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Story Lab

Myth: The Story of Cultures

2. Mythology: The Story of Cultures. A way of creating, organising, and paricipating in the world. A paradigm for being in the world: Sotry/myth as working model. Myth to culture to society to daily lives in the concentric myth's story. {Back to Story Lab "stuff"}

The Text

Myth - Literary Traditions

PN 56.M94'G6 "Mythical Intentions in Modern Literature", by Eric Gould, ISBN ??.??.????.?? (Princeton, 1981) [P.33] The Archetype as Concealing Nothing We begin with the fact that the archetype/myth must be interpretable for it to exist and to exert any power at all. Of course, we can-not be sure whether the archetype has any objective and an a priori life, but we have been so involved with the concpet of the un-conscious that [it] has been difficult to avoid begging the question and inventing the term "pre-conscious".
But we must always ask what the need is for this dimenison to myth in the first place. Surely myth is at its most efficient as a sign system. If I have opened this this chapter with a certain skepticism over the nature of essentialialst myth and archetype, it is not because I must be uncertain of having established a cogito, or that I want to deny the unconscious, but because I assume that the archetype is a priori no absolute in the terms that Jung insistes on, for we have no way of proving its independence from consciousness, nor of denyting open-endedness as part of a system of signs. [Note 24] If this is the case, then the archetype is but a representation of experience resulting itself from the quite distinct intent to make an interpretation of the wolrd. THis very much the assertion of modern structural anthropology, as we now kow from LÚvi-Strauss does offer, will have any power of persuasion unless [P.34] it seems to follow from the very conditions of human interpretation which, in turn, under-pin the necessity for myth. In other words, behind all definitions of mythicity -- including implicitly that of LÚvi-Strauss, as we shall see -- must lie a clear allegory of intent, which I want to examine in the next few pages. What we consider essential about myth seems to me to be no more or less than its exemplary functioning of intending to interpret, whether its object is social compromise, the supernatural, quesitons coverting the self and its place in repordicing that intent, can inevitably reach no conclusion other than its own necessity. The key to understanding that circularity lies very much in post-Saussurean linguistics and its place in modern philosophical hereneutics. Neither subject will bear full repetition here, for each has been disucssed frequently in contemporary criticsm [LOCAL NOTE 18], but short summaries are in order. The linguistic model for interpretation developed by Structurealism and semiotics decleares that there is no escpe (in Frederic Jameson's terms) from "the prison-house of language". THe word always reveals an un-bridgeable gap between the signifier and the signefied, a text and the reader, a sign and its meaning. Languae itsel fis always prior to meaning and relies for its shared quality not on a fusion of word and thing, text and authority, but on its figural capacity to exploit this gap between signifier and signfied. Thus, semiotics has insisted that language has a life of its own. It thinks man as much as man claims to think language. However clearly words refer out to some thing, they also draw specivie attneitto there torpe ???? of reference, the inside and the outside of their metaphors, the science ofthier signifers because the owd is never fuesed with the thing itself. As Paud de Man ha s put it, "the de-mystifying power of semiology ... has been considerable. It demonstrated theat the perception ofth e iterary dimentions of langues is largely obscured if one submits un-critcally to the authoriyt of reference" [LOCAL NOTGE 19]. P.35 But, even as semiotics de-mystrifes the old historicist impulses in cirti cism, it must re-mystify the text by rasigin the wholoe issue of how weords mean nont only thgouth reference that we can share, but through the textas metaphorical abilibyt to suggest absent meanings. Texts have hidden complexes of meaning, un-stated intentions implied by the very play of the ropes them-selves. As reading and wring become objects of stury, acts of intervention attempting to ro reduce th enon-meaning of the word as signifer, so they involoe the discover y of specific historical condtions to meaning. Any act of interprestion implies a mediation between a subject intent on understanding and event and an object ti be interpreted. Butg, rather than insist theat the mediation is simply a matter of turning an inherernt dualism of self and the other into some kind ofconvenitently endless "dialectgical interachnge" (or into the assumpiton that they two can never actually merge even in symbolic discourse, and so knowledge is sdoomed to pessimistic incompletion), we can treat the phenomenology and history of the subject and object as facts that work against such a dualism. They establish both the gap between the two and the attempt to close it. By the phinolmenoloyg of the subject