The Meaning of Myth in World Cultures


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About the Book

Mythology—circulated in sacred stories (myths) and their reenactments (rituals)—is the basis of any society’s religion, and religion is an essential key to identity. Mythology’s meaning depends on the elaboration of identity in cultural metaphors that are at the same time ecological (arising from a society’s environmental exploitation), sociological (based on indigenous social relations) and ideological (couched in terms of a society’s worldview). But tellingly, these metaphors are embodied in anthropomorphic spirits, fostering a deep sense of identification with those spirits as well as with individuals who share in one’s spiritual devotions.
This study examines mythology from a global perspective, citing case studies in cultural traditions from Africa, Europe, Oceania, Native America and elsewhere.

Instructors considering this book for use in a course may request an examination copy here.

About the Author(s)

Michael Buonanno is a professor of English and anthropology at the State College of Florida: Manatee/Sarasota. His previous publications have appeared in The Journal of American Folklore and New York Folklore. He lives in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Bibliographic Details

Michael Buonanno
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 323
Bibliographic Info: 27 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2019
pISBN: 978-0-7864-9712-6
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3392-3
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface 1
Introduction: A Story Is Medicine 5
1. Origins: The Dance and the Dream 25
2. The Physical Environment and Ecological Metaphors 59
3. The Social Environment and Sociological Metaphors 87
4. Religion as Indigenous Philosophy 114
5. Anthropomorphic Metaphors and Identification 140
6. Ritual Enactment and Affiliation 177
7. Mythic Rhetoric: Allegories, Ancestors and Apocalypses 201
8. Identity: Myth, Memory and Affirmation 236
Conclusion: The Legitimacy of Myth 270
Chapter Notes 291
References 301
Index 307

Book Reviews & Awards

“An ambitious book, one which introduces readers to myths from numerous and varied traditions from across the globe, as well as offering both a history and theoretical study of mythology…. There is much to recommend in this book…. The variety of myths and cultures covered is impressive”—Journal of Folklore Research