Nov 8, 2017 in Literature

Theory of Monomyth

In the quest for meaning, man has, through ages developed stories that explain the truths of the human condition. The results are myths, a language centered foundation on which the interdependence of the supernatural and the natural has been partnered to expound the forces that real yet beyond the comprehension of man. Cultural attitudes, behaviors, values and identities are a platform for vindication of humanity. Scholars have formulated a host of theories that seek to explain this phenomenon. They revolve around the functionalist and structuralist, literary and psychological spheres and each has its own supporting argument.

The famous theory of monomyth was proposed by Joseph Campbell. Through televised interviews, he rooted for this theory which synthesized insights from psychoanalysis, comparative mythology, literary and cultural criticism.  It refers to a basic pattern supposedly found in many narratives from around the world. Campbell was convinced that numerous myths from different regions and in disparate times hold a fundamental structure. This structure includes five stages which are; a call to adventure, a road of trials, achieving a goal or ‘boon,’ a return to the ordinary world and application of the boon. Precipitated by these stages, it is possible to predict the trail that a myth will possibly take

Claude Levi-Strauss, In "The Structural Study of Myth,” explains how the structures of myths provide basic structures of understanding cultural relations. In his structuralism approach, he argues that myths from different cultures from all over the world seem similar.  Cognizant of the fact that myths could contain anything, they aren’t bound by rules of accuracy or probability yet they exhume an astounding magnitude of similarity. This is in spite of the fact that we share diverse and fully separate cultures.  The nature and culture which dictate the ideas and concepts and define our diversity seem to have a somewhat common meeting point in myths. The point is whilst the content, characters and events may differ, the structure is the same. Thus, he emphasizes on the importance of language which constructs myths rather than the content whilst insisting that structural sameness binds the idea of similarity or sameness.

Mircea Eliade’s Time Machine asserts that space, time and objects are perceived by the religious imagination in binary terms, either sacred or profane. He continues that always there binary terms juxtaposed against each other. Thus there is sacred time, profane time, sacred space, profane space and sacred objects and ordinary or profane objects. In only certain and limited contexts are sacred space, time and objects used, occupied or even available and are not selective to those whom to avail the opportunity.

The Christian myth protracts that God created the universe. In six days, God made the universe and all that is in the universe. It is a well known theory that appears to be null and void due to lack of a single figure who could act the hero or villain. In line with the structuralism approach, its recognition of a supernatural being who is prime reason why the universe is the way it is. The tenets of the time machine theory support the existence of a profane and a sacred being. Thus, the theories two latter theories are well supported by the Christian religious beliefs.

For the Yoruba of Africa, there is emphasis of the head. It was he, who is responsible for the emergence of the community. He is symbolized by the head and thus the head is a sacred figure whose impervious presence is honored and endowed by with the responsibility of controlling a pantheon of deities.   This is essential for the review of the monomyth which recognizes the supreme deity as the ultimate consolidation place of power. The sacred and profane time, space and opportunity are dependent upon the supreme deity as the time machine proposes. Being organized in the same way as the biblical version, it protracts itself as a viable foundation for claim for structuralism.

To conclude, myths have a religious function because they are the vehicle via which people can return to a time of origins. All the contributions of comparative mythologists, the myth ritual school, functionalism and structuralism proponents alike agree that the study comes at a cost, a loss of complexity of myth and eventual limited atmosphere for the purposes of the study. The only shortcoming of the studies is the lack of consideration of the social considerations that shape myths have to consider the social conditions that shape myths.

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