Monomyth & Epic
HUM 210 Online Course Pack - Fall 2006 - Prof. Cora Agatucci

Monomyth: The Hero's Journey
"The Journey of the Hero based on Joseph Campbell's monomyth
provides a model for comparing heroic stories" ("The Hero's Journey: Sitemap").

Monomyth Website, ORIAS, UC Berkeley[AKA: "Monomyth circle"]
http://www.ias.berkeley.edu/orias/hero/index.htm
Print Journey Stages (pdf): http://www.ias.berkeley.edu/orias/hero/JourneyStages.pdf
The Hero's Journey: Sitemap
. "The Monomyth: Sitemap." Monomyth Website, ORIAS, UC Berkeley: http://www.ias.berkeley.edu/orias/hero/sitemap.html

Ramayana [India]
http://ias.berkeley.edu/orias/hero/ramayana/index.html
"An ancient Sanskrit epic of South Asia celebrating the legendary adventures of Prince Rama, exemplary hero and incarnation of Vishnu" ("The Hero's Journey: Sitemap").


Yamato
[Japan]
http://ias.berkeley.edu/orias/hero/yamato/index.html

"Legendary and archetypal hero of ancient Japan" ("The Hero's Journey: Sitemap").

Joseph Campbell "was the best known mythologist of the 20th century if for no other reason than because he was able to present his ideas on television.  His six-part series in the 1980s with Bill Moyers, The Power of Myth, reached a wide audience eager to hear about 'universal human truths' in an age of increasing social fragmentation" (Leonard and McClure 17).  Like other mythologists before him, Campbell sought a "master theory through which all myths could be understood": the "monomyth."  In The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Campbell presents his conception of this "monomyth": "the story of the rugged individual who realizes his true nature through heroic struggle" and thus "finds a sense of identity and place in the world" (Leonard and McClure 17).  Campbell's work influenced George Lukas' science fiction epic Star Wars: "According to Campbell, the hero's quest occurs in three phases: the separation, the initiation, and the return.  As the hero separates himself from his home, he often encounters a helper that guards and guides him through trials that initiate him into the true nature of reality. When he achieves mastery, he may return home to enrich his former community" (Leonard and McClure 17, 18). 

Campbell was interested in "reducing all myth to a single 'pattern,'" working in the tradition of most 19th and 20th-century myth critics who focused on revealing the universal elements in world mythology; however, Leonard and McClure point out the weaknesses in such myth scholarship:  it is "ahistorical," does not give enough attention to "the specific material and social conditions that shape myth," to "the cultural specifics of how living myths function in the day-to-day lives of the people who told them," or to "cultural distinctions that might explain why one version of a myth differs from another" (21, 23).

Also recommended: 
In Search of Myths and Heroes. PBS Online.  Educational Broadcasting System, 2005.
http://www.pbs.org/mythsandheroes/
--"What Is A Myth?": http://www.pbs.org/mythsandheroes/myths_what.html
--"Myths & Archetypes":
http://www.pbs.org/mythsandheroes/myths_archetypes.html
--"Four Myths"
[1. Woman of Power: Queen of Sheba; 2. Paradise: Shangri-La;
     3. Hero: King Arthur; 4. Quest: Jason and the Argonauts]

     http://www.pbs.org/mythsandheroes/myths.html
--"Bibliography": http://www.pbs.org/mythsandheroes/myths_bibliography.html

EPIC GENRE (Western v. Indian Models)

A.  GENERAL DEFINING FEATURES of the EPIC GENRE

BASED ON WESTERN EPIC MODELS

BASED ON INDIAN EPIC MODELS

From M. H. Abrams, A Glossary of Literary Terms, 6th ed. (1993)

From Stuart H. Blackburn, Peter J. Claus, Joyce B. Flueckiger, and Susan S. Wadley, eds. Oral Epics of India (1989).

1.  Long narrative poem on serious subject

1.  Narrative:  tells a story in song, poetry, rhythmic prose, with perhaps some unsung parts

2.  Told in formal, elevated style

2.  Poetic: formulaic, ornamental style

3.  Centers on heroic or quasi-divine figures on whose actions depend the fate of a group, a nation, and/or all humankind

[Myth critic Northrop Frye: characters have great powers “acting at or near the limits of desire” -  from The Anatomy of Criticism (1957).]

 

3.  Heroic: tells adventures of extraordinary people.
a. Martial and human blends with the magical and celestial,
with no clear division between the two realms; hero/ines often deified after death, crossing from human to divine.
b. Epic hero/ines are not necessarily models or exemplary ideals for human behavior; ie. hero/ine’s actions may not offer practical advice or assistance to the rest of us in living our everyday lives

4.  Action is heroic deeds in battle, long, arduous journeys, or quests

[Myth critic Northrop Frye identifies the quest-myth as the central or “mono-myth” of literature.

[Rene Girard has examined the central role of ritual sacrifice and its relation to myths, as integrated into classical Greek tragedy: he argues ritual sacrifice is society’s effort to deflect upon a relatively “sacrificeable” victim the violence that would otherwise be vented on the community as a whole (from La Violence et la sacre 1972).]

 

4.  Three epic types (in Indian cultures):

a.  martial: war, battle, struggle at center, e.g. for revenge, lost lands, restoration of lost rights;
At stake: power, social obligations, social unity and continuity

b.  sacrificial: heroic act of self-sacrifice or suicide at center, of ten of a woman who becomes a goddess or a sati (immolates herself on husband’s funeral pyre)

c.  romantic:  individual actions celebrated at center though threaten group solidarity;
hero/ine: strong willed, cast out or exiled from social group; relies on cunning rather than martial skills.
Primary conflict: quest for love
Goal: personal freedom

5.  Gods and other supernatural beings take an interest and an active role in human affairs.

[Myth critic Northrup Frye: Western literature is “massively funded by the powerful myths of the Bible and classical [Greek and Roman] culture”]

5.  Deities and humankind:  Gods mix in human affairs for their own  and the cosmos’ benefit; when trouble threatens, the gods shift it to earth; and epic heroes--and by extension the rest of us--become the gods’ scapegoats.  Epics attribute social, sexual, and moral problems of humankind to the will of the gods (e.g. Gods make humans sin, die, and expose humans to appalling social, sexual, and moral conflicts; hero/ines cannot escape fate and evil; human suffering is inevitable and life is ruthlessly fatalistic)

See also Comparative Timelines of Asia: India, China, Japan
http://web.cocc.edu/cagatucci/classes/hum210/tml/asianTML.htm

B.  ORAL AND LITERARY (WRITTEN) EPIC FORMS

1.  “Traditional epics” are written versions of what were originally oral poems or songs about cultural heroes developed in a warlike age.  E.g. Iliad, Odyssey, Beowolf

 

1a.  Written versions of Classical Sanskrit epics Mahabharata and Ramayana, widely translated into vernacular, national international languages, transmitted as books, cheap editions, handwritten copies, as well as through oral performance.
1b. Oral regional folk epics of non-literate and literate groups, have developed, and continue to develop, within the literate cultures of India and the world.  Some of these too are transcribed into written forms.  (Indian regional “folk” epics: folk hero/ines are often reincarnations or reborn Sanskrit epic hero/ines of the Mahabharata and Ramayana)

2.  “Literary epics” are composed first in writing to imitate “traditional epics” - e.g. Milton’s Paradise Lost

2.  [“Literary epics” are also generated by Indian literate cultures.]

3.  Ceremonial performance, for which style is deliberately stylized and distanced from ordinary speech as befitting the grandeur and formality of the heroic subject

3.  Ceremonial performance: Sanskrit classical epics live in contemporary national/regional performance traditions: song-recitation and dance-drama, often entailing spirit possession, trance-dance, and ritual - national and regional retellings of  hero/ine’s stories of sacred epics are believed to summon him/her as god/dess and her/his power.

Functions of epic performances include:

bullet

to ritually protect and cure,

bullet

to tell the community’s/culture’s story

bullet

to create/help maintain the community’s/culture’s self-identity and continuity

bullet

to warn of what could happen (rather than what did/will happen)

Indian epics are stories full of marvels, but are also much more: they present a mythology (or a religion, to believers) and an interpretation of the human condition.  Documented verifiable evidence is not necessary for a cultural group to claim an epic narrative as its own and to believe it tells the people’s story and their truths.  India’s national and regional story traditions are based and and continue to be shaped by the two classical Sanskrit epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana.  In addition to the narrative (story), Indian oral epics, like the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, are often filled with large amounts of didactic material that teaches lessons, ethical norms, and the collective wisdom of the national or regional culture. 

Learn more from India Timeline 1: Early India
http://web.cocc.edu/cagatucci/classes/hum210/tml/IndiaTML/indiatml1.htm

Works Cited & Resources
[MLA Style Citations]

Abrams, M. H.  A Glossary of Literary Terms.  6th ed.  New York: Holt, Rinehard, Winston,1993.

Agatucci, Cora, ed. "Monomyth & Epic." Humanities 210 [online handout], Central Oregon
         Community College, Fall 2006. 25 Sept. 2006
         <http://web.cocc.edu/cagatucci/classes/hum210/coursepack/monomyth_epic.htm>.

Blackburn, Stuart H., and others, eds.  Oral Epics in India.  Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1989.

Campbell, Joseph.  The Hero with a Thousand Faces. 1949; Bolingen Series 17.  Princeton, NJ: Princeton
         University Press, 1972.

Campbell, Joseph, with Bill Moyers. The Power of Myth. New York: Doubleday, 1985.
         [Based on the 1980s Public Broadcasting System television series.]

Davis, Paul, and others, eds.  Western Literature in a World Context. Vol 1: The Ancient World through the
        Renaissance.  New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995.

Haviland, William A.  Anthropology.  7th ed.  Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1994.

"The Hero's Journey: Sitemap." [AKA: "The Monomyth: Sitemap."]  Monomyth Website, ORIAS, UC
         Berkeley. Office of Resources for International and Area Studies (ORIAS), International and Area
         Studies (IAS), University of California, Berkeley.  25 Sep. 2006
          <http://ias.berkeley.edu/orias/hero/sitemap.html>.

In Search of Myths and Heroes. PBS Online. Educational Broadcasting System, 2005. 25 Sep. 2006
         <http://www.pbs.org/mythsandheroes/>.

Jussawalla, Feroza.  “Indian Theory and Criticism.” In The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and
         Criticism.  Eds. Michael Groden and Martin Kreiswirth.  Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press,
         1994. 399-404.

Leonard, Scott, and Michael McClure.  Myth & Knowing: An Introduction to World Mythology.  Boston:
         McGraw Hill, 2004.

Monomyth Website, ORIAS, UC Berkeley.  [AKA: "Monomyth circle"]  Office of Resources for International
          and Area Studies (ORIAS), International and Area Studies (IAS), University of California, Berkeley. 
          25 Sep. 2006 <http://www.ias.berkeley.edu/orias/hero/index.htm>.

"Myths & Archetypes." In Search of Myths and Heroes. PBS Online. Educational Broadcasting System,
          2005. 25 Sep. 2006 <http://www.pbs.org/mythsandheroes/myths_archetypes.html>.

"Ramayana." Monomyth Website, ORIAS, UC Berkeley.  Office of Resources for International
          and Area Studies (ORIAS), International and Area Studies (IAS), University of California, Berkeley. 
          25 Sep. 2006 <http://ias.berkeley.edu/orias/hero/ramayana/index.html>.

Reeves, Charles Eric.  “Myth Theory and Criticism.” In The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and
         Criticism.  Eds. Michael Groden and Martin Kreiswirth.  Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press,
         1994.  520-523.

"What Is a Myth?" In Search of Myths and Heroes. PBS Online. Educational Broadcasting System, 2005.
          25 Sep. 2006 <http://www.pbs.org/mythsandheroes/myths_what.html>.

"Yamato." Monomyth Website, ORIAS, UC Berkeley.  Office of Resources for International
          and Area Studies (ORIAS), International and Area Studies (IAS), University of California, Berkeley. 
          25 Sep. 2006 <http://ias.berkeley.edu/orias/hero/yamato/index.html>.
 

See also Culture, Religion, and Myth: Interdisciplinary Approaches (handout)
http://web.cocc.edu/cagatucci/classes/hum210/coursepack/culture.htm

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Humanities Department, Central Oregon Community College
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