Concepts of myth and ritual, and criticism of Shakespeare, 1880-1970
Verma, Rajiva (1972) Concepts of myth and ritual, and criticism of Shakespeare, 1880-1970. PhD thesis, University of Warwick.
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This work is a study of the various concepts and theories of myth and ritual as they are found in some non-literary disciplines, especially anthropology, in literary theory, and in the criticism of Shakespeare. It is divided into two parts. Part I discusses various theories of myth and ritual and the relation of these theories to literature in general. It consists of five chapters. Chapter 1 discusses the allegorical theory of myth, and tries to show that the idea of myth as allegory persists in literary criticism, even though it has generally been discarded in theory. It suggests that the majority of criticism in terms of myth and ritual can, in fact, be seen as the extension to literary material of the kind of allegorical and typological exegesis that has been widely practised in scriptural hermeneutic from very early times. This suggestion is tested with reference to Shakespeare-criticism in Chapter 6 in Part II. Chapter 2 discusses the idea of ritual and the specifically anthropological theories concerning the connexions between myth, ritual, and drama. It is suggested here that the idea of ritual as such, and a psychological-cum-sociological extension of the concept of the scapegoat may be critically more valuable than the mere tracing of the origins of works of art in primitive rituals. Chapter 3 discusses ideas concerning a special mythical mode of thought, emphasis being placed here on the theory of Ernst Cassirer. Chapter 4 is concerned with the theories of Northrop Frye and Levi-Strauss, who are both, in their very different ways, interested in the 'structural' approach to myth. Chapter 5 surveys theories concerning the social role of myth and ritual and also discusses the relation between myth and ideology. It is proposed here that application of anthropological theories of myth and ritual in literary criticism should logically lead to a sociological approach to the work of art. Part II is also divided into five chapters, each surveying the existing 'myth' criticism of Shakespeare in the light of the theories outlined in the corresponding chapter in Part I. It emerges from this survey that contrary to the common impression, the influence of anthropological theory, especially of the theories that come after Frazer and the 'Cambridge' anthropologists, has been relatively slight where actual criticism is concerned. In fact, we find that the overwhelming majority of the criticism of Shakespeare in terms of myth is really an extension of allegorical mythography to secular, literary works. In such criticism there is usually an assumption that the work under consideration is of mythical or scriptural status and hides some profound and universal truth. Sometimes, however, such criticism may also be seen as an attempt to raise the work of art to the status of myth.
|Item Type:||Thesis or Dissertation (PhD)|
|Subjects:||P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0080 Criticism|
|Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH):||Criticism, Myth in literature, Ritual in literature, Anthropology, Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616 -- Criticism and interpretation|
|Institution:||University of Warwick|
|Theses Department:||Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies|
|Supervisor(s)/Advisor:||Hunter, G. K.|
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