Geoffrey Stephen Kirk (19212003) was born in Nottingham and educated at Clare College, Cambridge. He was later awarded a research fellowship and a readership at Trinity Hall, Cambridge. Kirk was appointed Regius Professor of Greek at the university in 1974, retiring in 1982. Among his books are Heraclitus: the Cosmic Fragments, The Presocratic Philosophers, and Myth: Its Meaning and Functions in Ancient and Other Cultures.
The Nature of Greek Myths (Barnes & Noble Rediscovers Series)by G. S. Kirk, Richard Stoneman (Foreword by)
Theories of myths abound. They have been seen as echoes of cosmological and meteorological events; as attempts to explain the odder goings-on in the worlda sort of primitive science; as stories invented to validate existing customs or institutions; as evocative tales of a creative past; and as justification for primitive rituals. Folklorists, psychoanalysts,
Theories of myths abound. They have been seen as echoes of cosmological and meteorological events; as attempts to explain the odder goings-on in the worlda sort of primitive science; as stories invented to validate existing customs or institutions; as evocative tales of a creative past; and as justification for primitive rituals. Folklorists, psychoanalysts, philosophers, and anthropologists have all had their say.
Originally published in 1974, The Nature of Greek Myths investigates the complex nature of Greek myths in order to guide the reader to a deeper understanding of the fundamental characteristics of all myths and their meaning. Perhaps for the first time, these “traditional tales” and their remarkable contribution to Western culture are provided with a commentary that considers the development and function of Greek mythology from its beginnings in the oral tradition (and tracing the Near-Eastern origins of recurrent motifs to their source in Mesopotamia and Egypt) to its ultimate role as a key element in philosophy.
The renowned classicist G. S. Kirk presents a concise but thorough explanation of the five major twentieth-century “universal” theories of myth, reflecting a wide range of thoughtfrom Franz Boas, Bronislaw Malinowski, E. E. Evans-Pritchard, and Claude Levi-Strauss to J. G. Frazer, Francis Cornford, Gilbert Murray and Ernst Cassirer. Kirk gives particular attention to the structuralist approach to myth, which at the time was offering a fresh theoretical model, yielding important insights into the workings of culture. His general analysis of the nature of myth is followed by a splendid account of the Greek myths themselves: myths about gods, myths about heroes, andin greater detailmyths about the god-hero Heracles.
In a final chapter, Professor Kirk speculates on the manner in which an age dominated by myth gave way to an age dominated by philosophy.
Praise for Nature of Greek Myths and its author:
“Kirk’s work on myth remains necessary reading for any serious student of the subject.”Sir Hugh Lloyd-Jones, Regius Professor Emeritus of Greek at Oxford University
“Kirk’s achievement was to show how rich and diverse the experience of myth might be, and to liberate scholars from the kind of reductivism that would straitjacket the stories.”from the foreword by Richard Stoneman, author of Alexander the Great: A Life in Legend
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I really wanted to give this a try after reading the description. I barely got into chapter 1 before I realized this wasn't going to be a statement of fact or research, but rather a book devoted to the laziness and stupidity of others (in the opinion of the author). He spends so much time belittling the work of others and making snarky comments about lackluster research, it makes one not want to indulge in his self-egrandizing, matter-of-fact, holier-than-thou style of writing. All in all this was very disappointing. If Kirk had spent less time being petty and more time discussing his thesis the text would have been much more valuable, and much more interesting.