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Dr Marek Oziewicz Introduction to Literary Theory and Criticism

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Myth and Archetypal criticism is an approach to literature which derives from
the insights of depth
psychology (C. G. Jung and James Hillman), anthropology (primarily James
Frazer and Edward B. Tylor),
comparative religion and mythology (Mircea Eliade and Joseph Campbell),
and attempts to explain literature by
mythic principles. Although for many scholars archetypal theory and criticism
is distinct from myth theory and
criticism, boundaries are elusive and the two may be treated as one type of,
still evolving, approach to art and
Myth critics, aligned with writers in comparative anthropology and
philosophy, are said to include James
Frazer, Jessie Weston, Leslie Fiedler, Ernst Cassirer, Claude Lévi-Strauss,
Richard Chase, Joseph Campbell,
Philip Wheelwright, and Francis Fergusson. The archetypal theorists who
have remained faithful to the origins
and traditions of depth, especially analytical, psychology include James
Hillman, Henri Corbin, Gilbert Durand,
Rafael Lopez-Pedraza, Evangelos Christou.
Archetypal (Jungian) criticism is an attempt to bring psychological analysis
and reflection to bear upon
the imaginative experience communicated by literature, and to examine
those forms or patterns in which the
universal forces of human nature there find objectification. Hillman locates
the archetypal neither “in the
physiology of the brain, the structure of language, the organization of
society, nor the analysis of behavior, but
in the processes of imagination.” Focusing on the imaginal and making
central the concept they call “soul,” the
archetypalists maintain an insistent focus on psychoid phenomena, which
they characterize as meaningful. Yet,
since Jungian theory provided no clear avenue of access for those outside of
psychology, and since orthodox
Jungians were left with little in the way of models for the psychological
analysis of literature, this school of
criticism has long remained on the margins of academic discourse and
outside the boundaries of traditional
academic disciplines and departments.
Myth criticism signaled a need for criticism to move beyond the restrained
and relatively objective
explication of single texts to the sustained and even passionate meditation
upon the larger mythic patternings of
the human mind that produce ritual, myth, legend, romance, and ultimately
literature. Much of the rhetorical
power of myth criticism lay not just in a claim to erect or preserve a literary
or cultural tradition, but in the
feeling that it was participating vitally in a pan-disciplinary effort, often
combining, the “findings” of
anthropology (Frazer), mythology (Ernst Cassirer), and psychology (C. G. Jung
primarily, but Sigmund Freud as
well) to get at the ways that humanity makes meaning. This is clear in an
inaugural work of myth criticism,
Joseph Campbell's 1949 Hero with a Thousand Faces, just as well as in its
crowning achievement, Northrop Frye’s
1957 Anatomy of Criticism.
Frye’s Theory: In his Anatomy of Criticism, Northrop Frye essentially
redefines and relocates archetype on
grounds that remove him unequivocally from the ranks of “Jungian” critics by
severing the connection between
archetype and depth psychology: Perceiving a theory of a collective
unconscious as an unnecessary hypothesis in
literary criticism, Frye retains the Jungian concept of archetype, but redefines
it as a literary occurrence per se,
an exclusively intertextual recurring phenomenon resembling a convention.
Frye attempts a comprehensive classification of literature into four narrative
categories (comic, tragic,
romantic, ironic) that correspond to four mythoi (spring, summer, autumn,
winter). Like other myth critics, Frye
is heavily dependent upon ritualist assumptions—i.e. that classical art had its
origins in primitive ritual, and
modern art is also evolved from vital primitive rituals that reflected primal
mystical ways of thinking. (Jessie
Weston's 1920 From Ritual to Romance, a study of the Grail romances as
civilized versions of fertility rites, is one
of the first applications of the ritualist approach to nonclassical material).
Frye lays over literature a simplified
evolutionary grid on which ritual evolves into myth which evolves into
literature. For him all genres of literature
derive from myth—specifically, the myth of the life of the hero. Associating
the life cycle of the hero with
several other cycles: the yearly cycle of the seasons, the daily cycle of the
sun, and the nightly cycle of dreaming
and awakening, Frye offers his own heroic pattern, which he calls the “quest-
