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Theories of Myth: Mythography

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Summarizing and applying theories of myth to selected creation myths.

Myth and knowing discusses a variety of theoretical approaches scholars use to better understand mythology. Select three of those theories and summarize them. Then, compare two creation myths using the theories you summarized to explain how each creation functions in the culture in which it is a part of. Conclude by reflecting on these theories to help explain the cultural function of myths in general.

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Theories of Myth

Mythography - the study and compilation of myths is an important aspect in cultural studies, anthropology, history, religious studies, the arts and sociology. Myths, legends, folklore, tales - they are products of oral and written social traditions that trace back the history and experience of a people as they make sense of the world and their realities through the ages. In every tall story filled with magic and extra ordinary characters, there is always a grain of truth, an explanation and a glimpse of the world that was back then at the time of the conception of the myth and the legend. Myths and folktales are very particular - the Chinese have their dragons, the Filipinos their bamboo Gods, the Thai their Nagas, the Arabs their Genies, the British their Arthurian Legends, the Greeks their Pantheon of Gods and so on. Myths are stories passed down through oral, written or pictorial history that answer questions that a culture or society has about a particular phenomenon they cannot explain otherwise. Mythologists often refer to the 'Theories of Myth' - schools or paradigms of mythological interpretation from structure, significance, relevance, origin and symbolism - explaining how myths are formed and why they came about either as folktales or risen in stature as a part of a belief or religion.

There are varied theories of myth current applied to study a particular myth or story, however, I believe that the following theories are the 3 most prominent:

1. The Comparative Approach Theory - the comparative approach compares and contrasts myths from varied cultures to find their similarities and differences. The similarities in myths defines a 'universal' theme that is most likely present in a particular scenario whatever the culture. This is particularly important in cultural and religious studies as it allows scholars to trace the origins of particular themes (The Great Deluge themes, for example); it also support psychological and behavioural viewpoints in social and anthropological studies.

2. Psychological Theories - mainly rooted on the ideas of Freud, it posits that myths are the exploration of the human subconscious; myths 'articulated' the importance of the subconscious in the everyday realities of our ancestors and people of varied civilizations and cultures before ours. The symbolism in myths allow us to take a look at the beliefs, practices and psychoanalytical facilities of the people who cultivated, believed or participated in a particular myth. Myths as fantasies express the inner desires of man.

3. Religion & Ritualism theories - related ...

Solution Summary

This solution discusses the varied theories of mythology or myth-making - how myths come about, their importance and their propagation from generation to generation or from one culture to another. The comparative approach is discussed as well as psychological theory and religion/ritual theory. Two creation myths are compared to provide a more detailed explanation. The solution follows the APA-format for referencing and is 1700 + words.