Myth and the Making of Modernity: The Problem of Grounding in Early Twentieth-century Literature
The contributors to this collection of essays on the literary use of myth in the early twentieth century and its literary and philosophical precedents from romanticism onwards draw on a range of disciplines, from anthropology, comparative literature, and literary criticism, to philosophy and religious studies. The underlying assumption is that modernist myth-making does not retreat from modernity, but projects a mode of being for the future which the past could serve to define. Modernist myth is not an attempted recovery of an archaic form of life so much as a sophisticated self-conscious equivalent. Far from seeking a return to an earlier romantic valorizing of myth, these essays show how the true interest of early twentieth-century myth-making lies in the consciousness, affirmative as well as tragic, of living in a human world which, in so far as it must embody value, can have no ultimate grounding. Although myth may initially appear to be the archaic counterterm to modernity, it is thus also the paradigm on which modernity has repeatedly reconstructed, or come to understand, its own life forms. The very term myth, by combining, in its modern usage, the rival meanings of a grounding narrative and a falsehood, encapsulates a central problem of modernity: how to live, given what we know.
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