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A great many nonliterate traditions have myths about a culture hero (most notably one who brings new techniques or technology to mankind—e.g., Prometheus, who supplies fire to mankind in Greek mythology). A culture hero is generally not the person responsible for the creation but the one who completes the world and makes it fit for human life; in short, he creates culture. Another example of a culture hero isMaui in Polynesia, who brought islands to the surface from the bottom of the sea, captured and harnessed the sun, lifted the sky to allow man more room, and, like Prometheus, gave fire to mankind.

The bringer of culture is often also the bringer of health. Thus, the culture hero of the Woodlands and Plains Indians in North America is at the same time related to the foundation of the medicine society. A comparable figure occurs in many traditions of Classical antiquity or the Mediterranean basin generally as the “good son”—e.g.,Horus, the son of the god Osiris in Egypt, or the figure of the king in the Psalms. Health and (spiritual) salvation are synonymous, and this is implied in the Greek word sōtēr, which can mean both “saviour” and “preserver from ill health.” Related to soteriological myths in many cases is the hope for a final and total salvation in which the “good” powers will triumph, such as through Saoshyant, the saviour inZoroastrianism. In fact, Zoroastrianism shared with the Judeo-Christian tradition the notion of a Last Judgment followed by the ultimate salvation of the world. According to Zoroastrian belief, as the end approached heroes from the past would come to life and help in the struggle of good against evil. Saviours, the Saoshyants, would work toward the triumph of virtue and the spreading

Myth in modern society


Deciding the extent to which there has actually been any secularization of myth involves a problem of definition. If myth is seen as the product of a past era, it is difficult to determine at what actual moment that era ended. Thus, it is virtually impossible to state precisely when a certain mythical theme becomes a mere literary theme or to determine in general when myths are no longer being created. It is more fruitful to recognize that symbols, myths, and rituals are all subject to change over time. Nor is secularization an irreversible process. It is instead a process that takes place time and again. Secularization movements and movements toward “mythification” of a phenomenon, narrative, or idea are aspects of the same historical processes. There have also been many types of secularization; the one brought about in Western society since the Middle Ages is only a single example. Another instance was the development in Archaic and Classical Greece (sometimes referred to—with great oversimplification—as a movement “from myth to reason”) whereby fundamental questions about the nature of the universe came increasingly to receive answers in terms of philosophical, as opposed to mythical, reasoning.

On the other hand, although the secularization of modern times is not a unique phenomenon, it is a new and complex type, to which many factors have contributed. Scientific, particularly astronomical, discoveries of the late medieval and Renaissance periods were accompanied by a new trust in cosmic laws and an increasingly abstract notion of God. More or less Euhemeristic historical accounts that were common in the Middle Ages and were a symptom of a certain secularization process themselves gave way to history writing, focusing on psychological, social, and economic facts. In philosophy, naturalism of various sorts opposed notions of transcendence that earlier systems had taken for granted. The most common tendency in modern society has been to regard the characters and events in mythical accounts as not real or as by-products of realities that are not transcendent but rather immanent.


Classicism. Its essence, the main trend of representatives.

Classicism is aesthetic attitudes and principles based on culture, art and literature of ancient Greece and Rome, and characterized by emphasis on form, simplicity, proportion, and restrained emotion.
Characteristics of Classicism are belief in reason, civilized, modern, sophisticated, interest in urban society, human nature, love, satire, expression of acceptance, moral truth, realism, beleif in good and evil, religion, philosophy, generic obstruction, impersonal objectivity, public themes, formal correctness, idea of order.

Literary classicism refers to a style of writing that consciously emulates the forms and subject matter of classical antiquity. For the purposes of Western literature, this means Greek and Roman drama, poetic forms like the epic, and literary theory as expounded in Aristotle’s “Poetics.” Classicism developed during the Renaissance and Enlightenment eras, and continued to shape literature into the 20th century.

Early Enlightenment

Literary classicism began as Europe entered the Enlightenment period, a time that glorified reason and intellectualism. From about the mid-1600s to 1700, authors such as John Dryden, Samuel Pepys, John Locke, Jean Racine and Moliere exemplified these concepts. Dryden's poetry, especially "MacFlecknoe" and "Annus Mirabilus," demonstrate classicism by following the form of Ancient Greek and Roman epic poetry. Although "MacFlecknoe" is satire, it follows the epic heroic tradition in structure. "Annus Mirabilus" glorifies the concept of nationalism, as well.

