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Definition. Archetypal literary criticism (from the Greek archē , or beginning, and typos , or imprint). It is a type of critical theory that interprets a text by focusing on recurring myths and archetypes in the narrative, symbols, images, and character types in a literary work.

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  1. Definition • Archetypal literary criticism (from the Greek archē, or beginning, and typos, or imprint)

  2. It is a type of critical theory that interprets a text by focusing on recurring myths and archetypes in the narrative, symbols, images, and character types in a literary work.

  3. According to Carl Jung, these patterns are embedded deep in the "collective unconscious" and involve "racial memories" of situations, symbols, and relationships between characters from as far back as humans existed.

  4. Explanation • The archetypal patterns will help clarify the individual text by connecting it to more universal patterns that often transcend literature itself

  5. The “collective unconscious” is a set of primal memories common to the human race, existing below each person's conscious mind. Archetypal criticism assumes that there is a collection of symbols, images, characters, and motifs that suggest basically the same response in all people.  

  6. The basis of the monomyth in archetypal criticism is that all literature consists of variations on a great mythic cycle within the following pattern: 1.  The hero begins life in a paradise (such as a garden) 2.  The hero is displaced from paradise (alienation) 3.  The hero endures time of trial and tribulation, usually a wandering (a journey) 4.  The hero achieves self-discovery as a result of the struggles on that journey 5.  The hero returns to paradise (either the original or a new and improved one)

  7. They believe that these archetypes are the source of much of literature's power. • archetypal women - the Good Mother, the Terrible Mother, and the Soul Mate (such as the Virgin Mary) • water - creation, birth-death-resurrection, purification, redemption, fertility, growth • garden - paradise (Eden), innocence, fertility • desert - spiritual emptiness, death, hopelessness • red - blood, sacrifice, passion, disorder • green - growth, fertility • black - chaos, death, evil • serpent - evil, sensuality, mystery, wisdom, destruction • seven - perfection • shadow- the darker, unconscious self, • persona- a man's social personality (usually the hero), and anima or "soul image" (usually the heroine).  • neurosis occurs when someone fails to integrate one of these unconscious components into his conscious and projects it on someone else. • Hero archetype - The hero is involved in a quest (in which he overcomes obstacles). He experiences initiation (involving a separation, transformation, and return

  8. Proponents Carl Jung • Jung addresses the relevance of archetypal theory in literature and the arts most clearly in The Spirit in Man, Art, and Literature (1966) which contains two significant essays on literature and poetry (first published 1922 and 1930).

  9. Northrop Frye (1912-1991) Canadian literary critic, best known as a major proponent of archetypal criticism. In this branch of literary criticism, literature and other art forms are seen as manifestations of universal myths and archetypes (largely unconscious image patterns that cross cultural boundaries). Frye’s most important work, Anatomy of Criticism (1957), introduced archetypal criticism, identifying and discussing basic archetypal patterns as found in myths, literary genres, and the reader’s imagination.

  10. In literature, characters, images, and themes that symbolically embody universal meanings and basic human experiences, regardless of when or where they live, are considered archetypes. Common literary archetypes include stories of quests, initiations, scapegoats, descents to the underworld, and ascents to heaven.

  11. Effect on Readers • The death-rebirth theme is a pattern wherein it starts with the quest by the a character who must leave her/his home, travel into unfamiliar territory, meet a guide, endure dangerous situations and adventures, reach the object of his goal, gain important knowledge, and return home with that knowledge to share with others. • The readers are able to recognize story patterns and symbolic associations. Somehow, they are able to form assumptions and expectations from the encounters.

  12. Archetypal images and story patterns can encourage readers to participate in basic beliefs, fears, and anxieties of their age. These archetypes constitute the clearness of the text but also tap into a level of desires and anxieties of people. • Archetypal criticism helps in the deepening of events into experiences. It provides a universalistic approach to literature. It works well with works that are highly symbolic.

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