or object, I mean again their presnece in the activity of consciousnes sdiscoverable in language, an activity that defines both the scineces of man and the science of phenomena once the full complcitiy of a perceiving self and of an other for it to perceive have been constituted in the play. The quesinton has beeen posed often enough: which is centgeral to inepretaiton theory: The phenomenoloyg o f perceptin, or, the historeiclal conditions of the participants? The answer, one can aruge (after much recent interpreation theory), lies in defining the historicity of consciounes and language which makes of interpretation a network of possibilities. THe act of interpreation, that is, is one of psychologically reconstituting the ojbec tin the subject which estableishse: a) an emphatic pleasre-and-knowledge-seeking cogito (Freud's desidero as well as b) the acivity of an other, in c) an historical context embracing each other. P.36 The reconstruction is of the subject, the object, and the historical meaning all at once. The act of interpretiation is a discovery of the way the historical contingency of self and other acutally allows each to be in some way related and even transformed in the efforts of understanding. [[21] We can postulate a hypothetical origin to consciousness and history in a myster of the un-conscious, as in Jung's primordial image or, say, in RenÚ Girard's ????????? sacred but surrogate act of violence. [LOCAL NOTE 20] But, any exclusivity of mythic origin used to explain history is bound to be an over-simplification and to congeal the play of interpretation. [21] As Jacques Derrida has argued in "Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences" -- an essay which is surely one of thekey texts for modern interpretation theory -- the central signifier never exists outside a system of differences: There is no unity or absolute source of myth. [23] The focus or the source of the myth are always shadows and vitualities which are elusive, un-actualizable, and non-existent in the first place. Everything begins with structure, configuration, or relationship. The discourse on the acentric structure that myth itself is,k can-not itself have an absolute subject or an absolute centre. It must avoid the violence that consists in centrering a languge which describes an acentric sturcture if it is not to short-change the form and movement of myth. Therefore, it is ncessary to fore-go scientific and philosophical discourse, to renounce the episteme which absolutely ??? requrires, which is the abolute requirement that we go back to the source, to the centre, to the founding basis, to the prinicple, and so on. [LOCAL NOTE 21] [Anyway, i find much of these discussions to be v. tedious and absolutist; to say the least] [Further down, at the bottom of P.39] ... In short, interpretation theory, via Heideger and more importantly, Gadamer, has translated the cogito into all [of] the tensions of the lingusitc order: Language has appropriated the self as its humanising context and as the reflection of history. THe process of humanisation can-not ignore that words are not things, and that as we use words, we are psychologically decentred (a process that I shall disucss later in realtion to Jacques Lacan) in order to allow concealing as well as revealing to emerge. [I take this to mean (decentred) that while we are speaking, we are not aware of how we are using language (to a certain extent); and i would say this goes back to Sartre as well -- again, pls excuse my rather vast ingorance; Gould continues...] THis theory, in different forms, is common to Nietzsche, Fred, Heidegger, and, more recently to Derrida and Lacan. What I want to treat as this stubborn fact about interpretation theoyr -- more stubborn, that is, than the romantic psychology a Schleiermacher, or even a Girard -- is the clue to our decining mythicity of myth and literature in the modern. Since myth is language, it is a response to the conditions of language itself. [emphasis, Gould's] p.40


[21] Indeed, this goes back the fundamental problem of the observer/observed (QM, chaos, etc). For exmample, in the conversation as to "what the art work should be for the next assignment", each and *every* statment/question by the "tearcher" must necessarily affect the "state" of the student, and as such the "output" (the work to be started) consequently changes. An example of this occurs in the film "They Might Be Giants" when "Holmes" (George C. Scott) is trying to guess the reason by "Mr. Small" doesn't talk. He can talk, but doesn't talk -- not because he doesn't want to, but simply because he "can't" (can't in the sense of "is not allowed to"). Thus, in the "self" trying to understand the "other", the other is in turn changed as well. Thus, in the end the "understaning" that the "self" gains is about an "other" that no-longer exists. And of course the "protrusion" of "this is what i am" extended by the "other" is a "past" self, and no longer valid. Naturally, the degree of this *validity* varies. In some cases, for example, using photons to explore a black hole, does v. litle to change the exact nature of what the black hole is -- the validigy is v. high. Note too that the "simultaneous" *reconstruction* of the self, other and historical context is also subject to uncertainty. This is a central point of the application of chaos theory to show that "history does NOT repeat itself". But, by the same means we can consider the "actions" as a assiciated text (or at least an associated list) of the historical now. Thus, as H.G. Wells pointed out "Those that do not learn from the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them". Note that it is the *mistakes* that are repeated, not the history itself. This fact was brought home during the Viet Nam war when generals learned that the lay of the land was similar to that in the civil war, and they purposefully drove the troops to attempt to "re-enact" the battle. Totally absurd; but, then that *is* military intellegence. At the same time, we must be aware that for end-state determined systemd (ie, ones for which the outcome can *only* be from a finite number of well-defined (or not) "states"), that a totally different set of initial conditions, as well as overt actions can end up in the same state. This led to the now-classic mis-conception that the fall of the Soviet Empire spelled the "end of history" -- as if history was a finite phenomenological substance that could "dry up". (It is intriguing to wonder what such a substance would be replaced with; "nature abhoring a vacuum-wise ;) {Back to the TEXT} [22] Not necessarily. One current theory of the origin of this universe is that a "quantum bubble" pulled away from the "pool" (imaine a bubblin vast, pool of molten lava), and one such bubble pulled awasy sufficiently to where it did not re-join the pull, and as such formed the singularity that is our universe. In the same way, that from such a singularity we can imagine that there might be an infinite number of TYPES of universes, each with their own properties. (indeed, my *little* understaning of) Martin Reese's "Just Six Numbers" indicates that there could be a whole host of universes that "almost made it" (or as i refer to them in my fictions as "universe both possible and impossible"; ie, consider a universe that pulls away and the "mix" of the numbers gives forth to a still-borne universe that is *both* stable and yet un-productive. It might never re-join the original quantum super-pool. Refer to: "Last Hour Effort", as well as "42-story". Alas, i digress ;) The inter-play of *interpretation* is again a part of the revealing of "truth" (or if you will, the *distinguishing* of various parts of the self/other or in a greater sense the universe itself. (Again, this refers back to several key concepts: 1) In G. Spencer Brown's "Laws of form" -- the dividing line (the discriminant) that makes the distinction creates the self/other (yes, i know i'm stretching his origina intention here which i feel to be as great an impact on philsophy as was that of relativity or un-decidability, russel's paradox, etc). Regardless Thus, once we see the "final state" (ie, either after some major historical/personal event) and then we congeal down "this is what it means/meant" this suffers from the "water-fall falacy" of both inevitability and more "dangerously" the falacy of "a theory that fits all of the facts"; and thus curtails further inquiry into that area of discourse. 2) Again, the interpretation depends upon us with additional input of thought and previous literature. That is, while there *might* be a common collective un-conscious from which the archetypes are drawn at either a conscious or un-conscious level -- we then *interpret* things based on the then-current literary methods, trends, etc. Thus, while there might be a common source for the "now interpretation" of the past, we are bound to be "locally limited" in our thinking and attribution of weights to the various *variables* that we *observe*, while of course being incapable (other than in thought experiments and "of-necessity" argument) of descerning the hidden variables. What this means, is that of course we *are* limited in our scope, and the need for "simplifying assumptions", will lead us (lazy that we are) to conclude simply: "this is WHY that happened. Which is notably equavalent to "this is WHAT that means". 3) The "answer" that we get is determined by the question that we ask (42). If we feel that the origin must be either ORIGINAL or NON-ORIGINAL, we get different out-comes in the interpretation. But, this *does* go back to Gould's assertion that the "single source" would "congeal the interpretation". But, i would maintain that by ignoring certain variables (or per (2), above, assigning them differing or arbitrary WEIGHTS), we automatically influnence the interpretation that we will draw. The only way that i see to avoid this, is the simple acceptance of undertainty; even if the origin were completely deterministic in nature. 