A Short History Of Myth (Myths) Hardcover – 21 Oct 2005
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
I do have a few gripes however, as a student of Anthropology I have to note that her portrayal of early Homo sapiens and other hominids tends to be a bit askew, seemingly biased by the typical "caveman hunter" stereotype and how this would affect myths and world-views. In actuality most hunter-gatherer peoples in relatively good areas of land largely relied (and rely) on plant materials, not on hunting. Hunting provided a small percentage of food, other than in difficult areas such as the far north (ie modern Inuits). This aside, her theories provide much of interest, and although not the most complete book on the subject, "A short history of myth" acts as a very good starting point.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book should have been entitled 'Wild speculations about myths, written with an obvious Christian agenda'. Read morePublished 13 months ago by WeAreWhatWeRead
Superb writing by an authoritative historian and theologian.Published on 29 July 2014 by Michael Coleman
I enjoyed this initially as an audio book, where the slow American delivery was irritating at first but very helpful as the ideas became more difficult to follow. Read morePublished on 1 April 2014 by C. J. Tyler
Brought this book for my college work, came in very handy. Will also need it again in the future for my next coursePublished on 17 Sept. 2013 by Lisa Mathew
A Short History of Myth by Karen Armstrong, Canongate, Edinburgh, 2005, 168 ff
Karen Armstrong has become a recognised authority on many different aspects of religion... Read more
Love this book,history,philosophy,theology, it's all in here.Brings to light some questions you haven't even thought about.Brings us all together.Recommend highly.Published on 14 Jun. 2013 by quincey