Mythological criticism attempts to explore the different cultural myths that lie in a given form of literature. It is an extremely critical approach that is developed under a combination of anthropological, historical, psychological, as well as religious insights. Through the combinations of these insights mythological criticism has gained an extremely strong base. This is following the extensive contribution of each of these elements. Through psychological approach, mythological criticism aims at exploring an individual’s imagination or way of thought through an analysis of symbols and situations that a party is involved. This analysis is fundamental for conscious and unconscious mind. Historical approach analyzes cultures as well as epochs that resemble any mythology. Archetype is the most critical concept of mythological criticism. This concept represents fundamental situations, symbols, characters, as well as images that define concrete meaning to any mythology. Archetype idea was developed by Carl Jung who was a myth and religion student. According Jung, individuals hold collective unconscious memories that are common among all people. However, the understanding for Archetype was affirmed by Northrop Frye who defined it as an image, or symbol which is recurrent in literature for recognition as an individual’s literary experience. Since this concept’s interpretation, different authors have developed unique mythological arguments with Shakespeare being the most outstanding literature artist using the mythological criticism in his work (Bloom, 1975).
Carl Jung argued that a superficial layer of the unconscious is indubitably personal. The unconscious layer is not dependent on personal experience and cannot be individually acquired. This form of unconscious layer is inborn. The unconscious layer is usually universal and identical thus it contains a common psyche substrate of a supra-personal nature which is found in each individual. This element can only be understood through the presence of elements that may define consciousness. These elements usually contain the private side of a psychic life for an individual. These contents are known as archetypes. This is a proper definition of the archaic and primordial nature of universal images that have existed over an extremely long time. This was exclusive borrowing of interpretation of the definition of representations collectives from Levy Bruhl who argued that collective unconsciousness could be represented as a primitive archetype. This is a form of archetype that has been developed in a unique way to represent the conscious side of the argument. Also, archetypes are usually expressed as myths as well as tales. However, these may not have concrete meaning following their archaic nature. This means that the term archetype is only applicable in an indirect manner to representations collectives (Jung, 1931).
Northrop Frye initiates his argument on archetypes with critical analysis of myths. This is literary a world of thematic and fictional design that is never influenced by the adoption of familiar experiences. He defined myth as the imitation of actions close to desire limits. Myths do not define the livelihood of a given people. There exists extensive difference between realism and myth where realism is an implicit simile while myth is an art of inherent metaphorical identity. Literal metaphor is an extremely critical element in the definition of certain ideograms. Myths usually isolate literature principles while realism aims at fitting certain structural principles into plausible context. In music, mythical structures usually cause various technical problems that make it plausible in defining solution for these problems that may be defined as displacement. In literary design, myth and naturalism in connection to romance define the historical approach of archetype. However, there is an idealized difference between realism and myths in human definition. There exists concrete argument that principle of displacement can be linked to romance by through elements of analogy, association, incidental imagery as well as exclusive similarities. Myths may contain sun-god or tree-god while in romance a person may be associated to sun or trees (Fryer, 1937).
Edmond Volpe bases his argument on a myth in Faulkner’s “Barn Burning”, which he argues that it has no concern on class conflict. This is a story based on Sarty’s emotional dilemma. Volpe argues that there could not have been any alteration if the individual who had been burnt was a poor farmer in contrary to a plantation owner. Tension comes in when hearing begins when Ab is accused of burning a simple farmer’s barn. There are extensive immoral acts witnesses in Sarty’s conflict which has not been sorted accordingly. There seems to be respect for classes while rights are denied in an extremely large manner. Ab Snopes, ignores the human character for support of animosity for human rights in the society. There is need to be mindful and respectful to moral and social entity. This is the definition of the difference that exists between the poor and the rich in the society where the poor are denied rights in favor of the rich. This explanation is vehemently critical on the influence of improper moral understanding, where some human beings are viewed superior than others in the society. The conflict is a representation of some imagery that is instilled in a child’s psyche since birth. This is psychological and it has extensive influence on one’s behavior at old age and may e used in the definition of mythical criticism (Volpe, 1964).
According to the Oxford dictionary, myth criticism may be defined as a section of literary commentary and arguments that aims at defining the difference that exist between a myth and literature. A myth is an explanation of an effect or issue on the basis of a certain traditional occurrence. On the other hand, literature as used in the definition of mythological criticism aims at explaining the anthropological, psychological, as well as historical definition of certain critical concepts. The dictionary further outlines that myths are defined by archetypes, which are made of narrative patterns that repeat ancient myths as well as religious rituals through application of sacred objects, and any form of historical element. This definition borrows extensively from renowned literal writers such as Carl Jung and Freud.
Mythological criticism is an extremely critical and sensitive subject. This is based on its broad definition which may be exemplary influential in an individual’s perspective of different issues in one’s livelihood. It would be wise to recognize that human beings live in a literary filled world. This means that there is no way through which human beings can live in avoidance of myths as well as literature. One of the strengths that the analysis for this subject poses is enhancing understanding for different mythical perspectives which are defined by anthropological, religious and historical concepts. These elements are unavoidable and form concrete base of literature in the society. It equips a student with proper understanding of how myths coin today’s activities. However, there is a weakness on the confusion that people may develop from archetype and other concepts that are used in the definition of mythical criticism. It may also pose a challenge for individuals to concentrate so much on the past while there are extremely many literature principles that are modern and equally effective.
Bloom, Harold. "Mythological Criticism." A map of misreading. New York: Oxford University Press, 1975. 1. Print.
Fryer, Northrop . "Chapter 48: Mythic Archetypes." Critical approaches to literature. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1937. Print.
Jung, C. G.. "The collective Unconscious and Archetypes." The collected works of C.G. Jung. New York: Pantheon Books, 1931. Print.
Volpe, Edmond. "Myth on Faulkner's " Barn Burning"." Critical approaches to literature. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1964. Print.