Myth Analyzed  book cover
1st Edition

Myth Analyzed

ISBN 9780367221577
Published October 14, 2020 by Routledge
222 Pages

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Book Description

Comparing and evaluating modern theories of myth, this book offers an overview of explanations of myth from the social sciences and the humanities.

This ambitious collection of essays uses the viewpoints of a variety of disciplines - psychology, anthropology, sociology, politics, philosophy, religious studies, and literature. Each discipline advocates a generalization about the origin, the function, and the subject matter of myth. The subject is always not what makes any myth distinct but what makes all myths "myth". The book is divided into five sections, covering topics such as myth and psychoanalysis, hero myths, myth and science, myth and politics, and myth and the physical world. Chapters engage with an array of theorists--among them, Freud, Jung, Campbell, Rank, Winnicott, Tylor, Frazer, Malinowski, Levy-Bruhl, Levi-Strauss, Harrison, and Burkert. The book considers whether myth still plays a role in our lives is one of the issues considered, showing that myths arise anything but spontaneously. They are the result of a specific need, which varies from theory to theory.

This is a fascinating survey by a leading voice in the study of myth. As such, it will be of much interest to scholars of myth and how it interacts with Sociology, Anthropology, Politics and Economics.

Table of Contents

Introduction: In Defense of Theorizing about Myth

1 The Leading Modern Theories of Myth

2 Psychologizing Myth: From Freud to Winnicott

3 Rank on Myth

4 Freud’s and Jung’s Very Twentieth-Century View of Myth

5 Greek Myth and Psychoanalysis

6 On Hero Myths

7 King Saul as Mythic Hero

8 Myth and Science: Their Varying Relationships

9 On Myth as Ideology: Lincoln’s Theorizing Myth

10 On Myth and Politics

11 Do Hollywood Stars Bring Myth Back to the World?

12 Does the Gaia Hypotheses bring Myth Back to the World?

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Robert A. Segal is Sixth Century Chair in Religious Studies at the University of Aberdeen, UK. He came to the UK from his native United States in 1994. He has taught at Lancaster University, and since 2006 at Aberdeen. He teaches and writes on theories of myth, on theories of religion, and on Gnosticism. Among the books he has written or edited are The Poimandres as Myth (1986), Joseph Campbell (revised 1990), The Gnostic Jung (1992), Jung on Mythology (1998), The Myth and Ritual Theory (1998), Theorizing about Myth (1999), The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to the Study of Religion (Second Ed. 2020), and Myth: A Very Short Introduction (revised 2015). He is a member of the editorial board of Religion and a series editor for Routledge’s ‘Theorists of Myth’ book series.


"A stimulating and authoritative collection of essays on theories of myth in anthropology, psychology, classics, and modern science, and on mythic figures as diverse as Greek gods, biblical heroes, and Hollywood stars." - William Hansen, Professor Emeritus of Classical Studies & Folklore, Indiana University, USA

"Fans of Robert Segal’s studies of myth and myth-theorists have a treat waiting for them. In a single handsome volume, Segal has assembled informative studies of a veritable All-Star team of modern myth-theorists. Among them, Segal includes the better-known psychologists, Otto Rank, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, philosophers, Lucien Levy-Bruhl, ‘arm-chair’ anthropologists, E.B. Tylor and Sir James G. Frazer, social anthropologists, Bronislaw Malinowski, and Claude Levi-Strauss, classicists, Jane Harrison and Walter Burkert, and popular mass media theorist of the hero-myth, Joseph Campbell. Readers may also first learn of the work of  lesser-known figures such as psychiatrist-physician, David Winnicott. Person favorites in this volume show Segal at work analyzing such familiar points in Biblical literature as King Saul. Up-to-date critical treatments of Chicago’s Bruce Lincoln work on myth round out this fulsome work." - Ivan Strenski, University of California, USA

"This latest volume of Robert Segal’s prolific publications amply demonstrates why he is one of the most important scholars now writing on myth. In thirteen essays, eleven of them previously published but here revised and two of them new, he displays his unrivaled control of the history of the study of myth, and of its varied scholarly representatives, from antiquity to the present. His overriding question is two-fold: what is myth, and how does it relate to other concepts and fields of study ranging through religion, literature, anthropology, psychology, history, and science? In answering this question, Segal lays bare, acutely and often pungently, the differences between 19th and 20th century approaches to myth, and the diversities, complexities, and subtleties in the perceived relationship of myth to science. His essay on Hollywood movie stars as mythical figures illuminates, with a deft touch of humor, a different way to think about myth that escapes many of the dead ends of older debates." - Peter Machinist, Harvard Divinity School, USA.

"For those of us who presume to analyze myth, whether for pleasure or profit, Robert Segal brings a salutary rationality. He inquires of the seminal theorists whose thinking he presents what claims they have made about the sociology, anthropology, psychology, natural science, and politics of the mythologies they’ve chosen for study. He identifies the intellectual and affectual mythologies that have emerged from these discipline crossings, and in this way situates what may be the most fascinating thing to contemplate in any theory of myth. This does not lie in what it explains, but in how it reveals the degree to which a new mythology emerges each time a myth is analyzed." - John Beebe, author of Integrity in Depth