Saturday, November 15, 2014
Irresponsible literature in the shadow of Mythology
Literature and Mythology
Nearly all oblong or circular, and as if traced with the compass, they seem to form one vast archipelago, equal to that charming group lying between Greece and Asia Minor, and which mythology in ancient times adorned with most graceful legends.~Round The Moon by Verne, Jules
Mythology is defined as "the body of myths belonging to a culture. Myths are traditional stories about gods and heroes. They often account for the basic aspects of existence — explaining, for instance, how the Earth was created, why people have to die, or why the year is divided into seasons. Classical mythology — the myths of the ancient Greeks and Romans — has had an enormous influence on European and American culture."(The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy).
Literature is "the best expression of the best thought reduced to writing." (Encyclopædia Britannica).
The comparative study of the mythology and literature of various cultures and countries has helped in drawing conclusions about philosophical and psychological changes that came with cultural advancement of civilization. Literature in context with mythology has potential to reach intellectual mind which may prefer or condemn the advancement of civilization over culture. The values of society are reflected in both mythology as well as literature, but mythology is closer to collective consciousness and as Emile Durkheim said "the totality of beliefs and sentiments common to the average members of a society forms a determinate system with a life of its own. It can be termed the collective or creative consciousness."
He has used the word 'belief and sentiments' to appreciate the differences, yet an analogy that exists between an individual and the society, the interaction in them results in creativity. The object of study of Mythology is to support various Psychological theories, that is why it can be said that nothing new can be written in Literature after Ramayana and Mahabharata. The thin line of demarcation between normal and abnormal vanishes when human psyche is understood in the context of mythological stories. That was, in a way, an effort on the part of creator to make human mind free from guilty conscience, which is quite necessary to maintain an equilibrium in the society.
That literature which was once created orally, with the advancement of technology reached to present stage when paperback publishing is called traditional and the day is not far when it would become extinct and eBooks and audio books would take over the market only to save the future human race from hazardous consequences of paper industry. With the expansion of reach due to increased rate of literacy in third world countries and advance technology author had to act more responsibly for the cultural advancement of the society, which he has conveniently overlooked.
Many authors do hard work and spend years and decades to do research on a subject before they give final shape to a book. One great Indian scholar and author Mahapandit Rahul Sankrityayan traveled to many eastern countries like Nepal, Tibet, Russia and China to collect manuscripts written in Pali and Sanskrit and brought them back to India on several yaks to write fiction based on these books. William Dalrymple when writing his book 'City Of Jinns' collected many documents from survivors of British India.
Literature can and must be created out of Mythology but a great caution is required. The book when read after few centuries should not construe a wrong picture in the mind of the reader. Nobody gives that right to an author.