Mythological criticism is a form of comparison of various aspects or archetypes so to speak, of various works of literature to examine and explore similarities as well as differences in relation to human existence or in dependence on the myths. It tends to identify patterns in different works of recurring characters. It is mainly about symbolism and archetypes’ undertones or underlying meanings for example certain features and or phenomena such as the sun, the moon, constellations have been personified and portray certain qualities and meanings such as Supreme Being, seasons and other meanings.
Studies in anthropology that advanced towards the end of 19th century greatly influenced mythological criticism because it answered many questions about humankind which is more scientific and explains both the past and the present with lots of tangible proof. Myths were created in order to help explain certain features and phenomena and at first mythological approach appeared to be more of mystery and this made many to become sceptical about it but anthropological studies have brought a new understanding of myths mostly Greek mythology that is well known mostly and help reduce the scepticism greatly (Jung, 1964 p 51).
Creators and founders of the mythological critical aspects include Sir James George Frazer who was a Scottish anthropologist and worked with a group of other anthropologist in Cambridge University. His writings were based on mythologies of cultures. The text identifies modern and primitive religions and brings out the beliefs and practices that are shared between the two. He argues that vegetation and seasons of growing help symbolize rebirth and death that is a myth in almost all cultures (Campbell, 1993 p 18)
Another proponent of the mythological criticism is Carl Gustav Jung. He was Swiss born, and founded the analytical psychology. He relates archetypes and myths to a part in the mind that is not accessible and is unconscious which helps individuals maintain their psychological state balanced (Strelka, 1980 p 43). He believed that certain symbols trigger memories that are shared.
Another proponent is Northrop Frye who was a Canadian and was a major proponent of criticism of archetypes with his major work being the anatomy of criticism. He breaks both Jung’s and Frazer’s psychoanalytical and anthropogenic approaches respectively and incorporates aspects of comedy as well as romance in his work making it unique from the others (Vickery, 1973 p 78).
This criticism refers to mythological famous stories that seek to get reactions from readers universally. They focus on goddesses and gods and are unlike criticism in traditional setting that focuses on the author’s history in relation to the literal work. They also look at objects and symbols that are inanimate and also phenomena that try to explain some activities within a group of people similar to others of different times and place for example the sun, the moon, constellations, certain physical features that are important to particular groups and sometimes the myths about them are shared between different groups of people from different places as well as different times (Jung, 1964 p 67).
In mythological criticism, reference is made to stories in literature that are mostly famous such as origin of life and aims to get reactions from readers that is more so universal in nature. It is also of a psychological aspect since it is concerned with the undertone of behaviour of humans since these behaviours are greatly influenced by myths which symbolize the people’s values, ideas, hopes and fears and is also very different to traditional forms of criticism. It is much preferred because the traditional approach does not fully give definitions of many myths and also people are more interested in actual concrete facts rather than this approach that tends to lean more towards the occult (Campbell, 1993 p 28).
An important instance where mythological criticism has been applied is by John Campbell. He wrote about the hero who had a thousand faces. His writing explains the myth theory whereby the hero leaves for a journey to a world that is strange, facing obstacles most of which are very deadly but still returns with victory. In this writing the supernatural aspect as well as the real is similar it’s just that in the supernatural world metaphors are used but still relates to real life with the obstacles representing our daily challenges.
Campbell, Joseph. The hero with a thousand faces. London: Fontana, 1993. Print.
Jung, C. G., and Marie Franz. Man and his symbols. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1964. Print.
Stefik, Mark. Internet dreams archetypes, myths, and metophors. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1996. Print.
Strelka, Joseph. Literary criticism and myth. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1980. Print.
Vickery, John B.. The literary impact of The golden bough,. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973. Print.