Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Our Social Mythology

Ken Hada writes:
For those of you in ENG 4813, below is a copy of some notes we will discuss in ENG 4813. They may be of interest to the rest of you too.

Quotes from Northrop Frye (see image at right), The Educated Imagination (Indiana University Press, 1964).

“The fundamental job of the imagination in ordinary life, then, is to produce, out of the society we have to live in, a vision of the society we want to live in.”

Society substitutes for literature, a “social mythology” whose “purpose … is to persuade us to accept our society’s standards and values, to “adjust” to it ..”

Inferences: Some elements of our social mythology ?
(Hada, not Frye, in case you have a problem with some of them)

The “real world” vs. the world of imagination, literature and academics. What is real? Is reality to be understood only in terms of pragmatics, economics, etc.?

Teachers teach because they can’t do anything else; they are largely irrelevant from the “real world” with its real problems. They are low on the hierarchy of important positions for society
Profit is an unalienable right and a justification for any thing (including a social hierarchies and innovations or reversals in common practices or problem-solving.
Diversity has only a symbolic meaning and limited effectiveness.
Appearance is superior to reality; image is everything.
Justice is a commodity.
Debate (with its necessary assumed analysis and content base) is time consuming, tedious and ultimately unnecessary.
The lowest common denominator is the standard expectation.
Pathos is for oneself; rather than a vision of community or compassion for others.
The environment is an endless commodity; its purpose is to serve humans.
Values are private and have no effect on behavior; or behavior is justifiable given one’s social status.
Hyperactivity is normal (even if one can’t identify why he/she is active); contemplation, solitude, reflection is abnormal.
The nostalgic past is referred to without accurate assessment and longed for as an imaginary status.
The present is all that matters; we are progressing, regardless of destination or purpose or means to the desired end.
The end, i.e., the future is unclear and thus it is fantasized as apocalyptic or survival of the strong few.

(Pastoral Myths and Progressive Myths)

We tend to separate the “voice of reason” from the “voice of imagination” ???

Words establish a society (cf: Martha Nussbaum,--that's her on the left-- Novitz, Wayne Booth)

“It is clear that the end of literary teaching is not simply the admiration of literature; it’s something more like the transfer of imaginative energy from literature to the student.”

The “story of the loss and regaining of identity is, I think, the framework of all literature.” This leads to heroes and mythic situations. Over time “the gods and heroes of the old myths fade away and give place to people like ourselves.”

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