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A Short History of Mythby Karen Armstrong
Synopses & Reviews
Heralding a major series of retellings of international myths by authors from around the world, Armstrong's characteristically insightful and eloquent book serves as a brilliant and thought-provoking introduction to myth in the broadest sense.
"This is an pedestrian study from the noted and popular religion scholar, in which Armstrong takes a historical approach to myth, tracing its evolution through a series of periods, from the Paleolithic to the postmyth Great Western Transformation. Each period developed myths reflecting its major concerns: images of hunting and the huntress dominated the myths of the Paleolithic, while the myths of Persephone and Demeter, Isis and Osiris developed in the agricultural Neolithic period. By the Axial Age (200 B.C. through A.D. 1500), myths became internalized, so that they no longer needed to be acted out. Reason, says Armstrong, largely supplanted myth in the Post-Axial Period, which she sees as a source of cultural and spiritual impoverishment; she even appears, simplistically, to attribute genocide to the loss of 'the sense of sacredness' myth offers. Armstrong goes on to relate that in the 20th century, a number of writers, such as Eliot, Joyce, Mann and Rushdie, recovered the power of myth for contemporary culture. Although the book offers no new perspectives or information on the history of myth, it does provide a functional survey of mythology's history. But a more engaging choice would be Kenneth Davis's Don't Know Much About Mythology (Reviews, Sept. 5)." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Book News Annotation:
London-based freelance writer and broadcaster Armstrong has produced biographies and broad histories concerning religion for general readers. Here she offers an account of myth from the Palaeolithic period, 20,000 to 8,000 years ago, through several anthropological periods to the Great Western Transformation 1,500-2,000 CE. She does not provide an index. Distributed in the US by Grove Atlantic. Annotation ©2007 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
This brilliant, readable synthesis of the history of mythology and the function it serves to humanity is the launch title of the groundbreaking publishing event, The Myths . “Human beings have always been mythmakers.” So begins Karen Armstrongs concise yet compelling investigation into myth: what it is, how it has evolved, and why we still so desperately need it. She takes us from the Paleolithic period and the myths of the hunters right up to the “Great Western Transformation” of the last five hundred years and the discrediting of myth by science. The history of myth is the history of humanity, our stories and beliefs, our curiosity and attempts to understand the world, which link us to our ancestors and each other. Myths help us make sense of the universe. Heralding a major series of retellings of international myths by authors from around the world, Armstrongs characteristically insightful and eloquent book serves as a brilliant and thought-provoking introduction to myth in the broadest sense — and explains why if we dismiss it, we do so at our peril.
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