myth,” and which consists of four
broad stages: the birth, triumph, isolation, and defeat of the hero.
Dr Marek Oziewicz Introduction to Literary Theory and Criticism
Each main genre of literature parallels at once a season, a stage in the day, a
stage of consciousness, and
above all a stage in the heroic myth. Romance parallels at once spring,
sunrise, awakening, and the birth of the
hero. Comedy parallels summer, midday, waking consciousness, and the
triumph of the hero. Tragedy parallels
autumn, sunset, daydreaming, and the isolation of the hero. Satire parallels
winter, night, sleep, and the defeat of
the hero. The literary genres do not merely parallel the heroic myth but
derive from it, just as the myth itself
derives from ritual.
The relationship between myth and literature has taken varying forms, but
the dominant are three:
1. the use of myth in works of literature, which usually boils down to a
standard theme of tracing of
classical figures, events, and themes in works of literature.
2. the derivation of literature from myth. An example of this approach is From
Ritual to Romance in
which the English medievalist Jessie Weston (1850-1928).
3. the focus on a common story line, combined with the search for mythic
patterns in literature.
Myths collectively are too varied to share a plot, but common plots have
been proposed for specific kinds of
myths, most often for hero myths. Other categories of myths, such as
creation myths, flood myths, myths of
paradise, and myths of the future, have proved too disparate for all but the
broadest commonalities. Most
notable attempts to delineate mythic patterns include:
In 1876 the Austrian scholar Johann Georg von Hahn uses fourteen cases to
argue that all “Aryan” hero
tales follow an “exposure and return” formula. In each case the hero is born
illegitimately, out of the fear of the
prophecy of his future greatness is abandoned by his father, is saved by
animals and raised by a lowly couple,
fights wars, returns home triumphant, defeats his persecutors, frees his
mother, becomes king, founds a city,
and dies young.
In 1914 the Viennese psychoanalyst Otto Rank publishes The Myth of the
Birth of the Hero, a classical Freudian
analysis of myth as the disguised, symbolic fulfillment of repressed,
overwhelmingly Oedipal wishes lingering in
the adult myth-maker or reader. Rank presents a common plot, or pattern,
for one category of myths: those of
male heroes. For Rank, following Freud, heroism deals with what Jungians call
the “first half of life”—birth,
childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood—and involves the
establishment of oneself as an independent
person in the external world. The attainment of independence expresses
itself concretely in the securing of a job
and a mate. The securing of either requires both separation from one's
parents and mastery of one's instincts,
but for Rank actually culminates in a literary fantasy about the fulfillment of
the Oedipal wish to kill one's father
in order to gain sexual access to one's mother. By identifying himself with
the named hero, the creator or reader
of the myth(ic story) acts out in his mind deeds that he would never dare act
out in the world. Even the Oedipal
deeds of the named hero are disguised, for the heroic pattern operates at or
near the manifest, not the latent,
Rank’s Hero Saga from The Myth of the Birth of the Hero develops the
following outline: The hero is the child
of most distinguished parents, usually the son of a king. His origin is
preceded by difficulties, such as
continence, or prolonged barrenness, or secret intercourse of the parents
due to external prohibition or
obstacles. During or before the pregnancy, there is a prophecy, in the form of
a dream or oracle, cautioning
against his birth, and usually threatening danger to the father or his
representative. As a rule, he is surrendered
to the water, in a box. He is then saved by animals, or by lowly people
(shepherds), and is suckled by a female
animal or by an humble woman. After he has grown up, he finds his
distinguished parents, in a highly versatile
fashion. He takes his revenge on his father, on the one hand, and is
acknowledged, on the other. Finally he
achieves rank and honors.
In 1928 the Russian folklorist Vladimir Propp seeks to demonstrate that
Russian fairy tales follow a
common plot, in which the hero goes off on a successful adventure and upon
his return marries and gains the
throne. Although Propp's pattern skirts both the birth and the death of the
hero, he attempts to establish a
pattern for hero stories.
Dr Marek Oziewicz Introduction to Literary Theory and Criticism
In 1936 the English folklorist Lord Raglan works out a detailed, twenty-two
