MYTH AND MODERN MAN by Raphael Patai


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This ambitious study of ""the influence exerted by myth on men living in our modern world"" begins by reviewing different myth theories (Freud's, Jung's, Lord Raglan's, Malinowski's, et al.) and quickly rejecting the progressionist notion that we are slowly abandoning mythology for scientific reality. Patai (an anthropology professor, Fairleigh Dickinson Univ.) argues instead that ancient myths pervade contemporary life: the Hercules tale is at the root of our comic book and serial heroes; the ""Death of God"" myth has its origins in Pan's demise; counterculture radicals are linked to the utopian primitivist myth of yore; that Playboy rabbit ""is no ordinary rabbit, but a mythical quasi-human rabbit"" (folklore's symbol of profligacy) and the Key ""an old phallic symbol!""; the ""great Marxian myth"" is cut from Judeo-Christian eschatological myths; even Mickey Mouse is accorded an entire chapter, his mythopoetic ancestry gleaned from Thompson's Motif-Index of Folk-Literature. Professor Patai seems to have an advanced case of deformation professionelle: every scrap of modern political, sexual, religious, and cultural experience is forced through his one-track myth machine and the end result is often quite singular. But nothing is stranger than his final suggestion: ""Myth must be made to serve as a unifying, goal-giving force in modern democratic national life."" We must not ""let the fertile loam of mythmaking and mythical influencing lie fallow"" but rather become ""united by a central myth and the idea of a great, and necessarily mythical, venture. . . the myth of democracy."" This would-be mythopoet has been living with myths much too long.

Pub Date: Feb. 14th, 1971
Publisher: Prentice-Hall