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Malinowski and the Work of Myth

Malinowski and the Work of Myth

Selected and Introduced by Ivan Strenski
Copyright Date: 1992
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    Malinowski and the Work of Myth
    Book Description:

    Bronislaw Malinowski (1884-1942) was a wide-ranging thinker whose ideas affected almost every branch of the social sciences. And nowhere is this impact more evident or more persistent than on the study of myth, ritual, and religion. He articulated as never before or since a program of seeing myths as part of the functional, pragmatic, or performed dimension of culture--that is, as part of activities that did certain tasks for particular human communities. Spanning his entire career, this anthology brings together for the first time the important texts from his work on myth. Ivan Strenski's introduction places Malinowski in his intellectual world and traces his evolving conception of mythology. As Strenski points out, Malinowski was a pioneer in applying the lessons of psychoanalysis to the study of culture, while at the same time he attempted to correct the generalizations of psychoanalysis with the cross-cultural researches of ethnology. With his growing interest in psychoanalysis came a conviction that myths performed essential cultural tasks in "chartering" all sort of human institutions and practices. Originally published in 1992.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6280-1
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xxxii)

    Nearly seventy-five years have passed since Bronislaw Malinowski (1884-1942) first wrote about myth. Can Malinowski still teach us anything important about myth today? Since Malinowski’s time, much work has been done on the theory of myth by Claude Lévi-Strauss, Mircea Eliade, Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell, and many others. Did Malinowski say anything that these theorists did not say better? Why should we still read Malinowski at all?

    The best reason for continuing to read Malinowski on myth is simply that many of his insights remain important. These fall into four categories: function and practice, context and meaning, anthropology and psychoanalysis,...


    • 1 “In Tewara and Sanaroa—Mythology of the Kula” (1922)
      (pp. 3-39)

      At daybreak the party leave the Amphletts. This is the stage when the parting gifts,the talo’iare given. The clay pots, the several kinds of produce of the islands and of the Koya, which had been laid aside the previous day, are now brought to the canoes. Neither the giver nor the main receiver, thetoliwaga, take much notice of the proceedings, great nonchalance about give and take being the correct attitude prescribed by good manners. Children bring the objects, and the junior members of the crew stow them away. The general behaviour of the crowds, ashore and in...

    • 2 “Ethnology and the Study of Society” (1921)
      (pp. 40-52)

      Every branch of knowledge can be made useful; first, in its direct application to the practical management of the subject; secondly, in opening a wider outlook upon its subject matter, in allowing us to build up a more adequate theory of the phenomenon in question. The study of savage and coloured races possesses practical value, in the first sense, for purposes of colonial administration and the management of the relations between white and coloured people. In the second sense, ethnology may be a most powerful means of widening our outlook on human nature, of allowing us to build up a...


    • 3 “Psychoanalysis and Anthropology” (1924)
      (pp. 55-57)

      The infection by psycho-analysis of the neighbouring fields of science—notably that of anthropology, folklore, and sociology—has been a very rapid and somewhat inflammatory process. The votaries of Freud, or some among them, have displayed in their missionary zeal an amount of dogmatism and of aggressiveness not calculated to allay the prejudice and suspicion which usually greet every new extension of their theories. Some of their critics, on the other hand, go so far as to dismiss all anthropological contributions of Freud and his school as “utterly preposterous” and “obviously futile,” as “an intrigue with Ethnology which threatens disaster...

    • 4 “Obscenity and Myth” (1927)
      (pp. 58-74)

      We now proceed to the discussion of folk-lore in relation to the typical sentiments of the matrilineal family, and with this we enter the best cultivated plot on the boundary of psycho-analysis and anthropology. It has long been recognized that for one reason or another the stories related seriously about ancestral times and the narratives told for amusement correspond to the desires of those among whom they are current. The school of Freud maintain, moreover, that folklore is especially concerned with the satisfaction of repressed wishes by means of fairy tales and legends; and that this is the case also...


    • 5 “Myth in Primitive Psychology” (1926)
      (pp. 77-116)

      IfI had the power of evoking the past, I should like to lead you back some twenty years to an old Slavonic university town—I mean the town of Cracow, the ancient capital of Poland and the seat of the oldest university in eastern Europe. I could then show you a student leaving the medieval college buildings, obviously in some distress of mind, hugging, however, under his arm, as the only solace of his troubles, three green volumes with the well-known golden imprint, a beautiful conventionalized design of mistletoe—the symbol of ‘The Golden Bough’.

      I had just then...

    • 6 “Myth as a Dramatic Development of Dogma”
      (pp. 117-128)

      Walking through one of the suburbs of Innsbruck, the visitor might come upon a church not yet quite finished in one of the side streets; it stands in a backyard of a small suburban villa. Sometimes he might encounter people carrying bricks and other building material; if as an amateur ethnographer he were to stop and enquire, he would find that these are not professional masons and bricklayers but pilgrims—peasants and townspeople often coming from distant places who supply the material as well as the devotion and faith necessary for the construction of a new church. This is dedicated...


    • 7 “The Foundations of Faith and Morals” (1936)
      (pp. 131-172)

      Anthropology is the comparative science of human cultures. It is often conceived as the study of man’s savagery and of his exotic extravagances. Modern developments in the world’s history, however, have made us uncertain whether we can trace a sharp line of distinction between culture and savagery. The student of human institutions and customs is, as a matter of method, also feeling less and less inclined to confine himself to the so-called primitive or simple cultures. He draws on the savageries of contemporary civilization as well as on the virtues and wisdom to be found among the humbler peoples of...

    (pp. 173-174)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 175-182)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 183-183)