Archetypal criticism
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Archetypal Criticism. Archetypal Criticism. The word archetype is from the Greek arkhetupon, first mold or model, in the meaning of being the initial version of something later multiplied.

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Archetypal criticism1
Archetypal Criticism

  • The word archetype is from the Greek arkhetupon, first mold or model, in the meaning of being the initial version of something later multiplied.

  • In literature and art an archetype is a character, a tradition, an event, a story or an image that recurs in different works, in different cultures and in different periods of time.


  • Archetypal criticism focuses on those 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
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. The basic model is a huge flood covering the entire planet, initiating a kind of “clean slate.”

Example of a tradition archetype
Example of a Tradition Archetype

  • In the Christian tradition, Jesus (considered the son of god in that tradition) is sacrificed to save humankind.

  • In the Eastern tradition of Mahashivarati, the god Shiva drank a lethal dose of poison that otherwise would have polluted the oceans of the world, thus saving humankind.

    • Both of these traditions center around a celebration of life and a deliverance from death.

Carl jung
Carl Jung

  • Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung believed that common 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.

Primordial and universal
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 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
Jungian Quest:

  • Assumes that the monomyth of the Quest or Journey 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 criticism

Familiar world


Land of adventure

Jungian Criticism:


Bestow wisdom







Archetypes on parade
Archetypes on Parade

There are a number of identifiable archetypes in literature, art and film spanning centuries.

Some of the most easily recognizable archetypes in character, situation and symbol include the following:

Archetypal characters
Archetypal Characters

  • Hero/Heroine

  • Sidekick/Helper

  • Villain

  • Wise Sage

  • Outcast

  • Oracle

  • Caring Mother/Earth Mother

  • Mad Scientist

  • Femme Fatale

  • “Don Juan”

  • Star-Crossed Lovers

  • Witch/Shrew

  • Underdog

  • Stern Father

  • Damsel in Distress

Archetypal situations
Archetypal Situations

  • 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

Archetypal critical questions
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?