Archetypal Criticism Applying a Critical Lens
Archetypal Criticism • Archetypal criticism and analysis of a work is one of the most common forms of literary analysis. • Understanding archetypal criticism requires a little knowledge of the basics.
Archetypes • Archetypal criticism focuses on patterns in a literary work that commonly occur in other literary works. These patterns include persistent images, figures, and story patterns shared by people across diverse cultures. Archetypal critics are also interested in certain myths and rituals that recur in a wide variety of cultures.
What is an archetype? • An archetype is a pattern from which other, similar things can be developed. It is a kind of “original model.” For example, the Flood is an archetypal image that exists in myths across many cultures. • In archetypal criticism and analysis, archetypes are identified in many forms. Character types, situations, symbols and colors can all be considered archetypes.
Carl Jung • Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung believed that these archetypes existed in the collective unconscious. He based this assertion in part on the fact that there are images, character types, settings and story patterns that existed across cultures. • He suggested that this collective unconscious is not directly knowable and is a product of the shared experiences of our ancestors. This is why archetypal criticism is often discussed in psychological terms.
Jungian Criticism: • Jung theorized that all humans carry archetypes (universal images and patterns) in our individual and collective unconscious
Primordial and Universal • Jung believed that the collective unconscious and its contents are primordial. That is, we, as individuals, have these archetypal images ingrained in our understanding before we are born. • Jung also believed that these archetypes are universal, which is why they can be found all over the world and throughout history.
Archetypal Criticism • Archetypal criticism therefore seeks to identify and analyze the presence and variance of recognizable archetypes in works of literature. • These archetypes are said to be identifiable in a wide variety of works of literature, as well as myths, dreams and even ritualized modes of social behavior.
Jungian Quest: • Assumes that the monomyth of the Quest underlies archetypal images • Hero forced to leave comfortable surroundings and venture in an unfamiliar, new world filled with new challenges • Meet wise old man who helps out with guidance and advice • Barrier tests the fledgling hero (tends to separate familiar world from unfamiliar)
Jungian Quest (cont’d): • Adventures along the way – tests to prove the hero is worthy, training to prepare for final showdown • Ultimate showdown with father figure • Hero returns, ready to take his place as an adult, responsible member of society, often symbolized by marriage • Father (or mother) figure overthrown; hero takes the place of parent
Familiar world Threshold Land of adventure Jungian Criticism: Home Bestow wisdom Call (At first, the call is often refused) Guide Crossing Return Adventure Initiation
The Ideal Pattern Stage 1: Departure • Call to Adventure • Refusal of the Call • Supernatural Aid • Crossing the First Threshold • Belly of the Whale Stage 2: Initiation • Road of Trials: • Meeting with the Goddess • Woman as the Temptress/Temptation from the True Path • Atonement with the Father • Apotheosis • The Ultimate Boon Stage 3: Return • Refusal of the Return • The Magic Flight • Rescue from Without • Crossing of the Return Threshold • Master of Two Worlds • Freedom to Live.
Archetypes on Parade There are a number of identifiable archetypes in literature, art and film spanning centuries. The following slides present some of the most easily recognizable archetypes in character, situation and symbol.
Hero/Heroine or warrior Sidekick/Helper Villain Wise Sage / Mentor Outcast Oracle Great Mother (Earth) The Shadow The Martyr The anima/animus Mad Scientist Femme Fatale The Child Star-Crossed Lovers Witch/Shrew The Scarecrow Underdog Stern Father Damsel in Distress Trickster Orphan The Beast Some Archetypal Characters
Subcategories of Archetypes: Hero • Willing Hero • King Arthur; Leelu from The Fifth Element; Hercules • Unwilling Hero • "Andy" Dufresne from Shawshank Redeption • Cynical Anti-hero • Han Solo from Star Wars • Tragic Anti-hero • Lestat from Ann Rices' Vampire Chronicles • Loner Hero • Indiana Jones, Xena from Xena: Warrior Princess
Subcategories of Archetypes: Mentor • Dark Mentor • Anti-heroic character, the inversion of heroic values • Fallen Mentor • Characters who are having difficulty with their own heroic journey • Comic Mentor • Often a type of advising sidekick to the Hero • Shaman • Helper who aids the Hero in seeking a guiding vision to help him/her on the journey
The task/trial The journey The quest The loss of innocence The initiation Apocalypse/end of the world Pursuit of revenge Descent into the underworld/heavenly ascent Searching for father Damsel in distress Banishment of the prince Situations
Water Blood Death/Birth/Rebirth Ashes Caverns Fertility Symbols (male and female) Fire Rose Snake Feast Ruined Tower Fall from a Great Height Some Symbols/Colors/Situations
Numbers you say? • a. Three: light; spiritual awareness and unity (cf. the Holy Trinity): the male principle. • b. Four: associated with the circle, life cycle, four seasons; female principle, earth, nature; four elements (earth, air, fire, water). • c. Seven: the most potent of all symbolic numbers--signifying the union of three and four, the completion of a cycle, perfect order.
Archetypal Critical Questions • What images, symbols, figures, are present that are present in other literary works? • What myths, dreams and even ritualized modes of social behavior are present?