Jung and myth criticism: what’s interesting and good to know


If you have done any kind of literary research regarding criticism or myths in general, you may have heard about our guy, Mr. Carl Gustav Jung (pronounced as “Yuung”). He was and still is one of the most interesting and important figures of myth criticism and he even went to “Freud’s field”, a.k.a. psychoanalysis as the founder of analytical psychology. This dude gave us a very explicit definition of archetypes and his vision and theory of the types of unconscious makes us open our eyes more. So, shall we embark in this new journey?

Dude, what’s myth criticism? What is criticism?

Long story short, criticism represents analysis, comparison and interpretation of a literary work, relating it to a type of criticism. This type represents a pair of lenses through which you can see the respective literary work. It can be formalism, structuralism, psychoanalysis, feminism, myth criticism and many more! And to do a good analysis you need some good sources and great research skills.

Carl Jung, Wikipedia

Myth criticism sees a literary works with respect to tradition and myths, the manifestation and interpretation of the myth being an important asset for the analysis. Jung is telling us that the unconscious has two layers: the personal unconscious, what we personally experience, the popular Freudian unconscious, and a collective unconscious, which contains archetypes and instincts. Basically, our guy Jung states that myths reveal the layer of collective unconscious.

Archetypes, traits that reoccur

We’ve seen archetypes everywhere. They reoccur in various forms, from literature and poetry to cartoons and paintings, they are some never-dying “personas” that characterize something or someone. From the Old Wise Man, a great example would be Master Shifu from “Kung Fu Panda” to the Great Mother archetype who can be our Fairy Godmother from “Cinderella” or even Mama Coco from “Coco”.

Perseus with Medusa’s head, Unsplash

And these archetypes come in pairs such as Light-Dark, Order-Chaos or Time-Eternity. Everyone has heard about a battle between the good and the evil (For example Ethan Woods from Resident Evil and -welp- the creepy stuff that makes everyone mad), between what is order and what is chaos (for example peaceful protests and violent repression against them) or has encountered some works that depict the flow of time or eternity.

They are interesting to analyze and compare since there are a butt-ton of sources! And you have to remember that instincts and archetypes, from Jung’s own statements, are correlated and coexist. Jung has come with five instincts: hunger, sexuality, activity, reflection and creativity. They are innate and cannot be learned and from hunger to creativity these instincts become more and more vague. So, collective unconscious are the instincts and traits that every human posses. With myth criticism you can easily associate these archetypes with, well, myths! Greek, Celtic, African, Indian, Chinese or Japanese, the choice is all yours!

Nah, that can’t be true. Any evidence?

Heck yeah, we have evidence! I mean, Jung had, but you get the idea. He studied the human mind as a psychotherapist and saw a pattern in his patients. The dream, image or motif of a snake was identified in all his patients, even in those who have never seen one in real life. They dream about it (and dreams are a gate towards unconsciousness) although they may never seen one. How many of us have ever dreamed about flying, falling, or even drowning? Pretty much, all of us. And all of us have encountered an archetype in our day-to-day life.


For example, we’ve all witnessed or met a Rebel, a Caregiver, a Ruler or a Creator. These types of people have existed, exist and will exist in every age. From antiquity to the futuristic world. Oh, and another pretty interesting fact about Jung: he came with the four basic psychological functions: extroversion vs. introversion, sensation vs. intuition, thinking vs. feeling and judging vs. perceiving. His theory is the base of the famous Myers- Briggs Type Indicator test. You know, the “INFP, ESTJ, etc.” type of personality test.

So far, what is your opinion on myth criticism?


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