step pattern for the myth of
the hero—a pattern he then applies to twenty-one myths—in his book The
Hero. Raglan makes the heart of hero
myths not the attainment of the throne but the loss of it, and his pattern
covers the whole of the hero's life.
What makes Raglan's theory applicable to literature is the centrality of the
plot; his myth-ritualism does not
merely make the plot the scenario for the ritual but argues for the ritual from
the plot.
Raglan’s Hero Myth pattern from The Hero consists of the following stages:
1. The hero's mother is a royal virgin;
2. His father is a king, and
3. Often a near relative of his mother, but
4. The circumstances of his conception are unusual, and
5. He is also reputed to be the son of a god.
6. At birth an attempt is made, usually by his father or his maternal
grandfather, to kill him, but
7. He is spirited away, and
8. Reared by foster-parents in a far country.
9. We are told nothing of his childhood, but
10. On reaching manhood he returns or goes to his future kingdom.
11. After a victory over the king and/or a giant, dragon, or wild beast,
12. He marries a princess, often the daughter of his predecessor, and
13. Becomes king.
14. For a time he reigns uneventfully, and
15. Prescribes laws, but
16. Later he loses favor with the gods and/or his subjects, and
17. Is driven from the throne and city, after which
18. He meets with a mysterious death,
19. Often at the top of a hill.
20. His children, if any, do not succeed him.
21. His body is not buried, but nevertheless
22. He has one or more holy sepulchers.
In 1949 the American mythographer Joseph Campbell publishes the
classically Jungian counterpart to
Rank’s work in his The Hero with a Thousand Faces. In it Campbell claims
that the standard path of the
mythological adventure of the hero is a magnification of the formula
represented in the rites of passage:
separation-initiation-return, which might be named the nuclear unit of the
monomyth. For Cambpell a hero
ventures forth, from the world of common day into a region of supernatural
wonder (Separation). There he
encounters fabulous forces and wins a decisive victory (Initiation). Then the
hero comes back from this
mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man
(Return). When Campbell writes that
the myths accompanying initiation rituals “reveal the benign self-giving
aspect of the archetypal father,” he is
using the term in its Jungian sense. For Freudians, gods symbolize parents.
For Jungians, parents symbolize
gods, who in turn symbolize father and mother archetypes, which are
components of the hero's personality. The
hero's relationship to these gods symbolizes the relationship of one side of a
male's personality—his ego—to
another side—his unconscious. The father and the mother are but two of the
archetypes of which the Jungian,
or “collective,” unconscious is composed. Archetypes are unconscious not
because they have been repressed
but because they have never been made conscious. For Jung and Campbell,
myth originates and functions not,
as for Freud and Rank, to satisfy neurotic urges that cannot be manifested
openly but to express normal sides of
the personality that have just not had a chance at realization. Thus for
Campbell male or female myth-maker or
reader vicariously lives out mentally an adventure that even when directly
fulfilled would still be taking place in
the mind. For parts of the mind are what the hero is really encountering.
However, where Jung espouses
balance between ego consciousness and the unconscious, Campbell
espouses fusion. Combining a philosophical
interpretation of hero myths with a psychological one, he takes all hero
myths to be preaching mystical oneness.
Dr Marek Oziewicz Introduction to Literary Theory and Criticism
Campbell’s stages of the heroic journey from The Hero with a Thousand
Faces include:
1. The Call to Adventure;
2. Refusal of the Call;
3. Supernatural Aid;
4. The Crossing of the First Threshold;
5. The Belly of the Whale.
1. The Road of Trials;
2. The Meeting with the Goddess;
3. Woman as the Temptress;
4. Atonement with the Father;
5. Apotheosis;
6. The Ultimate Boon.
1. Refusal of the Return;
2. The Magic Flight;
3. Rescue from Without;
4. The Crossing of the Return Threshold;
5. Master of the Two Worlds;
6. Freedom to Live.
1. They examine literature as echoing a ritualistic function, usually of
initiation into the mystery of adult life,
and basically growing out of myths through its use of mythic structures,
motives, plot patterns, and archetypes.
2. They point out the process of mythicization of contemporary literature as
evidence of the resilience of
myth and mythic structures of human imagination and cognition.
