Academic journal article Literator: Journal of Literary Criticism, comparative linguistics and literary studies

Sustaining the Imaginative Life: Mythology and Fantasy in Neil Gaiman's American Gods (1)/Onderhouding Van Die Verbeeldingryke Lewe: Mitologie En Fantasie in Neil Gaiman Se American Gods

Academic journal article Literator: Journal of Literary Criticism, comparative linguistics and literary studies

Sustaining the Imaginative Life: Mythology and Fantasy in Neil Gaiman's American Gods (1)/Onderhouding Van Die Verbeeldingryke Lewe: Mitologie En Fantasie in Neil Gaiman Se American Gods

Article excerpt

Abstract

Sustaining the Imaginative life: mythology and fantasy in Neil Gaiman's American Gods

This examination of "American Gods" argues that mythology is the bedrock for creative and poetic expression in literature that explores and comments on the universality of contemporary human concerns in a world where the spiritual link with the gods has largely been severed and belief systems have mostly lost their meaning.

The discussion investigates and identifies the significance of shamanic properties and practices as elements which aid the protagonist Shadow Moon in his journey of self-discovery, and illustrates that the novel's mythification represents an attempt to "reach below the surface of modern superficialities and reconnect with something old and mysterious within the depths of our soul" (Freke, 1999:6). Gaiman's unique style in conveying tales that have fashioned the past, the manner in which he evokes the meeting-place of science, fantasy, myth, and magic, and the synthesis he fashions between the ancient and the modern illustrate that the imaginative life is sustained by the incorporation of mythical motifs as creative device. The blending of mythical elements in "American gods" and its restorative project of putting the reader in touch with the profound inner spiritual world validate investigation.

Key concepts:

election and initiation fantasy Gaiman, Neil: American gods myth criticism/mythopoesis myth transformation/mythification shamanism

Opsomming

Onderhouding van die verbeeldingryke lewe: mitologie en fantasie in Neil Gaiman se American gods

In hierdie artikel oor "American gods" word betoog dat mitologie die basis vorm van kreatiewe en poetiese uitdrukkings wat verkennend omgaan met en kommentaar lewer op die universaliteit van eietydse menslike bekommemisse in 'n wereld waarin die spirituele band met die goddelike grotendeels verbreek is en geloofstelsels grotendeels hulle betekenis verloor het.

Die sjamanistiese eienskappe van die protagonis Shadow Moon word ondersoek. Die ondersoek toon aan dat miteskepping in die roman 'n poging verteenwoordig "[to] reach below the surface of modern superficialities and reconnect with something old and mysterious within the depths of our soul" (Freke, 1999:6). Die unieke wyse waarop Gaiman verhale oordra waarin aan die verlede vorm gegee is, die wyse waarop hy wetenskap, fantasie, mite en magie oproep, en sy s-ntese van die oeroue en die moderne illustreer dat die verbeeldingslewe deur die kreatiewe insluiting van mitiese motiewe onderhou word. Sowel crie vervlegting van mitiese elemente in "American gods", as die wyse waarop die werk herstel bewerkstellig deur die eietydse samelewing in voeling te plaas met 'n diepsinnige innerlike geesteswereld, word ondersoek.

  These are gods who have been forgotten, and now might as
   well be dead. They can be found only in dry histories. They
   are all gone, all gone, but their names and their images
   remain with us ...

   These are the gods who have passed out of memory. Even
   their names are lost. The people who worshipped them are
   as forgotten as their gods. Their totems are long since
   broken and cast down. Their last priests died without passing
   on their secrets (Gaiman, 2001:62-63).

Kernbegrippe:

fantasie Gaiman, Neil: American gods mite bespreking/kritiek mite-omsetting/skepping sjamanisme (ver)kiesing en inwyding

I. Introduction

In The poetics of myth Eleazar Meletinsky (2000:272) states that "myth [can be seen] as the basis for artistic creativity and the poetic expression of ... universal sentiments", while Northrop Frye (1976:71) argues that "mythology is a form of imaginative thinking, and its direct descendant in culture is literature, more particularly fiction, works of literature that tell stories". Psychologist Peter O'Connor concurs with both these views; he elaborates by saying that "the 'poet', as writer, painter or musician, sustains the imaginative life" and he describes this as "the necessary antidote to materialism and the pervasiveness of banal secularity" (O'Connor, 2001:201). …

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