Why is mythology so widely studied?

Roman Mythology Read more from
Chapter Religion

The mythologies of various peoples are studied for their religious meanings, for their similarities to each other, and as a way of understanding the culture that originated them. Through the centuries, scholars have arrived at various conclusions about mythology. Scottish anthropologist Sir James Frazer (1854–1941) studied folklore and religion and found parallel beliefs between the systems of primitive cultures and christianity. He published his theories in the highly influential work titled The Golden Bough (1890), proposing that all myths center on the cycles of nature and birth, death, and resurrection. Polish-born English anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski (1884–1942) asserted that myths are nothing more than the validation of accepted social behavior and patterns within a culture. Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung (1875–1961) posited that all cultures have unconsciously formed the same mythic symbols or motifs (called archetypes). To many theologians, mythologies are viewed simply as corruptions of the Bible.

Whatever their meaning or however they are interpreted, myths have figured prominently in literature—from the fifth-century B.C. works of Greek tragedian Aeschylus to the twentieth-century works of poets T. S. Eliot and Wallace Stevens.


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