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A Short History Of Myth (Canongate Myths series Book 1) by [Armstrong, Karen]
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A Short History Of Myth (Canongate Myths series Book 1) Kindle Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Length: 145 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Review

"Elegantly argued and consistently thought-provoking" -- Daily Telegraph

"With characteristic incisiveness, Armstrong explores the development of myth from prehistory to the present day" -- Daily Mail

Daily Mail

"With characteristic incisiveness, Armstrong explores the development of myth from prehistory to the present day"

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 418 KB
  • Print Length: 145 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0144000938
  • Publisher: Canongate Books; Main edition (31 Oct. 2004)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002VNFNC4
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #251,612 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: MP3 CD
In this brief account, Karen Armstrong looks at the general changes in mankind's mythologising that have occurred over the Palaeolithic and Neolithic ages, the early civilisations, the 'Axial Age' (800 to 200 BCE), up to modern times. It is interesting to see how changes in the way we live have caused corresponding changes in our myths: Palaeolithic hunters were concerned with pacifying the spirits of the animals they killed, whereas Neolithic farmers' myths were more to do with the ground and the natural forces that affected their crop-raising.
In her introduction, Armstrong points out how mythical thinking is different from the rational or scientific-minded thinking that predominates today, though it is interesting to note that even the earliest men of the Palaeolithic period seemed to sense a gap in their lives, a separation from the world of their myths. The final chapter, The Great Western Transformation, looks at how art has come to replace sacred myth in our demythologised culture.
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By Mrs. K. A. Wheatley TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 3 Nov. 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a slender tome on a massive subject, so if you're looking for someone to cover all the bases as regards the life of myth then forget it. If you're looking for someone to give you a quick gallop through the evolution of mythology, some of its central preoccupations and some key starting points for a further exploration into the world of myth, then Armstrong is your woman. Written as the first and introductory tome for the Canongate Myths series, which invites well known authors to rewrite and refresh their favourite mythological stories, this is just as useful as a standalone, educational text, and doesn't need to be read in conjunction with any of the books featured in the series, particularly as each author prefaces their work with the reasons behind why they wrote what they wrote. This is still a good book to have. It deals with the broad concepts of what drives and keeps myth alive rather than the debate over how to study or interpret it, which is fine, as there are hundreds of books out there by anthropologists and other students of myth, all with their own particular axe to grind. It is particularly refreshing here to find a reasonable, coherent argument that just is.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book should have been entitled 'Wild speculations about myths, written with an obvious Christian agenda'. I'm sorry to say that it is nothing but Bible-bashing disguised under the pretense of talking about humanity's myths. It is clear from the start that, far from presenting myths and their history, the author is trying to convince us that religion is the sine qua non of any human activity. To this aim, she mixes a lot of completely unfounded speculations with a tiny bit of anthropology, just enough to give her so-called arguments a thin veneer of credibility. But scratch the surface and it soon becomes apparent that it's all very clumsily done. I quickly got fed up with every single assertion being crudely slanted towards religiosity.

First, Armstrong claims we know a great deal about the Neanderthal mind - it definitely had religiousness in it, and we know this for sure because ... we found a handful of graves. Then, the Paleolithic people: 'Everything they did was a sacrament that put them in touch with the gods' (p. 15). Oh, really? May we ask, how do we know all of this, what irrefutable archaeological proof is there? Well, we don't get that answer in this book. Instead of presenting any kind of evidence, Armstrong cites mainly the tomes of Mircea Eliade, who, as well-read as he was, wrote in the 1930s and was a man also given to wild speculations and who, guess what, didn't provide any actual proof for his theses, either. Oh, and she mentions Freud and Jung ... yes, 'cause that's really scientific stuff, isn't it.

Her claims then get more and more unlikely. For example, 'As soon as human beings had completed their evolutionary process, they found that a longing for transcendence was built into their condition.' (p. 27).
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Format: Paperback
As someone who has a real interest in myth, its origins and its uses, but has found the likes of Joseph Campbell (who Armstrong references regularly) somewhat over my head, this was a very accessible and enjoyable read. She doesn't assume previous knowledge of the great mythologies, and builds a solid foundation from which to decide a future direction in one's reading.

The final chapter, "The Great Western Transformation," makes her perspective regarding the famine of mythology in the modern world clear and is very persuasive, although I was surprised and somewhat disappointed to find she did not touch on Jung in particular and pyschoanalytical theory in general. I empathised with, rather than believed in, her conclusions regarding the power of the novel as a replacement for myth.

But overall, a thought-provoking introduction into a facinating topic.
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Format: Paperback
One of my reading resolutions for 2010 is to read the entire Canongate Myths series - re-tellings of age old stories by great authors. While I'm not intending to read them in strict publication order necessarily, it is sensible to make Karen Armstrong's scholarly appraisal of the role of myth in history the first.

But, what is a myth? Chambers dictionary defines it as:

"myth / mith or (archaic) mîth/ n an ancient traditional story of gods or heroes, esp one offering an explanation of some fact or phenomenon; a story with a veiled meaning; mythical matter; a figment; a commonly-held belief that is untrue, or without foundation. [Gr mythos talk, story myth]"
This doesn't get us much further, as there is scope within that definition for rather almost contradictory ideas - from tales of the divine exploits of ancient Gods told for a moral purpose, to the tabloid-fuelled rubbish we're pushed to believe today.

However, for Armstrong myth is spiritual; it is all about belief and the evolution of human society. She takes us from the Paleolithic belief in the sky gods, through the development of more anthropomorphic gods, to the great classical era when cities were built and the ancient Greeks started philosophising. The balance between myth and what the Greeks call logos - the logical, pragmatic thinking was beginning to change.

"Plato disliked tragedy, because it was too emotional; he believed that it fed the irrational part of the soul, and that humans could only reach their full potential through logos. He compared myths to old wives tales.
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