3. They propose mythic plotlines or structures as templates for specific forms
of literary expression (genres,
conventions) and they examine individual works of literature as variations of
those patterns.
4. They assume the unavoidability of mythic narratives in human life, tracing
the transformations of older
myths into modern ones.
5. They are looking for traces of “mythic expression” in all types of art, not
only literature, linking the
mythic with the imaginary and identifying a “mythic” and “archetypal”
context in literary works.
Postcolonialism deals with cultural identity in colonised societies: the dilemmas of
developing a national identity after colonial rule; the ways in which writers articulate and
celebrate that identity (often reclaiming it from and maintaining strong connections with the
coloniser); the ways in which the knowledge of the colonised (subordinated) people has been
generated and used to serve the coloniser's interests; and the ways in which the coloniser's
literature has justified colonialism via images of the colonised as a perpetually inferior people,
society and culture. These inward struggles of identity, history, and future possibilities often
occur in the metropolis and, ironically, with the aid of postcolonial structures of power, such as
universities. Not surprisingly, many contemporary postcolonial writers reside in London, Paris,
New York and Madrid.
The creation of binary opposition structures the way we view others. In the case of colonialism,
the Oriental and the Westerner were distinguished as different from each other (i.e. the
emotional, decadent Orient vs. the principled, progressive Occident). This opposition justified
the "white man's burden," the coloniser's self-perceived "destiny to rule" subordinate peoples. In
contrast, post-colonialism seeks out areas of hybridity and transculturalization. This aspect is
particularly relevant during processes of globalization.
In Post-Colonial Drama: theory, practice, politics, Helen Gilbert and Joanne Tompkins write:
"the term postcolonialism – according to a too-rigid etymology – is frequently misunderstood as
a temporal concept, meaning the time after colonialism has ceased, or the time following the
politically determined Independence Day on which a country breaks away from its governance
by another state, Not a naïve teleological sequence which supersedes colonialism,
postcolonialism is, rather, an engagement with and contestation of colonialism's discourses,
power structures, and social hierarchies ... A theory of postcolonialism must, then, respond to
more than the merely chronological construction of post-independence, and to more than just the
discursive experience of imperialism."[4]
Colonized peoples reply to the colonial legacy by writing back to the center, when the
indigenous peoples write their own histories and legacies using the coloniser's language (e.g.
English, French, Dutch) for their own purposes.[5] "Indigenous decolonization" is the intellectual
impact of postcolonialist theory upon communities of indigenous peoples, thereby, their
generating postcolonial literature.
A single, definitive definition of postcolonial theory is controversial; writers have strongly
criticised it as a concept embedded in identity politics. Ann Laura Stoler, in Carnal Knowledge
and Imperial Power, argues that the simplistic oppositional binary concept of Coloniser and
Colonised is more complicated than it seems, since these categories are fluid and shifting;
postcolonial works emphasise the re-analysis of categories assumed to be natural and immutable.
Postcolonial Theory - as epistemology, ethics, and politics - addresses matters of identity, gender,
race, racism and ethnicity with the challenges of developing a post-colonial national identity, of
how a colonised people's knowledge was used against them in service of the coloniser's interests,
and of how knowledge about the world is generated under specific relations between the
powerful and the powerless, circulated repetitively and finally legitimated in service to certain
imperial interests. At the same time, postcolonial theory encourages thought about the
colonised's creative resistance to the coloniser and how that resistance complicates and gives
texture to European imperial colonial projects, which utilised a range of strategies, including
anti-conquest narratives, to legitimise their dominance.
Postcolonial writers object to the colonised's depiction as hollow "mimics" of Europeans or as
passive recipients of power. Consequent to Foucauldian argument, postcolonial scholars, i.e. the
Subaltern Studies collective, argue that anti-colonial resistance accompanies every deployment
of power.

