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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Archetypal literary theory focuses on recurring archetypes, patterns, symbols and myths in literature.
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.
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.
Every surviving infant must either have had a mother, or a surrogate.
Nearly every child is indoctrinated with society's idea of what a mother should be.
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”.
Characters (hero, scapegoat, outcast, mentor, temptress, villain)
Stories/Situations (tragedy, quest, rags to riches, death and rebirth)
Symbols (light/dark, heaven/hell)
Ready for action and destined
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”
Someone who helps throughout journey
Adds some comic relief
Helping, but dealing with own issues
Sinister– may be loyal or not
Evil incarnate; offers worldly goods, fame, or knowledge to the hero in exchange for possession of the soul. Often associated with a snake
An animal or human who is
unjustly held responsible for
others’ sins; sacrificed but
they often become more
powerful force dead than
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.
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.
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.
This woman is a source of inspiration and a spiritual ideal for whom the hero has an intellectual rather than physical attraction to.
Water in the Desert
Heaven vs. Hell
Haven vs. Wilderness
The Magic Weapon/Item
Fire vs. Ice
Light vs. Darkness
Safety and innocence vs. unknown and despair
Rags to Riches
Death and Rebirth
The Unhealable Wound
Nature vs Mechanical World
Voyage and Return