Although, for modern societies, the term “myth” stands for a tale, an untrue story, a legend, a superstition etc., for archaic societies who existed prior to written culture, myths were narrations of “the ultimate origin of reality” and, in that respect, they were not tales but true stories based on Reality. Therefore, a great philosopher like Plato appealed to muthos as a pedagogical means for telling his views through the Dialogues. On the other hand, along with the transition from mythopoetic thought to cosmological arguments, an irreversible diffraction occurred in the history of ideas, and philosophy parted ways with mythos for a certain while. Centuries later, however, many theorists in both clinical psychology and contemporary philosophy made use of the myth as a symbolic means of expression and pioneered a “mythic-turn” in the social sciences. This fact indicates that mythology remains an essential area of interest for humanities like philosophy and psychology. This is also the case for the disciplines of sociology and socio-cultural anthropology, whose practices developed within the framework of rituals, myths, customs and traditions, indicating that myth and mythology have pervaded into daily life, that they have turned into a reference guide, sometimes due to their guiding spirit and sometimes by being a tool for social control.
Throughout historical and cultural processes, human beings have attributed divine meanings to the factors influencing them. By attributing such meanings to natural forces that were superior to them, humans also adopted the habit of symbolization. Furthermore, depending on the geographic and cultural context they were in, humans developed solutions for inexplicable events and/or situations such as illnesses. To specify, humans sought for genuine solutions by means of the daily practices they structured around the myths and legends, which were transmitted to them through cultural heritage.
Legends and symbols are not discoveries that archaic people carried out on their own; rather, they are the products of a cultural whole that is well limited, kneaded and transmitted by some societies. In this way, some of these creations spread to lands far away from their own root-soils, becoming absorbed by the local people of those lands who would not recognize these elements otherwise.
As the interaction between literature and mythology is at stake, a similar picture confronts us in this domain. Myths of several cultures have been shaping modern literary texts, and the characters in these myths have been creating modern stereotypes. The world where the mythological characters of ancient Greece and Rome belong may seem exaggerated for the modern reader. However, when the historical journey of literature is considered, it is understood that myths, initially, provided an inspiration for tragedies. Just like the fates of tragic heroes, the fates of mythical characters are full of circumstances that point towards a “moral.” From this perspective, it is undeniable that mythology is an essential reference for modern literature.
Within the literary world, almost all writers apply myths, mythical characters and related archetypes that then become woven within the collective unconscious as a means for their literary narrative element for various purposes. Thus, it is difficult to understand Ulyssesby James Joyce, who is one of the most prominent writers of English literature, or Oedipa Maas by the American author Thomas Pynchon without the knowledge of classical mythology. As is obvious, mythology plays a crucial and central role in shaping and constructing literary genres, fiction and the relation of characters.
Without the knowledge of mythology and iconography, art history could not be comprehended, nor could art criticism be carried out. Today, mythology is the primary source to which one appeals in order to interpret the works of art ranging from the hunting scenes on the walls of Lascaux to the masterpieces of the Renaissance and the products of eminent artists of various genres from primitivism to cubism.
Certainly, the dance of mythology with other sciences cannot be limited to the abovementioned disciplines and areas. Myths and mythological systems have a peculiar role for each discipline associated with the humanities and social sciences. Based on this fact, as young academicians, we have decided to organize a worldwide symposium and, by doing so, we desire to bring together academicians and students from all areas of study including philosophy, sociology, anthropology, literature, psychology, art history and the fine arts provided that their papers are in direct relation to the theme of the symposium.
Catalin Partenie, Plato’s Myths, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2009, 1.
Çiğdem Dürüşken, Antikçağ Felsefesi: Homeros’tan Augustinus’a Bir Düşünce Serüveni, Alfa Yayınları, 2013, 6-8.
Mircea Eliade, İmgeler Simgeler, Gece Yayınları, Ankara, 1992, 10-11.