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Author Topic: Comparative Mythology  (Read 4325 times) Average Rating: 0
RandallS
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« Topic Start: August 01, 2010, 05:55:36 pm »

Title: Comparative Mythology
Author(s): Jaan Puhvel
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication Date: August 1, 1989
ISBN: 0801839386
ISBN-13: 978-0801839382
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Discussion and reviews of this book are welcome in this thread. If you've read the book, please tell us what you think of it and why.
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« Reply #1: August 01, 2010, 07:34:37 pm »

I'm really hoping Catja, or someone else with appropriate scholarly cred, can come in on this one.  There are several things on the Amazon page that are making me want to reach for a salt shaker.

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« Reply #2: August 01, 2010, 07:37:36 pm »

I'm really hoping Catja, or someone else with appropriate scholarly cred, can come in on this one.  There are several things on the Amazon page that are making me want to reach for a salt shaker.

I have read enough of Catja's posts over the years to grab the salt shaker as soon as I saw the title.  What's surprising is that it was published by a university (granted a university known mostly for it's medical school but a university nonetheless).
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« Reply #3: August 01, 2010, 08:06:23 pm »

I have read enough of Catja's posts over the years to grab the salt shaker as soon as I saw the title.  What's surprising is that it was published by a university (granted a university known mostly for it's medical school but a university nonetheless).
Indeed.  One of the reader comments mentions that it doesn't cite sources Shocked - which is not exactly uni-press SOP.  The other things that I was skeptical about are more indefinite (the "Monomythologist With a Thousand Faces" impression I got from the Library Journal review was softened a bit by a commenter noting that the myths being compared were all IE - and since "hypothesis of common root" and "eschews any particular theory" are just flat-out oxymoronic, the LJ reviewer is clearly enough of a dolt that neither the praise nor the red flags have much significance), but no sources?  WTF?

I only grabbed the small salt shaker over the title (and even then it was partly because of the publication date), because (as I'm pretty sure Catja has mentioned) it is possible to compare myths without trying to cram them into the same primeval box.  But this doesn't look like it.

Sunflower
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« Reply #4: August 01, 2010, 11:00:23 pm »

Indeed.  One of the reader comments mentions that it doesn't cite sources

It does cite sources, actually; I'm reading it right now. It is one of the books on the ADF booklist, which is why I requested a discussion thread. Smiley

But yes, it cites sources (Puhvel was a classics/Indo-European studies professor at UCLA, I doubt they'd have let him get away with a book with no scholarship behind it!), though the majority of the sources are the texts of the myths themselves and people like Tacitus. Not too many modern sources, though I remember seeing at least a couple cited in the introductory chapters. He uses some type of APA sort of citation rather than footnotes, though, and for some reason I don't get (publishing error, maybe?) there's no bibliography in the copy I'm reading, so I could see where the confusion would come in.

I am not very far along in the book yet, so I can't really address the other criticisms, aside from confirming that he does compare the common threads/possible common origins in myths from IE cultures. But I'm just past the introduction, so I'm not sure yet how far he goes in comparing them (or whether he goes into "all myths are one myth" territory or not).
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« Reply #5: August 25, 2010, 08:47:27 pm »



I haven't read this one, but my alarms are going off for four reasons:

1)  It was published in 1989.
2)  It apparently lacks scholarly apparatus.
3)  He was a student of Dumezil, and apparently his theories permeate the book.
4)  He's banging the "Proto-Indo-European" drum really hard, and a lot of the PIE theorizing is speculative, at best, and Campbellian reductionism at worst.

I've recommended this before, but William Doty's Mythography is the best single-volume breakdown of the various schools o mythological thought, discussing the strengths and weaknesses of each approach.


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« Reply #6: August 25, 2010, 08:53:16 pm »

I have read enough of Catja's posts over the years to grab the salt shaker as soon as I saw the title.  What's surprising is that it was published by a university (granted a university known mostly for it's medical school but a university nonetheless).

Johns Hopkins is considered a great press for literary studies, as well -- the two top American academic children's lit journals are published out of there.  Every university press has its own areas of specialization and expertise, which may or may not overlap with what that university is famous for -- while presses attached to top-tier universities (like JH) are generally considered very good, they may not necessarily be the best in that given field.  Like, Yale UP looks good to a layperson, but for fairy tale studies, Wayne State UP is top-tier -- the top fairy tale journal Marvels and Tales is housed there, which bumps its prestige WAY up. That kind of information can be hard to get, though, unless you're actually in academia.  Smiley 
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