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In search of the myth in history : the narrative of the quest from sacred to secular Zimmerman, Kate Ballantyne


Following the work of Edward Said, the constructed truth of the Western Other through a tradition of literary imagery (tropes), and the way these constructions inform and guide the agency and praxis of a dominating West, are now fundamental concepts for much anthropological analysis. Through examining the Western narrative of "the quest" as it appears in three different periods of Western history, this paper examines the emergence of literary tropes from mythological narratives. In so doing the paper raises two questions: First, in what way does the advent of symbolic coding for language, or literacy, change the relationship between the social actor/agent and narrative? Second, in what way does myth, in its anthropological sense, maintain its presence in the Western historical tradition? This paper, then, is an anthropology of the West. Of particular relevance here are the works of Edward Said, Jonathan Hill, Jack Goody, Walter Ong, and Northrop Frye. Keywords: myth, metaphor, mythological narrative, literacy, literary trope, action.

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