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An Examination of Archetypal Themes, Symbols and Imageries in Aristophanes Lysistrata: A Jungian Approach

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An Examination of Archetypal Themes, Symbols and Imageries in Aristophanes Lysistrata: A Jungian Approach

Babatunde O. Adebua


This paper has intentionally applied Carl Gustav Jung's archetypal criticism Schema to the analysis of Aristophanes Lysistrata. Our primary text is replete with different archetypal forms. The idea explored in this paper is to apply these archetypal forms to the criticism of the text in order to expose the psychological responses it elicits from the characters. On the application of Jung's concept of the powerful archetypes that compose the self; the Shadow, the anima/animus and the persona as well as the three parts that make up the human Psyche; a personal conscious, a unique personal unconscious and the collective unconscious, Lysistrata has provided vital information on the cultural and mythical heritage of Athens and Greece to make the reading experience whole and complete.

Introduction: Concept of Archetypal/Myth Criticism

Mythological criticism is largely based on the works of Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell and Northorp Frye among other critics. These critics view the genres and plot patterns of literary work as a reoccurrence of certain archetypes (Abrams M,1993: 223 - 225). According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Archetypal literary criticism is a type of literary theory that focuses on the reoccurrence of myths and archetypes in the narrative symbols, images and character types in a literary work. It dates back to 1934 when Maud Bodkin published Archetypal Patterns in Poetry. Dobie (2009:63) also affirms this in her landmark book, Theory into Practice: A Introduction to Literary Criticism. She elucidates further by pointing out that archetypal literary criticism is related to two others academic disciplines; social anthropology and psychoanalysis. Archetypal criticism achieved the height of its popularly in 1950's and 1960's largely due to the work of the Canadian literary critic, Northop Frye.

Before Northop Frye, a Swiss born psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung has theorized about myths and archetypes in relation to the unconscious, an inaccessible part of the mind. From a Jungian perspective, myths are the "Culturally elaborated representations of the contents of deepest recesses of the human psyche: The world of archetypes " (Walker, 1995: 3 -15). His theory of collective unconscious is different from the Freudian Schema. While Freud believed that each individual unconscious is separate from the other, Jung is of the opinion that some of our unconscious is shared with other members of the human species (Dobie, 2009: 58). Here, Jung described the human psyche as having three parts a personal conscious, a state of awareness that becomes part of the person's unique personal unconscious once it is past. Beneath both of these is the collective unconscious; a store house of knowledge, experiences and images of the human race. Leictch (2001: 1445 - 1457) sums up this Jungian approach in this manner:

An archetype in the collective unconscious is

irrepresentable but has effects which make

visualizations of it possible, namely the archetypal

images and ideas.

This Jungian archetypal approach treats literary texts as avenues in which primordial images are represented. It as an analytical approach which envisages the death - rebirth archetype for example as a symbolic expression of a process not taking place in the world as Frazer would have it, but in the mind. This Segal (1998: 3 - 48) described as a kind of temporary death of the ego - and its re-emergence or rebirth from the unconscious.

Jung's Theory of collective unconscious accounts for a large body of writing in archetypal literary criticism. It also predates the height of archetypal literary criticism by a decade. It will not be until the 1950's when the other branches of archetypal literary criticism will develop. This it did with the emergence of Northrop Frye. Frye's thesis The Archetypes of Literature and his major work Anatomy of Criticism (1957) is a major departure from the theories of Jung in both its anthropological and psycho analytical methodology (Abrams, 1993: 225). In his theory of myths, Frye opines that all texts are part of a "Central Unifying Myth" exemplified in four literary types which he referred to as "Mythoi" that are analogous to the seasons. Together, they compose the "Monomyth" - the entire body of Literature (Dobie 2009:63). The Myth of summer for instance symbolizes romance, while the myth of autumn in contrast is tragic. The autumn myth shows a hero who suffers death or defeat while the winter mythos brings about an inversion of what is normal and hoped for. There is no hero to salvage the community and no happy endings to innocent adventure. The Mythos of spring brings about comedy, rebirth and renewal, hope and success, freedom and happiness. The Forces that would defeat the hero are thwarted and the world regains its order. According to Frye, every work of literature has its place in this archetypal schema. This paper intends however to adopt the Jungian approach to mythological and archetypal criticism.

Model for Archetypal/Mythological Criticism

An attempt at analyzing a text taking the mythological approach, which embodies Frazieran, Jungian and Fyrean streams will immediately bring to light meaningful symbols. Dobie (2009:68) suggests that if you intend to use an archetypal approach the following questions are pertinent. Questions such as:

i. Are there similarities among the characters, situations and settlings in the text you have just read and those in other works you have read?

ii. What commonly encountered archetypes are recognizable?

iii. Is the narrative in the work similar to any classic myth you know?

iv. Where do you find evidence of the protagonists' persona? Anima/Animus? Shadow?

v. Would you describe the protagonist as being individuated?.

In answering these questions, Dobie suggests an examination of well established patterns of behavior by the character which probably re-create well-know figures from literary history.

It is suggested that a look is taken at the similarities and contrasts in the personal conscious and personal unconscious to determine whether they reflect the same



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