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Book: How to Do Things with Myths

Chapter: Conceptual Problems for Robert A. Segal and Jonathan Z. Smith

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.44973


Major scholars of myth, Segal and Smith, continue Müller’s essentially textualist and literary conception of myths. This leads to Segal and Smith stumbling into a series of conceptual problems. Segal finds difficulty both resisting defining ‘myth,” but then also needing to use in the sense of “significant” and “weighty” stories. Likewise resisting recommendations of any theory of myth, Segal concludes in fact preferring psychoanalytic theories of myth, derived mostly from Freud and Jung. Smith began as a student of Frazer’s The Golden Bough, a magnum opus in textual conceptions of myth. While Smith soon abandoned Frazer, his orientation toward Lévi-Strauss often reveals an ongoing Trickster’s attachment to incongruous literary memes like “incongruity.”

Chapter Contributors

  • Ivan Strenski ([email protected] - istrenski) 'University of California Riverside (retired)'