A beginner s guide to archetypal literary theory
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A Beginner's Guide to Archetypal Literary Theory. What is Archetypal Literary Theory?. Archetypal literary theory focuses on recurring archetypes, patterns, symbols and myths in literature. What is an Archetype?.

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A Beginner's Guide to Archetypal Literary Theory

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A beginner s guide to archetypal literary theory

A Beginner's Guide to Archetypal Literary Theory


What is archetypal literary theory

What is Archetypal Literary Theory?

Archetypal literary theory focuses on recurring archetypes, patterns, symbols and myths in literature.


What is an archetype

What is an Archetype?

According to Carl Jung, an archetype is a primordial image residing in the collective unconscious of a people, expressed in literature, myth, folklore and ritual.

Essentially, it’s a pattern or universal theme.


First off what is the collective unconscious

First off, what is the Collective Unconscious?

  • The collective unconscious refers to that part of a person's unconscious which is common to all human beings.

  • The collective unconscious arises in each individual from (1) shared instinct, (2) common experience, and (3) shared culture.


1 shared instinct

(1) Shared Instinct

The archetype of "the great mother" would be expected to be very nearly the same in all people, since all infants share inherent expectation of having an attentive caretaker.


2 common experience

(2) Common Experience

Every surviving infant must either have had a mother, or a surrogate.


3 shared culture

(3) Shared Culture

Nearly every child is indoctrinated with society's idea of what a mother should be.


The collective unconscious

The Collective Unconscious

Jung believed that all humans share a universal psyche, which is manifested in dreams and myths.

Literature imitates not the world, but rather the “total dream of humankind”.


How are archetypes expressed in literature

How are Archetypes Expressed in Literature

Characters (hero, scapegoat, outcast, mentor, temptress, villain)

Stories/Situations (tragedy, quest, rags to riches, death and rebirth)

Symbols (light/dark, heaven/hell)


The hero

The Hero

  • The hero is a character who embodies key traits valued by its originating culture.

  • The hero commonly possesses superhuman capabilities or idealized character traits which enable him to perform extraordinary, beneficial deeds.


Common types of heroes

Common Types of Heroes

Willing Hero:

Ready for action and destined

for greatness

Unwilling Hero:

Normal person thrown into an

unusual situation or a hero who refuses the call

Antihero: A bit shady and breaks the rules

Tragic Hero: Suffers at the hands of his tragic “flaw”


The mentor guide

The Mentor/Guide

  • Provides motivation, insights, training to the hero.

  • Often represented by the wise old man.

  • Found alongside almost all heroes.

  • Does not have to be human.


Common types of mentors

Common Types of Mentors

Continuing Mentor:

Someone who helps throughout journey

Comic Mentor:

Adds some comic relief

Fallen Mentor:

Helping, but dealing with own issues

Dark Mentor:

Sinister– may be loyal or not


The earth mother

The Earth Mother

  • The Great Mother is offers spiritual and emotional nourishment to those she meets.

  • The mother archetype manifests itself in a host of feminine symbolism.

  • Nurturing and caring


The shadow

The Shadow

  • The Shadow archetype represents the brutal, animalistic characteristics of an individual.

  • It is amoral

  • It is responsible for unpleasant, socially unacceptable thoughts, feelings & behaviors.

  • Usually the antagonist.


The devil

The Devil

Evil incarnate; offers worldly goods, fame, or knowledge to the hero in exchange for possession of the soul. Often associated with a snake


The trickster

The Trickster

  • A trickster is a god, goddess, spirit, or human hero who breaks the rules of the gods or nature, sometimes maliciously but usually with positive effects.

  • Tricksters can be cunning or foolish or both; they are often very funny.


The scapegoat

The Scapegoat

An animal or human who is

unjustly held responsible for

others’ sins; sacrificed but

they often become more

powerful force dead than

alive.


The outcast

The Outcast

Figure banished from a social group for some crime against his fellow man (could be falsely accused of a crime or could choose to banish himself from guilt).

Destined to wander from place to place alone.


The temptress

The Temptress

Characterized by sensuous beauty and the hero is attracted to her physically.

She is often the cause of the hero’s downfall. She leads him off course.


The damsel in distress

The Damsel in Distress

Vulnerable woman who must be rescued by the hero.

She is often part of a trap to catch the unsuspecting hero and allow the villain to win.


The platonic ideal

The Platonic Ideal

This woman is a source of inspiration and a spiritual ideal for whom the hero has an intellectual rather than physical attraction to.


Symbolic archetypes

Symbolic Archetypes

Water in the Desert

  • Water is rebirth or spiritual awakening

  • Desert often “dead” to morals or the “good side”

    Heaven vs. Hell

  • Sky = heaven

  • bowels of earth = hell

    Supernatural Intervention

  • When gods intervene

  • May favour hero

Haven vs. Wilderness

  • Places of safety contrast with danger

    The Magic Weapon/Item

  • Symbolic of the hero’s inner strength or extraordinary quality.

    Fire vs. Ice

  • Fire = Knowledge, life

  • Ice = Ignorance, death

    Light vs. Darkness

    Safety and innocence vs. unknown and despair


Storyline situational archetypes

Storyline/Situational Archetypes

The Journey

Rebirth

Rags to Riches

Death and Rebirth

The Initiation

The Unhealable Wound

Tragedy

Nature vs Mechanical World

Comedy

The Task

Voyage and Return


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