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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Mutability of Myths

A myth is a kind of story told in public, which people tell one another; they wear an air of ancient wisdom, but that is part of their seductive charm.  Not all antiques are better than a modern design — especially if they're needed in ordinary, daily use... myths aren't writ in stone, they're not fixed, but often, telling the story of the same figures — of Medea or of dinosaurs — change dramatically both in content and meaning. Myths offer a lens which can be used to see human identity in its social and cultural context — they can lock us up in stock reactions, bigotry and fear, but they're not immutable, and by unpicking them, the stories can lead to others.  Myths convey values and expectations which are always evolving, in the process of being formed, but — and this is fortunate — never set so hard they cannot be changed again, and newly told stories can be more helpful than repeating old ones.

Marina Warner, Six Myths of Our Time: Little Angels, Little Monsters, Beautiful Beasts, and More (New York: Vintage Books, 1994), 19.

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