Muthos

Origin Story

I’ve dubbed myself an aspiring mythologist for a number of reasons. Aside from any random science fiction or fantasy stories I got my hands on, mythology was it for me. It was everything. I read and reread Greek, Roman, and ancient Egyptian myths until I jumped to Native American and African folklore. I don’t recall a particular fondness for Norse mythology, which presently I plan on remedying. Considering two of my favorite authors of all time pull heavily from the Nordic narrative (Tolkien and Gaiman), I feel compelled to approach it anew.

In childhood, I viewed myths as fantastical stories that others used to understand the world. In adulthood, I pretty much feel the same. With my personal interest in the relationship between narrative, memory, culture, and more, I want to understand myths as they’ve progressed over time. I plan on making every Monday mythical, in one interpretation or another. There are certainly plenty of myths to make this possible and I’ll eventually determine the best way to implement something beneficial for you all.

Even in college, I found myself fascinated by the modern mythos of superhumans. I found the prominent, popular characters with the most backstory revealed patterns in those who loved them. Why was it that depressives related to the darker, grittier heroes who, through sheer willpower and effort, overcame their doubts and fears? What made these men, women, and occasional aliens so ideal? I examined this in an individual sense for an honors thesis I wrote as an undergraduate.

Since then, I’ve mostly left the topic of superheroes alone. Whatever I’ve been distracted by, it’s been far too long that I left one of my passions behind. Now, more than ever, I feel the need to reexamine myth in an academic light. There seems no better way to explore something I love than sharing it with the world.

Classical Beginnings

Understanding myth means exploring those individuals who first used them. These would be classic, in the ancient sense, such as Plato, Socrates, and so on. The ancient Greek for myth is muthos which translates to “true story.” This is somewhat different from the modern context of myths as things needing debunking. Now, myths seem to indicate a level of falsehood. Traditionally speaking, this isn’t the case. Partenie highlights eight main features of Platonic myth, which hold the basis for rhetorical communication of philosophy in a vernacular context. Below are said features:

“(a) Myths are a monologue, which those listening do not interrupt;
(b) they are told by an older speaker to younger listeners;
(c) they “go back to older, explicitly indicated or implied, real or fictional oral sources” (d) they cannot be empirically verified;
(e) their authority derives from tradition, and “for this reason, they are not subject to rational examination by the audience”
(f) they have a psychological effect: pleasure, or a motivating impulse to perform an action “capable of surpassing any form of rational persuasion”
(g) they are descriptive or narrative;
(h) they precede or follow a dialectical exposition.”

As I proceed through each following Monday, I plan to compare myths to this Platonic standard, as well as implement any related social science and relevant mythological studies. Hopefully, something productive will come out of it for you all and myself.

“When you enter a mindset, you enter a new world.”
-Carol Dweck


References

Partenie, Catalin. “Plato’s Myths”. Plato.Stanford.Edu, 2018, https://plato.stanford.edu/cgi-bin/encyclopedia/archinfo.cgi?entry=plato-myths. Accessed 28 Jan 2018.

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