4) Even if the single-origin is a fact of the "system", we still need to consider things like "distance" in both terms of "distance in time" and "distance in space". And of course, once we accept the chaotic nature of natural processes (at least in this universe), then there can be little chance that the "play of interpretation" will simply just *congeal* (unless we "help it" -- ie, again the intrusionist/god-function role that we tend to take on). {Back to the TEXT} [23] Again (and pls excuse my nievte here) would argue that that might not be the case at all. For example, say we have two islands on one there are birds, on the other no birds. On the two islands there are tribes (they have contact with each other). An airplane flies across each island. The origin of "the great bird" is essentially interprted based on their different experements. (You will recall, that somewhere there actually was an island and when they observed a plane flying overhead, they built an effigy to it). Regardless the *same* event will in the two cases (unless we revert to the ideas outlined in note [21], above) will almost certainly give forth two different myths. (This of course goes back to Joseph Campbell's assertion that at the basis of it in history, every myth is based on some *fact*. And of course, we all know the idea of "created story" that then becomes mythologised over time, and eventually accepted as *gospel* truth by even later generations). (Needless to say, Jacques and Francois do not see i-2-i on this point ;) As to his next assertion, i would say that there is *inevitably* going to be some "story drift" in the story. (i stand behind the "inevitailitinesss" idea that even in the case of Homer, we don't if the text was annoated/extended/reduced/modified -- as long as the *format* was maintained, we have little detail of how it might have under-gone change. Of course, with such a rigid structure, it is less likely that the story would drift from a purely word-for-word basis, but there is *no* assurance that along the way some narrator changed it, or some king decreed an "edit" was *recommended*. {Back to the TEXT} [24] One interesting note is the (modern?) development of a manufactured set of symbols/signs/archetypes that are exported by the manufacturing/merchandising/advertising. This brings up the concept of branding (where is Kyle when you need him?). That is, we are programmed to recognise the various brands and symbols (as well as attributes that are forced-ly tied to them). The best example is that of the diamond industry. "A diamond is forever" is the trade mark (hmm, where are my notes on South Afrika, DeBeers, etc?) phrase that is tied to the diamond as *the* lasting gift for your sweetie. Note that this set of symbols/archetypes are created by the main diamond distributor which are then in turn of benefit to the "middle men" (eg, Kay Jewlers, Zales, etc). In the same way, the "brand qualities" are created and attached to the brand things; eg, Rolex, Lexus, Saab, etc. To each item is attached a *story* which becomes the carrier of the item becoming a (if you will allow me with-out too much cringing) Hyper-Archetypical Reality Specifier And these *specifiers* are what these manufactured archetypes are intended to be; ie, the manufacturer is creating an artificial reality by creating a completely arbitrary (but not un-planned) set of *relationships* between the thing and the thing as intended to be perceived. That is, manufacturers today (and prob YesterYear as well) create a *campaign* to be sold en mass to the public so that they will not only identify the product, but to create the perceived need in them of the thing. Often pre-exisitng myths/beliefs/traditions are "adapted" to fit the manufacturer's need to create the "new" thing. One example is that of St. Nicholas who has become to be personified as a jolly fat white man with a white beard (differing signficantly with the historical St. Nicholas of ??place?? in Turkey). To this characture, the Coca Cola company attached Santa Claus as enjoying a coke: Thus, instead of Milk and Cookies (signs of Wholesomeness and the Hearth/Home) we see a bottle of Coke left out for the jolly old man. This sort of re-vamping of pre-existing myths/beliefs/traditions goes on all of the time. And, it is not limited to the commercial world. One has only to listen to the more strident preachers who have amassed a following (almost entirely via television these days) and thus "guide" their flock to certain understandings and interpretations of not only the physical world around them, but the *proper* "view" of the spiritual and cultural values/systems around them. In one instance, a radio preacher (defending Israel's policies in regards to Palestine), refered to the materialists as wanting to tear down the Wailing Wall, and the fact that one of the Muslim's mosques was on the other side of it, and the retribution meted out on the Sodomites -- all of this within a single paragraph of "teachings". I would be amazed if *any* of his listeners questioned these calls to anger as originating from the Prince of Peace. {Back to the TEXT} [25] {Back to the TEXT} [26] {Back to the TEXT} [27] {Back to the TEXT} [28] {Back to the TEXT} [21] {Back to the TEXT} [30] {Back to the TEXT} [31] {Back to the TEXT} ***** NOTE TO SELF: need to move the entire following discussion to either MODERNISM/PERF or feminism in the AH directory PN 56.S46'G37'1995, "Repositioningings: Readings in contemporary poetry, photography, and peformance art", by Frederick Garber, ISBN 0.271.01409 (Penn State Univ, 1995).