If you have been following this little jaunt through Faerie with me, congratulations! You have now read the most interesting parts of my thesis! Don’t you feel special?
So why am I wandering and taking you with me? Because I like adventures! But I also hope that you learned something about writing and reading through all of this. In a previous post I talked about how good reading will help you in your dreams and aspirations of becoming a writer or just a better reader.
You may be wondering why does all this criticism and literary theory have to do with a publishing press and a group of writers? (Trust me, I have asked that same question, and I’d really like to know the answer too) I think the answer lies in the truth that good readers and writers should be informed readers and writers. I have talked about this before. But I want to take those thoughts about reading good literature and introduce the idea that criticism and literary theories are also a means to becoming a better writer and a more informed reader.
Since I have been wandering in Faerie and spent an inordinate amount of time studying Myth, I want to make the case that through the literary criticism and theory I have gained a better understanding of myth and its use as a literary genre and device. So often Myth is dismissed as a falsehood or just an old story. However, myth is so much more; it is the imaginary expression of the real. Myth tells us the truth about our reality, our existence beyond this transient world and how we should think about ourselves in that context. No other story does this. Many stories, such as fairytales and folklore, dance around this point but they do not provide the transcendent truth.
I knew that there was something spectacular about myth but just reading the stories did not illuminate what that spark was. By reading criticism and literary theories on myth, I was able to explore the wondrous nature of myth and to discover the truth about myth. Granted studying criticism requires a lot of sifting through bad theories and terrible philosophies but sometimes you can learn more about definitions by knowing what something isn’t. As an example, Jack Zipes and Joseph Campbell both come to the conclusion that cultures give meaning to myth because they both deny the possibility of the divine. They struggle with understanding the rituals and the power of myths on a people because they deny the supernatural. But Myth is about answering the the supernatural. The stories are told to give abstract concepts like the justice, grace, peace, war and souls a concrete form for which we can understand them. Zipes and Campbell limit themselves and myths.
I cannot say that I have all the answers but I definitely understand and appreciate myth much more having spent so much time studying it. I can see how myth plays one our imaginations and we seek it. This is why we love books like Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, Iliad, The Faerie Queen, Once and Future King and many more, or we movies like Secret of Kells and Spirited Away strike us as something better than other films in the same category. These stories are myth and they tell us more about ourselves then we realize, if we let them.