Culminating exercise

Mythology is not simply a collection of old stories, the majority of them untrue. Henry Nash Smith, who sought to apply principles of mythology to the study of American westward expansion, argued that American culture can be read as a common language coprise of myths and symboles, “ collective representations rather than the work of a single mind”. While Smith did not take into account that myths could change over time, other scholars have argued that such change is inescapable and critical. And we have discussed that Jhon Cawelti finds meaning in differences among myths, whether the same myth told at different times or same basic story told in different places. Joseph Campbell, on the orher hand, argued that the stories in mythology were stories of individual growth and maturation. That is, in speaking of the hero’s journey. Campbell held that it traced stages that all of us go through as we become “heros in our own lives.” For your culminating exercise, keeping in mind both Henry Nash Smith and Joseph Campbell, what do you think myths do? You may draw on your own experience and observations of course, and on the myth that we have discussed and any others you wish to use. Explain whether the function of myths is primary individual or primarily collective. Give example to illustrate.


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