Looking at Myth Part One: Bruce Lincoln and Theorizing Myth

When we think about the influence of myth on fantasy and science fiction, Joseph Campbell springs immediately to mind due to his influence on George Lucas and Star Wars. But what about modern and contemporary interpretations and theories of myth? Well, here is my review of one recent take: Bruce Lincoln’s Theorizing Myth: Narrative, Ideology, and Scholarship (2000).

Before I get to my review, I must thank L.B. Gale for putting up a list of book recommendations on her blog dealing with recent scholarship on myth. With out that post, I would never have heard of Bruce Lincoln (and certainly never have read this book).

Lincoln posits that “myth is ideology in narrative form.” This statement has forced me to rethink and reevaluate my own approach to myth.

No longer can I see myth as just sacred stories, forgotten history, or poetic inspiration. Now, I must question how these myths narrate the ideologies of their communities, their speakers, etc.

And I must expand what I see as myth to include a plethora of new stories and narratives.

On a personal level, I really enjoyed this book. It is academic, but Lincoln adroitly avoids many of the pitfalls of academic writing.

The book is composed of three parts. Part one looks at the history of myth in Greece between the Archaic and Classical periods. Part two jumps forward to explore the renewed focus on myth from the Renaissance to World War II (and especially how mythic studies played into colonialism, racism, and Nazi ideology). Part three looks briefly at mythic studies after WWII before engaging in a series of brief chapters explicating the idea that “myth is ideology in narrative form.”

The only issue I have with the text is that I wish Lincoln and taken more time to  explore various examples of myth= ideology in narrative form in addition to the few chapters at the end of the book.

Now, if one is interested in myth and how myth studies can influence and inform the writing of fantasy and science fiction, then I highly recommend this book.

How can Theorizing Myth inform the writing of fantasy and science fiction? Well, I haven’t had the chance to find that out yet. But when I do, expect me to write a post about it.

That’s it for this post. I’m planning to post something tomorrow. And expect me to have a second post in this series when I finish Wendy Doniger’s The Implied Spider.

I love interlibrary loans!


Posted on September 20, 2012, in Books and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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