The basis of archetypal criticism is the ideas of Carl Jung. You explore the text for the revelation of images, myths and symbols of cultures that occur repeatedly throughout time.
In texts you see recurrent patterns and figures. These are mythical patterns in literature which, because they are based on experiences intrinsic to human existence, are both deeply rooted and enduring. Such themes which are rooted in myth include the death-rebirth cycle; the search or quest for healing or regeneration; the battle with, and defeat of, a monster. The Jungian critic is not interested particularly in the personal unconsciousness of the writer (as a Freudian critic would be), rather they examine the ways in which the structure of the story follows these mythical patterns and the ways in which symbols are used.
This criticism suggests that underlying all stories is the fundamental struggle with ego – our capacity to behave selfishly. Ego limits our vision of the world, it leads to greed and holds us back from maturity.
The stories are seen to show us how the next generation is to carry on the ‘torch of life’ and how we can reunite ourselves with our deeper centre.
All stories are figured around the conflict between Dark & Light, between Death & Life. Dark being the egocentric which represents the isolating inability to feel for others and blinkered inability to see whole. The light, meanwhile, connects us with a true selfless feeling for others, with a proper understanding with the world outside us.
Dark figures (the ego) have the negative version of the qualities needed for self-actualisation, the qualities that the hero/heroine must show themselves to possess. Two sets of values are brought together – the masculine (strength & power of mind; the physical and mental) and the feminine (selflessness & intuition; the heart and soul). The feminine must be liberated from the ego in order to become whole.
The post Archetypal / Jungian criticism and most recently into the work of Stephen Booker in his weighty tome : The Seven Basic Plots
Assignment status: Solved by our experts