Early 1700s

From about 1700 to 1750, the movement picked up in popularity, particularly in England. English writers included Alexander Pope, Johnathan Swift and Joseph Addison, and the French author Voltaire worked during this period. Pope translated the ancient works of Homer and then emulated that style in his own poetry in terms of structure, rhyme and figurative language. One of his most famous works is "The Rape of the Lock," a mock epic similar to Dryden's earlier neoclassical work. The events in Johnathan Swift's popular "Gulliver's Travels" mirror the types of situations in ancient epics, although with a satirical twist.

Golden Age

The mid- to late-1700s marked the predominant period for neoclassicism in literature. Samuel Johnson's impact is evident from the term "The Age of Johnson" typically applied to the period. Much of the satire during the neoclassical period bemoaned the state of the British government during the period and attempted to demonstrate the benefits of creating and maintaining a strict structure and chain of command in government like that of the Ancient Roman imperial times. The neoclassical concept of structure and reason are reflected in his primary work, the "Dictionary" of prescriptive word choice and grammar

Classicism is a specific genre of philosophy, expressing itself in literature, architecture, art, and music, which has Ancient Greek and Roman sources and an emphasis on society. It was particularly expressed in the Neoclassicism of the Age of Enlightenment.

Classicism is a recurrent tendency in the Late Antique period, and had a major revival in Carolingian and Ottonian art. There was another, more durable revival in the Italian renaissance when the fall of Byzantium and rising trade with the Islamic cultures brought a flood of knowledge about, and from, the antiquity of Europe. Until that time the identification with antiquity had been seen as a continuous history of Christendom from the conversion of Roman Emperor Constantine I. Renaissance classicism introduced a host of elements into European culture, including the application of mathematics and empiricism into art, humanism, literary and depictiverealism, and formalism. Importantly it also introduced Polytheism, or "paganism", and the juxtaposition of ancient and modern.

The classicism of the Renaissance led to, and gave way to, a different sense of what was "classical" in the 16th and 17th centuries. In this period classicism took on more overtly structural overtones of orderliness, predictability, the use of geometry and grids, the importance of rigorous discipline and pedagogy, as well as the formation of schools of art and music. The court of Louis XIV was seen as the center of this form of classicism, with its references to the gods of Olympus as a symbolic prop for absolutism, its adherence to axiomatic and deductive reasoning, and its love of order and predictability.

This period sought the revival of classical art forms, including Greek drama and music. Opera, in its modern European form, had its roots in attempts to recreate the combination of singing and dancing with theatre thought to be the Greek norm. Examples of this appeal to classicism included Dante, Petrarch, and Shakespeare in poetry and theatre. Tudor drama, in particular, modeled itself after classical ideals and divided works into Tragedy and Comedy. Studying Ancient Greek became regarded as essential for a well-rounded education in the liberal arts.

The Renaissance also explicitly returned to architectural models and techniques associated with Greek and Roman antiquity, including the golden rectangle as a key proportion for buildings, the classical orders of columns, as well as a host of ornament and detail associated with Greek and Roman architecture. They also began reviving plastic arts such as bronze casting for sculpture, and used the classical naturalism as the foundation of drawing, painting and sculpture.

The Age of Enlightenment identified itself with a vision of antiquity which, while continuous with the classicism of the previous century, was shaken by the physics of Sir Isaac Newton, the improvements in machinery and measurement, and a sense of liberation which they saw as being present in the Greek civilization, particularly in its struggles against the Persian Empire. The ornate, organic, and complexly integrated forms of the baroque were to give way to a series of movements that regarded themselves expressly as "classical" or "neo-classical", or would rapidly be labelled as such. For example, the painting of Jacques-Louis David which was seen as an attempt to return to formal balance, clarity, manliness, and vigor in art.

The 19th century saw the classical age as being the precursor of academicism, including such movements as uniformitarianism in the sciences, and the creation of rigorous categories in artistic fields. Various movements of the romantic period saw themselves as classical revolts against a prevailing trend of emotionalism and irregularity, for example the Pre-Raphaelites. By this point classicism was old enough that previous classical movements received revivals; for example, the Renaissance was seen as a means to combine the organic medieval with the orderly classical. The 19th century continued or extended many classical programs in the sciences, most notably the Newtonian program to account for the movement of energy between bodies by means of exchange of mechanical and thermal energy.

The 20th century saw a number of changes in the arts and sciences. Classicism was used both by those who rejected, or saw as temporary, transfigurations in the political, scientific, and social world and by those who embraced the changes as a means to overthrow the perceived weight of the 19th century. Thus, both pre-20th century disciplines were labelled "classical" and modern movements in art which saw themselves as aligned with light, space, sparseness of texture, and formal coherence.

In the present day philosophy classicism is used as a term particularly in relation to Apollonian over Dionysian impulses in society and art; that is a preference for rationality, or at least rationally guided catharsis, over emotionalism.


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