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Humanities 2018, 7(1), 14; doi:10.3390/h7010014

Myth

Folklore, Department of Cultures, University of Helsinki, PL 59 (Unioninkatu 38 D 230), 00014 Helsinki, Finland
Received: 21 November 2017 / Revised: 19 January 2018 / Accepted: 23 January 2018 / Published: 30 January 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Challenge of Folklore to the Humanities)
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Abstract

Myth has become a fundamental frame of reference for Western thinking. This paper explores the term and category “myth” from the perspective of folklore studies, with concern for the use of myth as a tool in research. The ways in which myth has been used in both academic and popular discourses are discussed. These are viewed in a historical perspective against the backdrop of the origins of the modern term. Attention is given to how historical patterns of use have encoded “myth” with evaluative stance-taking, building an opposition of “us” versus “them” into myth as something “other people” have, in contrast to us, who know better. Discussion then turns to approaching myth as a type of story. The consequences of such a definition are explored in terms of what it does or does not include; the question of whether, as has often been supposed, myth is a text-type genre, is also considered. Discussion advances to aesthetic evaluation at the root of modern discussions of myth and how this background informs the inclination to identify myth as a type of story on the one hand while inhibiting the extension of the concept to, for example, historical events or theories about the world or its origins, on the other. Approaching myth as a type of modeling system is briefly reviewed—an approach that can be coupled to viewing myth as a type of story. Finally, discussion turns to the more recent trend of approaching mythology through mythic discourse, and the consequences as well as the benefits of such an approach for understanding myth in society or religion. There are many different ways to define myth. The present article explores how different approaches are linked to one another and have been shaped over time, how our definition of myth and the way we frame the concept shape our thinking, and can, in remarkably subtle ways, inhibit the reflexive application of the concept as a tool to better understand ourselves. View Full-Text
Keywords: myth; mythology; folklore; history of research; theory; ideology myth; mythology; folklore; history of research; theory; ideology
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Frog. Myth. Humanities 2018, 7, 14.

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