Synopses & Reviews
Human beings have always been mythmakers.” So begins best-selling writer 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. 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 senseand explains why if we dismiss it, we do so at our peril.
"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.)
"A Short History of Myth is a handy stand-alone overview of the ever-evolving partnership between myth and man from Paleolithic times to the present. Succinct and cleanly written, it is hugely readable and, in its journey across the epochs of human experience, often moving." New York Times
"[Armstrong] challenges readers to think about myth in new ways, especially the importance she believes it should have in our modern world." Children's Literature
The author of The History of God and In the Beginning: A New Reading of Genesis offers a useful, well-written introduction to mythology from the Paleolithic period to the "Great Western Transformation" that used science to discredit myth. Reprint.
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.
About the Author
Karen Armstrong is an author, feminist and writer on Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Buddhism. She was born into a family with Irish roots who after her birth moved to Bromsgrove and later to Birmingham.