Mythology: From Ancient to Post-Modern

By Jürgen Kleist; Bruce A. Butterfield | Go to book overview

Preface

"The head of a man is like a labyrinth of a thousand streams of water. . . . Man's head is not a trustworthy implement, nor is it a machine about which we know, with any certainty, what it is good for or is not good for.

". . . codified (or at least established) law . . . only attends to the surface of events--that minutia which history can record--and ignores the flying body--the essence of history itself.

"The heart of a man is like a labyrinth of a thousand streams of liquor . . . ."

Camilo José Cela, "Postscript: The Head, Geometry, and the Heart," in his novel Mrs. Caldwell Speaks to Her Son, trans. J. S. Bernstein ( Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1968), pp. 195, 197, 205.

"The ultimate weaver of world mythology is a woman, and the loom is her body."

Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson ( New York: Vintage Books, 1990), p. 585.

With these statements Camilo José Cela and Camille Paglia suggest the central metaphors on which are focused the fifteen essays and one novel-fragment that follow in this collection. Although these sixteen writers--participants in an interdisciplinary symposium on mythology held at SUNY Plattsburgh in March 1991--obviously approach the topic of mythology from the vantage point of many disciplines and for many purposes, they all explicitly or implicitly play with the metaphors of the labyrinth and of the body in order to explain the workings of mythology as they see them.

Paglia's metaphor is, of course, the body itself as mythology--as the loom on which the mythmaker weaves, again and again, in constantly changing patterns and combinations, the stories that interpret, and thus create, the universe. Cela's metaphors--the head and the heart of man as labyrinths, the essence of history as a flying body--suggest the further metaphoric possibility of mythology as the flying body by which the

-xi-

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