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The Oxford Companion to World Mythology / Edition 1

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Overview

Cave paintings at Lascaux, France and Altamira, Spain, fraught with expression thousands of years later; point to an early human desire to form a cultural identity. In the Oxford Companion to World Mythology, David Leeming explores the role of mythology, or myth-logic, in history and determines that the dreams of specific cultures add up to a larger collective story of humanity. Stopping short of attempting to be all-inclusive, this fascinating volume will nonetheless be comprehensive, opening with an introduction exploring the nature and dimensions of myth and proposing a definition as a universal language. Briefly dipping into the ways our understanding of myth has changed from Aristotle and Plato to modern scholars such as Joseph Campbell, the introduction loosely places the concept in its present context and precedes articles on influential mythologists and mythological approaches that appear later in the Companion.
The main body of Leeming's work consists of A-Z entries covering all aspects of mythology, including substantial essays on the world's major mythological traditions (Greek, Native American, Indian, Japanese, Sumerian, Egyptian), mythological types and motifs (Descent to the Underworld, the Hero, the Trickster, Creation, the Quest), mythological figures (Odysseus, Zeus, Osiris, Spider Woman, and Inanna) as well as numerous interrelated subjects such as fairly tales and legends. The Companion also locates myth in our lives today, relating it to language patterns, psychology, religion, politics, art, and gender attitudes. Many of the better-known and more significant myths are vividly retold in this volume that will be illustrated with maps, more than 70 black and white images, and eight pages of color highlighting the central role art has often played in the transmission and perpetuation of myth. Following the entries, a rich section of appendices will include family trees of the major pantheons, equivalency charts for the gods of Greece and Rome, Babylon and Sumer, as well as other traditions, an extensive bibliography, and an index.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The scope of this companion to world mythology belies its compact, easy-to-hold format...Leeming's Companion has a place in any library."—Voice of Youth Advocates

"Inclusive and reasonably comprehensive....This work should find a place in any general reference collection."—Choice

"The strength of the Oxford Companion to World Mythology lies in its overview articles on mythologies of particular eras and cultures.... Scholarly but rarely abstruse, this reasonably priced volume is particularly suitable for academic and larger public libraries."—Booklist

"Dependable information, clear and concise writing, and well-chosen illustrations make this a useful resource. The volume offers easy access to a broad range of topics.... This is a grand book."—School Library Journal

VOYA - Donna Scanlon
The scope of this companion to world mythology belies its compact, easy-to-hold format. Leeming, a renowned authority in the field of comparative mythology, covers an impressive range of mythologies and cultures-Greek, Native American, Indian, Japanese, Sumerian, Egyptian. The entries are thoroughly cross-referenced with asterisks in a nonintrusive way, facilitating not only further exploration into a topic but also cultural comparisons. Leeming's entries are clear, concise, and thorough. They provide the perfect starting point for any student of mythology. A cultural listing of entries allows the reader to immediately access all references specific to that culture, while the useful index affords additional exploration into subjects and themes such as flood myths, creation, and the afterlife. A section containing the family trees of different systems of gods and goddesses and tables of equivalent deities simplifies the complex relationships. Black-and-white photographs of representational art scattered through the text as well as a section of color plates in the center lend dimension to the writing. An authoritative and wide-ranging bibliography, a list of picture credits, and a cogent introduction round out the volume beautifully. This book will more than capably assist a student researching even the most obscure mythologies. It can also serve as a road map on a cross-cultural journey for the mind eager to explore further. Leeming's companion has a well-deserved place in any library serving young adults.
Library Journal
Leeming (English & comparative literature, emeritus, Univ. of Connecticut; From Olympus to Camelot: The World of European Mythology), who has authored books on various aspects of mythology, many with a specific regional focus, has compiled a resource encompassing the important mythological topics from cultures around the world. This single volume begins with a list of the broad cultural headings-e.g., African, Chinese, Greek-with references to related subjects. The 2000 A-to-Z entries, which cover mythological figures (e.g., Zeus, Inanna), types and motifs (e.g., "the Hero," "the Quest"), and traditions (e.g., Greek, Native American), include ample cross references. The articles range in length from several pages for the major Greek, Egyptian, Mesopotamian, and Celtic traditions to shorter entries for particular beliefs, concepts, and characters. Influential mythologists and modern-day philosophies are also covered. Leeming's introductory essay, "The Nature and Dimensions of Myth," defines the scope of mythology in articulating a cultural and universal identity. The book is further enhanced by more than 70 black-and-white illustrations as well as several pages of color plates depicting mythological subjects. Following the entries is a series of appendixes that includes Pantheonic charts, a lengthy bibliography, and a thorough index. Bottom Line This useful resource is comparable to Larousse World Mythology (Smithmark, 1989), yet more concise and comprehensive in its coverage. Highly recommended for academic reference collections.-Eloise Hitchcock, Western Carolina Univ. Lib., Cullowhee, NC Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195156690
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 11/17/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 520
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 6.30 (h) x 1.70 (d)

Meet the Author

David Leeming is Emeritus Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Connecticut. His many books include Myths, Legends, and Folktales of America, with Jake Page, A Dictionary of Asian Mythology and Myth: A Biography of Belief. He lives in Riverdale, New York.

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