The murderous grandparent motif: Myth as political discourse

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Abstract

This paper proposes an approach to myth that incorporates structural techniques while also taking into account the discourse context. It argues that the structure of myths contains clues to identification of the kind of discourse of which they are part. It is nearly impossible to identify the structure of an isolated myth. In an attempt to evade this problem, this paper proposes an intertextual analysis that searches for a structure common to several myths. A contextual analysis then looks at differences between the myths in order to detect the historical context of each myth. The method is illustrated by five related myths that come from the same discourse area and belong to a larger family of myths known as 'the birth of the hero.' Three of the myths, containing the murderous grandparent motif, will be used in the intertextual analysis. The other two closely related myths are added at the stage of the contextual analysis. In spite of the small number of cases a fairly clear structure emerges from the intertextual analysis, suggesting that all five myths are part of a political discourse in which legitimacy is a central issue. However, questions of legitimacy may rise in different historical contexts. This paper proposes to look at the role of the central character for a lead to the historical context.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)245-261
Number of pages17
JournalSemiotica
Volume162
DOIs
StatePublished - 2006

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