Discussion in 'Ancient History and Mythology' started by Limbo, Dec 31, 2006.
Can anyone recommend any good comparative mythology books, documentaries, or lectures?
Welcome to CR Limbo !
I would highly recommend Joseph Campbell's , The Power of Myth, for a starter book and that will lead you to other work that he's done, all of which are excellent in their own right. The book was a companion reference which complimented a PBS video series that he did with Bill Moyers sometime ago before he passed. I would bet that you could get a copy through a reputable library just about anywhere, and I'd be very surprised if a copy or two weren't available on E-Bay, Amazon etc. Maybe even PBS is still selling them.
You'll also see Juantoo3 posting here and there. Just PM him and ask about what he recommends in this area. He's more familiar with others who haver written in this area, such as Frazier, who is considered to have been the greastest of the early multiculturalists. If you could find a copy of Ruth Benedict's book, Patterns of Culture, that is also excellent...as is anything written by Mircea Eliade.
Have fun !...flow....
Yes indeed, I'm very familiar with the works of Joseph Campbell. I've seen all his video series and heard all his audio lectures and read a few of his books.
Very helpful, thanks!
an old book, the golden bough, by sir james frazer... great fun
Kindest Regards, Limbo, and welcome to CR!
My thanks to flow for the brief intro, and my apologies for having missed this thread.
Since Campbell and Frazer are already mentioned, the other "kingpin" I would suggest in this study would be Rev. Alexander Hyslop, "The Two Babylons." I have also stumbled on some interesting info related to this subject from Carl Jung, and another fellow who influenced Freud, William James. This last fellow is probably flirting more with institutional religion rather than mythos, but the two disciplines intertwine considerably. Hope this helps...
campbell and frazer, although authoritative, exhaustive and persuasive, should nevertheless be taken with a pinch of salt - they seem terribly keen to prove that their frameworks are all-encompassing and consequently tend to ignore or retrofit things that are inconvenient for their theories. they're a bit ignorant about judaism, for a start, although they manage to fit most of the biblical stuff into their pattern, they're prone to ignore the internal logic of a system. freud is much the same ("oh, it's your dad in a beard in the sky") and jung can be a bit bonkers. i personally would recommend the work of anthropologists like mary douglas who don't just sneer at everything in a chauvinist eurocentric way.
I briefly commented on some of those scholars and some others/more in topic/thread:
It would help if you ("Limbo") said what in particular in/on comparative mythology you are interested in (if you know). I dont want to seem self-important &/or disrespectful/offesnive but it is a bit offensive how forums/group-lists always have their established subject "expert" members/posters who other members so readily recommend/refer to/suggest (juantoo3 here (comp myth), holly on anc bib hist list (semit lingusitics), sharrukin on allempires (anc mesopotam/mid east hist). I like to think that I know/able somewhat in/on the subject(s) myself.
So often as even here there are issues in comp myth (and other fields) about judaeo-xtianity vs non/anti/a-, euro vs multi/non, chauvin/patri vs matri/femin.
A book I've read recently entitled 'Comparative Mythology' by Jaan Puhvel is definitely worth reading. Although it only compares Indo-european mythology, rather than all mythologies. It's a difficult read, in palaces, with loads of scholarly etymological stuff, although after dipping into to it a few more times, I've got quite a lot of info out of it.
Frazer was a classical scholar, and even though his theories on the evolution of religion are outdated, He knew what he was talking about when it came to the greeks and romans.
My first introduction to mythology was 'the Two Babylons'. At the time I was totally sucked into it, and it introduced me to the belief in a pagan saviour type figures, who preceded Christianity in various mystery systems and mythology in general. However, I've learned quite a lot since I first picked it up, and I regard the central argument of the book (that Roman Catholicism is based on the Babylonian worship of Nimrod and his wife Semiramis) to be wrong.
I'd recommend all four volumes of Campbell's 'Masks of God'. I agree with bananabrain, that Joseph Campbell is a bit ignorant of Judaism (as well as Christianity), and favours Oriental religions, such as Upanishadic Hinduism, Buddhism, Daoism, etc, over Occidental Monotheism. His main focus is on the universal ideas behind religious symbols (masks of god), rather than the local reformed ideas.
Another author I love is Robert Graves. 'The White Goddess' is compulsive reading, but a hopelessly impossible book to follow. But it does contain some real gems. Two chapters I love are 'the single poetic theme', and 'the bull foot god'. Graves is a storehouse of mythology, but 'The White Goddess' is not academic fact. Graves himself says that it's the poet's job to deal in truth, rather than fact, and much of his work is based on his own unorthodox intuitive methods.
Hello, i would strongly recommend anything by Dumezil. Your reading options are greatly increased if you can read french, but several of his books have been translated into english.
I also think Mircea Eliade might be the greatest of the lot. He is not really know for comparative studies, but his views on ancient religions and mythologies is unsurpassed.
i also like Puhvel's book as well. The Golden Bough is a wonderful read, but these days much of what Frazer wrote is considered very out-dated.
I read that book recently and would also recommend it, and yes, the etymology does get to be a bit much at times, but its still a good book. There are many parallels between different mythologies that are very interesting. Though trying to prove what myths are derived form earlier cultures or simply represent common themes across different cultures (what culture doesn't have its own, larger than life hero?, for example) may be quite difficult.
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