritual crowd; it's slightly hard to cotton to that too much when the rituals I'm looking at appear to (a) have been mostly imported into Japan for specific political uses and (b) while not contradicting many of the religious trends one sees developing, doesn't really belong to any of them. Is Frazer it? One hopes not, but if so... well, I don't know what I'll do. Ignore theory until I'm yelled at?

I probably should just grab a few anthro textbooks and read them straight through. (In my abundant spare time, of course....)
Sep. 29th, 2003 01:23 pm (UTC)
Sure, why not? You (or anyone else who wants to) can find it at http://phrontistery.50megs.com/symuniv.pdf

Hope it's of some use to you.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )