Archetypal Criticism: Theory and Practice

HUX 573 explores a 20th century movement in literature, “archetypal criticism,” which had impetus mainly from anthropologist Sir James Frazer and psychologist Carl G. Jung. An “archetype” is an original pattern or prototype from which copies are made. So archetypal criticism focuses on recurrent patterns in literature and their analogues in folk tale, dream, ritual, and myth. For example, what do the following have in common: an initiate in a puberty rite being isolated in a hut and made to suffer (ritual); Little Red Riding Hood’s wandering in the woods and confronting a wolf (fairy tale); Jonah’s taking a sea voyage and being swallowed by a whale (Bible); Orpheus’ descending to the underworld to try to rescue Eurydice (Greek Myth); and the Ancient Mariner’s killing an albatross and having a perilous sea journey (literature)? They are all variations of a rebirth archetype in which the hero experiences a symbolic death and then is reborn, having gained special knowledge that can be brought back to the ordinary world. The main premise of archetypal criticism is that an understanding of such archetypes (in a sense they are “key concepts”) will help illuminate an individual literary text by connecting it to more universal patterns that often transcend literature itself. You will investigate the concepts of several archetypal critics (including Joseph Campbell, Richard Hughes, and Northrop Frye) and then be given an opportunity to apply these concepts to longer works of literature such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Heart of Darkness, and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, as well as to numerous short stories from an anthology based upon the quest of Campbell’s monomythic hero. Four (4) papers will be required; in each you will practice archetypal criticism. Electronic submissions are preferred.

Course Guide Designed by:
Dr. Lyle E. Smith , Professor of English
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California State University, Dominguez Hills
Humanities External Degree Program HUXCRSGD.573 -
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