Archetypal literary criticism is a type of critical theory that interprets a text by focusing on
recurring myths and archetypes (from the Greek archē, or beginning, and typos, or imprint) in
the narrative, symbols, images, and character types in a literary work. As a form of literary
criticism, it dates back to 1934 when Maud Bodkin published Archetypal Patterns in Poetry.
Archetypal literary criticism’s origins are rooted in two other academic disciplines, social
anthropology and psychoanalysis; each contributed to the literary criticism in separate ways,
with the latter being a sub-branch of the critical theory. Archetypal criticism was its most popular
in the 1950’s and 1960’s, largely due to the work of Canadian literary critic Northrop Frye.
Though archetypal literary criticism is no longer widely practiced, nor have there been any major
developments in the field, it still has a place in the tradition of literary studies


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Shakespeare - Hamlet's Problem with
Sexual Inexperience, Mother-Son Relationship and Delayed
© Claire Cowling

Oct 12, 2008

Hamlet's problems, and the fate of Ophelia, in Shakespeare's tragedy can be

blamed on his inability to reconcile the idea of Gertrude, his mother, and her

Hamlet can be seen, according to W. Dyson Wood, as a young man of a delicate age of
indecision generally, not yet fully in harmony with himself, sexuality and the culture around him.
This certainly seems to be the case in the opening of Hamlet. He is out of tune with the rest of
the court, in theatrical terms, standing apart from those whom he sees as hypocritical.
Gertrude and Sexuality
It is here that the root of Hamlet’s problem is discovered – his mother’s hasty marriage to
Claudius. This is preying on his mind even before he discovers by means of the ghost that his
father had been murdered by Claudius. He is still trying to come to terms with his mother’s
sexuality and he has to work through these feelings before he can even really consider avenging
his father’s death.
By Elizabethan law, the marriage is incestuous and Hamlet has every right to call it so.
Elizabethans also had long terms of mourning for the dead, but Gertrude does not, which maybe
is symbolised by her inability to see the ghost of her dead husband. This, together with the
hastiness of her marriage could quite easily suggest to an audience as well as to Hamlet that
Gertrude may have been guilty of adultery while her husband was alive.
During the time that Hamlet is railing at his mother and trying to come to terms with the way
sexuality works, his thoughts have little scope left for thinking about killing Claudius. If
anything, he appears to be acting out his revenge on his mother for her suspected crime against
his father. This does not detract from the heroic ideal, however. Shakespeare uses the concept,
but with a difference, portraying the sensitive, thoughtful hero, rather than a two-dimensional
Homeric hero.
Condemning or Protecting Ophelia?
Hamlet displays a degree of ambiguous feeling towards Ophelia, resulting in his ultimate
rejection of her. His behaviour stems from his undeveloped, juvenile feelings of sexuality
surrounding his mother. Hamlet is obviously shocked and dismayed by what he assumes is his
mother’s lack of moral strength. Critics such as Muir believe, therefore, that he heartlessly
condemns Ophelia with:

To a nunnery, go; and quickly too. (III,1, l.147)

because he assumes that Ophelia, like Gertrude, must be a corrupt female and, in saying this, he
betrays his sexually inexperienced thoughts about all women.
However, it is possible that Hamlet sees the nunnery as Ophelia’s means of protecting herself
against the sins of the flesh. He asks Ophelia:
Why would’st thou be a breeder of sinners? (III,1, l.124-5)
This suggests that, although in his own mind he associates all women with hypocritical love, he
is actually trying to protect Ophelia from corruption. This is highlighted further when Hamlet
describes her as innocent when he discovers she is dead. Evidently, Hamlet has loved Ophelia as
he not only sacrificed his own happiness with her earlier in the play, but he is stirred into action
by the discovery of her death.
There is also another possibility, which is rooted in the inexperience of Hamlet himself. In
expressing his wish to hide Ophelia away in a nunnery, it suggests Hamlet’s fear of sexuality and
carnal love. It causes him to wish the removal of the only link he has with desire.
The Tragedy of Hamlet’s Psychology
It is a rash thought, and through Hamlet’s only rash deed of the entire play – that of killing
Polonius, Ophelia’s father – that Ophelia’s fate is sealed. She thus suffers madness and death,
due to Hamlet’s agitation and undeveloped knowledge about the relationships of men and
women which prays on his mind throughout and is the reason for the catastrophic fatality of
Polonius, Ophelia and Hamlet’s own happiness.
It can be seen. then, that the moral and sexuality-based distractions of a young, experienced
Hamlet are at the root of both Hamlet’s delay in taking revenge for his father’s murder and of the
fate of Ophelia, a true, tragic heroine.
But Hamlet can be sympathised with. A modern audience can see Hamlet has a point: Gertrude
does settle rather quickly into her new role as queen to Claudius. To an Elizabethan audience, he
is right is condemning his mother and he needs to work through these feelings before embarking
upon any kind of revenge.
It seems only logical that Hamlet, as a young man, would be distracted by the possibility of
morally dubious sexuality of his mother and contemplates his revenge. It is this inexperience –
the flaw in his character - in true Shakespearean tragic form, which leads to the ultimate
catastrophic chain of events for Ophelia

