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A Short History of Myth (Myths, The) [Paperback]

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Item Number 346545  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   176
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 7.8" Width: 5.1" Height: 0.5"
Weight:   0.3 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Oct 1, 2006
Publisher   Canongate U.S.
ISBN  184195800X  
EAN  9781841958002  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
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.

Publishers Description
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 Armstrong's 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, Armstrong's 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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More About Karen Armstrong

Karen Armstrong Karen Armstrong is one of the world's foremost scholars on religious affairs. She is the author of a number of bestselling books, including The Battle for God, Buddha, Jerusalem, A History of God, and Through the Narrow Gate, a memoir of her seven years as a nun. She lives in London.

Karen Armstrong currently resides in London. Karen Armstrong was born in 1944.

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Product Categories
1Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > World Literature > Mythology > General   [3063  similar products]
2Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Social Sciences > Folklore & Mythology   [1967  similar products]
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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Well done  Oct 20, 2008
An excellent essay exploring what myths are, how they evolved and why we need them. Of particular interest is the last section which discusses the corrosive results of modernity's commitment to logos where understanding myth is concerned, and the importance of the novel.
Thought Provoking  Aug 22, 2008
Karen Armstrong has produced an intellectual history of the idea of mythology and its role in supporting religion, philosophy and science. Like in her other books, the former nun has leveraged her deep knowledge and understanding of religion and philosophy to create a thought provoking book on the role of myth over the last several millennium.

The voice over of this audio book was well read, with inflections and changes in tone coming in appropriate places.

I highly recommend this book.
Modern Classic on the ' History of Myth '  Feb 6, 2008
What an insightful and worthy book ! When i first encountered this book,i thought it was a novella on ancient global mythical figures.And i quickly realised that this was not the case.I was pleasantly surprised and read through it in just one sitting.This short history book will become a modern classic among intellectuals and the literati of highbrowed taste.This book is not for casual readers. This is perhaps the best of Karen Armstrong's literary collection. Although, i have not read much by her.This book reminds me,in a 'mythos' sense, of the short book of Marx and Engels' ,'The Communist Manifesto of 1848'.Their 'logos' story is a concise history of the human economic labour value theory.And her story is about a concise history of the human need for spiritual myth-making,that compells humankind to true greater heights.The more society developed,however,the more we humans became estranged and alienated from the surrounding oudoor Nature.With this loss of connection to the good Earth,mankind became more aggressive and less caring about all life over the planet Earth.Many historians and lay-people agree ,that thesedays communism has lost its vision on what backs our quest of better living .We produce products not for the sake of producing it,yet for helping us connect with Nature and sharing our talents with others.Stalin felt that spirituality and religion lowered the productivity of the workers,by fettering them with outdated peasant values.Stalin also felt that with atheistic communism,it would allow mankind to have complete scientific control over Nature.As we see in current news headlines,Mankind is still at the mercy of Mother Nature and her reactions to our building / manufacturing endeavors.At the closing of her book,she stresses the important need for literature and creative people,in our modern ethically bankrupt society.As we see thesedays, from the Hollywood grist-mill,with their crass film product of rehashed mindless destruction and cheap thrills,that has instilled a new warped sense of 'myth-making spiritualism'.A crude Hollywood myth-machine that has ultimately lead to such horrible tragedies, as the Columbine school shooting and the Oklahoma Murrah bombing.If only this book can awaken all mundane readers into turning off the televisions and investing their leisure time more wisely. Through a further pursuit of self-artistic creativity (literature and the Arts), that will connect us with Nature and our destiny ,then i think this book was a sound investment for the reader and one's community.
An excellet introduction  Oct 1, 2007
This book offers an excellent presentation of the category of myth--what myths are, why they exist, what they provide, how they function in society as well as in individuals. It is both clear and concise; in no sense is it necessary to be familiar with the field in order to understand it.

Please be advised that the book is not an anthology of myths. It provides an introduction to myth that would be helpful in a course on mythology, but a collection of myths would also be necessary.
Reinstating the Mythical?  Sep 11, 2007
As modernity progressed, most myths were 'debunked'. However, modernity was unable to fill the psychological vacuum created by the negation of these myths. This has created problems for the society. Hence, it is time to reinstate mythology. This is the essential argument which Karen Armstrong makes in this book.

The book is divided into seven short chapters. She first defines myths. She then goes on to analyze mythmaking from the Paleolithic period (20000 BC), through the so-called Axial Age, down to the present times. (Curiously, this division of ages itself may be a modern myth!) She concludes the discussion on mythmaking with a peculiar digression into the modern literature as a form of myth-making, which to my mind is an extremely flat argument, as there is no ritualization surrounding this literature. She ends with a plea for reinstatement of mythology, to help people deal more comfortably with the world.

However, her plea is fallacious, to say the least. Mythos and logos are mutually exclusive - you cannot believe a myth unless you believe it to be true. You cannot have a such a thing as a logical treatment of myths. Therefore, when Ms. Armstrong argues that we should be allowed to believe in myths because it is useful (and not because they may be true), she is either being naive, or being very clever, and politically correct.

It must be noted here that though the word myth is derived from Greek mythos, it also has a parallel in Sanskrit: mithya, which literally means unreal. In Hindu thought, the world as we see it is unreal, and is only a projection of the God (Brahman). The term mythology came to be applied to the beliefs of others, as a pejorative, to suggest that they believed in a falsehood, whereas one's own religious beliefs were based on historical truth. In time, the birds came home to roost, and today there is a wide-ranging intellectual attack on the beliefs of the 'historically true' religions.

Ms. Armstrong's approach is mostly analytical. It is also by and large fair. The text, though dry, is peppered with illustrative myths, and this helps maintain interest.

However, the book also suffers from certain flaws. Firstly, Ms. Armstrong treats most speculations about myths of the ancient (pre-historic people or extinct cultures) as demonstrated facts. Her own speculations are presented as definite statements, rather than tentative conjecture. This is an extremely dangerous approach, and perhaps may create a myth about myth-making itself.

Secondly, her knowledge of non-Western mythology may not be all that reliable. My assessment is based on her understanding of Hindu mythology, which appears to be based on a reading of secondary sources by non-Indian translators. This makes her interpretation suspect and often it drifts away totally from the reality, in a kind of Chinese whisper. Indian tradition repeatedly emphasises that Vedic texts have to be meditated upon in order to understand them. These can not be read or interpreted like ordinary historical texts. Vedic pundits were expected to spend 12 years in learning just one Veda - and there are four of them!

For instance, we are told that Brahman is the power engendered by ritual ceremonies. This appears to be quite confusing. In Hindu thought, Brahman exists on its own - it is not dependent on power released through rituals. Then we are told that in Vedic India, ritual actions were known as karma, deeds. Actually, karma is any deed, of which ritual actions may be one category.

This is a short book, and you can easily finish it in a few sittings. You can also carry it around and read it during a journey. The font is easy to read.

While on this, I would also like to suggest a recent book 'Myth = mithya, A Handbook of Hindu Mythology' by Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik (Myth = Mithya: A Handbook of Hindu Mythology). This book, provides an interesting, modern perspective on many of the Hindu myths, without being overly analytical or condescending. The book has been available in India since 2006 as a Penguin India publication. It will be available globally in January 2008.

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