The Anatomy of Myth: The Art of Interpretation from the Presocratics to the Church Fathers (Hardback)
  • The Anatomy of Myth: The Art of Interpretation from the Presocratics to the Church Fathers (Hardback)
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The Anatomy of Myth: The Art of Interpretation from the Presocratics to the Church Fathers (Hardback)

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£62.00
Hardback 248 Pages / Published: 23/02/2017
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The Anatomy of Myth is a comprehensive study of the different methods of interpreting myths developed by the Greeks, adopted by the Romans, and eventually passed to Jewish and Christian interpreters of the Bible. Methods of myth interpretation are closely related to developments in Greek philosophy, beginning with the Presocratics in the 6th century B.C.E. and continuing to the Neoplatonists in the fifth century C.E. Greek thinkers only rarely saw 'myth' as a category of thought in its own right. Most often they viewed myths as the creation of poets, especially Homer and Hesiod, or else as an ancient revelation that had been corrupted by them. In the first instance, critics attempted to find in the intention of the authors some deeper truth, whether physical or spiritual; in the second, they deemed it necessary to clear away poetic falsehoods in order to recapture an ancient revelation. Parallel to the philosophical critiques were the efforts of early historians to explain myths as exaggerated history; myths could be purified by logos (reason) and rendered believable. Practically all of these early methods could be lumped under the term 'allegory' - to intend something different from what one expressed. Only occasionally did philosophers veer from a concern for the literal truth of myths; but a few thinkers, while acknowledging myths as fictions, defended their value for the examples of good and bad human behavior they offered. These early efforts were invaluable for the development of critical thinking, enabling public criticism of even the most authoritative texts. The Church Fathers Church took the interpretative methods of their pagan contemporaries and applied them vigorously to their reading of the scriptures. Pagan Greek methods of myth interpretation passed into the Middle Ages and beyond, serving as a perennial defense against the damaging effects of scriptural literalism and fundamentalism.

Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
ISBN: 9780190606695
Number of pages: 248
Weight: 480 g
Dimensions: 236 x 163 x 23 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS
An insightful and accessible analytical overview that so many of us need. The value of Herren's book should not be underestimated, and I unequivocally recommend it to anyone interested in the history of myth and myth criticism. It is easy and enjoyable to read and filled with a fascinating array of information, making connections that shape into clear and compelling arguments. * Folklore *
[Herren] claims to have intended his book for students, including those who have no classical knowledge, and it is indeed blissfully free from academic grandstanding or scholarly jargon. The sweep of the story is wide, and within the summary above there are many enjoyable digressions, such as a chapter on ancient historians discussing such things as the historicity of the Trojan War. A dense subject is made an easy read. But Herren has also a serious purpose. He is concerned about the dangers of religious fundamentalism arising from the literalist interpretation of sacred books. His thesis is that the adoption by the Fathers of Greek methods on interpretation, including allegory, enabled the Church to avoid the fundamentalist trap as far as the Renaissance, and that the activity of interpreting authoritative texts, and the freedom to do so, has helped to create 'the society that we currently enjoy'. * Colin McDonald, Classics For All *
This book is a superb presentation of approaches to Greek myth from the Presocratics down to the Church Fathers...Together with a twenty-page glossary, this book is the most useful overview of myth in the ancient world that I have ever read, and I have read many overviews. * Robert A. Segal, Reading Religion *

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