Young Goodman Brown | Summary

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"Young Goodman Brown" opens with Young Goodman Brown about to embark on an evening's
journey. His young wife, Faith, fearful for some unknown reason, beseeches him to delay his
journey. Goodman Brown, however, stresses that he has a task that must be accomplished before
sunrise, and so the newlyweds reluctantly part. As he walks down the street, Goodman Brown
chides himself for leaving Faith while he goes on his journey and resolves that, after this night,
he will stay by the side of his good and pious wife. Pleased with himself, Goodman Brown then
hurries through the forest to..
Young Goodman Brown | Introduction
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3. Cite this Page
4. Ask a Question
"Young Goodman Brown," written in 1835 by Nathaniel Hawthorne is known for being one of
literature's most gripping portrayals of seventeenth-century Puritan society. The tale first
appeared in the April issue of New England Magazine and was later included in Hawthorne's
popular short story collection, Mosses from an Old Manse, in 1846.
"Young Goodman Brown" tells the tale of a young Puritan man drawn into a covenant with the
Devil. Brown's illusions about the goodness of his society are crushed when he discovers that
many of his fellow townspeople, including religious leaders and his wife, are attending a Black
Mass. At the end of the story, it is not clear whether Brown's experience was nightmare or reality,
but the results are nonetheless the same. Brown is unable to forgive the possibility of evil in his
loved ones and as a result spends the rest of his life in desperate loneliness and gloom.
Though a work of fiction, "Young Goodman Brown'' is widely considered to be one of the most
effective literary works to address the hysteria surrounding the Salem Witch Trials of 1692.
Hawthorne is also remembered for helping to establish the short story as a respected form of
literature and as a proponent of instilling morals and lessons into his writing.
Young Goodman Brown Summary
"Young Goodman Brown" opens with Young Goodman Brown about to embark on an evening's
journey. His young wife, Faith, fearful for some unknown reason, beseeches him to delay his
journey. Goodman Brown, however, stresses that he has a task that must be accomplished before
sunrise, and so the newlyweds reluctantly part. As he walks down the street, Goodman Brown
chides himself for leaving Faith while he goes on his journey and resolves that, after this night,
he will stay by the side of his good and pious wife. Pleased with himself, Goodman Brown then
hurries through the forest to accomplish some unknown task.
Deeper in the forest Goodman Brown spies an old man, who is actually the Devil in disguise,
waiting for him. Goodman Brown blames Faith for making him late. The older man, who has a
curious resemblance to Goodman Brown, carries a staff which resembles a black snake. When
the older man urges Goodman Brown to take the staff to ease his walk, Goodman Brown
expresses second thoughts and his intention to go home. The older man convinces Goodman
Brown to walk with him, however, and listen to the reasons why he should continue. Goodman
Brown agrees and murmurs that his forefathers, good honest Christians, would never go on such
a walk.
To his surprise, Brown finds this is not true. His companion tells him that he is well acquainted
with the Brown family and that he helped Brown's father and grandfather commit acts such as
the punishment of religious dissenters and the massacre of Indians. While Goodman Brown
expresses surprise, his companion... » Complete Young Goodman Brown Summary