The Implied Spider, Updated with a New Preface

The Implied Spider, Updated with a New Preface: Politics and Theology in Myth

Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    The Implied Spider, Updated with a New Preface
    Book Description:

    Wendy Doniger's foundational study is both modern in its engagement with a diverse range of religions and refreshingly classic in its transhistorical, cross-cultural approach. By responsibly analyzing patterns and themes across context, Doniger reinvigorates the comparative reading of religion, tapping into a wealth of narrative traditions, from the instructive tales of Judaism and Christianity to the moral lessons of the Bhagavad Gita. She extracts political meaning from a variety of texts while respecting the original ideas of each. A new preface confronts the difficulty of contextualizing the comparison of religions as well as controversies over choosing subjects and positioning arguments, and the text itself is expanded and updated throughout.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-52711-8
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface to the Updated Edition: Context and History
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  5. INTRODUCTION Myth and Metaphor
    (pp. 1-5)

    This book is about why and how myths from different cultures should be compared. I will take up the “how”—the actual method, the step-by-step procedure that a comparatist may follow—in chapters 4 and 5. But in the first three chapters, and in the final one, I will take up the “why” of comparative mythology.

    I will be talking about all sorts of stories; but the points that I wish to make are particularly relevant to myths, one discrete subdivision of the broader category of “story.” It is customary in scholarly approaches to myth to begin with a definition....

  6. CHAPTER ONE Microscopes and Telescopes
    (pp. 6-28)

    In this first chapter I will consider the metaphor of the microscope and the telescope in the functions and the analysis of myths, and will demonstrate my method by comparing texts from two traditions, the Hebrew Bible and Hindu mythology. Let me begin by arguing that the microscopic and telescopic levels are intrinsically combined within the myths themselves.

    One way to begin to define myth is to contextualize it on a continuum of all the narratives constructed of words (poems, realistic fiction, histories, and so forth)—all the various forms of narrations of an experience. If we regard this textual...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Dark Cats, Barking Dogs, Chariots, and Knives
    (pp. 29-57)

    In chapter 1, I spoke of the inherent ability of myths to compare the views of the microscope and the telescope, to use different scales of words and different verbal lenses to link theology with daily reality. In this chapter I will argue that this ability suggests that myth is an inherently comparative genre, in a double sense: it both compares and is amenable to comparison. In chapter 1 I also argued that myths may use microscopes and telescopes to link daily reality with global—indeed, galaxial—politics; that some myths open up our political vision just as other myths...

  8. CHAPTER THREE Implied Spiders and the Politics of Individualism
    (pp. 58-86)

    What do we mean by saying that a story is “the same as” or even “similar to” another story while acknowledging that the context is different? We often feel that the various tellings of a much-retold myth are the same, at least in the sense that they do not disappoint us by omitting what we regard as essential parts of the myth, without which it would lose at the very least some of its charm, and at the most its meaning. When we say that two myths from two different cultures are “the same” we mean that there are certain...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Micromyths, Macromyths, and Multivocality
    (pp. 87-121)

    Chapter 1 discussed the inherent ability of myths to compare the views of the microscope and the telescope. Chapters 2 and 3 suggested that myths from different cultures are both comparative and comparable. This chapter will discuss the micromyth and the macromyth as scholarly constructions that make comparison possible.

    Myths are retold over and over again for several reasons: because the community becomes attached to the signifiers, and they become authoritative and historically evocative; because myths are at hand, available, like the scraps of the bricoleur, and using them is easier than creating from scratch; and because they are intrinsically...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE Mother Goose and the Voices of Women
    (pp. 122-153)

    Let us now consider, among the many competing voices in multivocal myths, the voices of women, regarding them, from the standpoint of cultural morphologies, as a social group whose most basic shared interests span cultures.

    I remarked in the introduction that it never occurred to me that anyone would have to argue for the comparative method, which seemed so obviously useful—until I discovered that many people objected to it. I feel even more strongly about this chapter, in which the argument that there are women’s voices in men’s texts seems to me not only blatantly obvious but also already...

  11. CHAPTER SIX Textual Pluralism and Academic Pluralism
    (pp. 154-178)

    In chapter 3 I tried to defend comparison against charges that it lacks rigor, advances unfalsifiable universalist hypotheses, and is politically unhealthy. This last accusation sometimes takes the form of the contention that transcultural themes perpetuate stereotypes of gender, some of which we have just considered in chapter 5. Marina Warner has argued that “The theory of archetypes, which is essentially ahistorical, helps to confirm gender inevitability and to imprison male and female in stock definitions.”¹ She regards the archetype as the enemy not only of social change but also of social justice: “When history falls away from a subject,...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 179-200)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 201-218)
  14. Index
    (pp. 219-232)