Mythopoetic Perspectives of Men's Healing Work: An Anthology for Therapists and Others

By Edward Read Barton | Go to book overview
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Chapter 4
The Mythopoetic Interpretation of Texts: Hermeneutical Considerations

David B. Perrin

Robert Bly is considered the father of the "mythopoetic men's movement" ( Olaveson , 1996, p. 27). According to E. R. August ( 1994, p. xviii) mythopoetic refers to "a branch of the men's movement that combines myth and poetry in a search for archetypal patterns of masculinity." Elsewhere August ( 1995, p. 1) describes this search as "a struggle to propagate a positive masculine spirituality. . . . While the popular media and academic feminists were insisting that men's ways of thinking were limited to linear, rational logic, mythopoetic men were demonstrating the potency of archetypes, myth, and poetry in the lives of men." The mythopoetic branch is at the service of facilitating the initiation and training of men to live out a healthy form of masculinity. Emphasis is placed on getting in touch with one's own feelings, improvement of self-image and esteem, development of a sense of trust in other men, relating in a more mature fashion to women, and being an agent of change, hope, and betterment. The mythopoetic branch has as its goal the replacement of debilitating and destructive models of masculinity characterized, for example, by rationalism, oppressive power, and individualism with models of masculinity that value feelings, see power as empowerment (of self and others), and emphasize interdependent autonomy.

Examples of texts used for mythopoetic interpretation include Homer Odyssey and Virgil Aeneid. The Iron John myth taken from the Grimm Brothers' collection of fairy tales, as used by Robert Bly, is another example of the type of narrative that is being used as a source of personal and communal transformation in men's groups. 1 Robert Bly, Michael Meade, James Hillman, and others show that the mythopoetic interpretation of texts has sometimes replaced the role of male mentors in the absence of healthy male models in the family or

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