View Poll Results: What do you think are the effects of Greek myths on19th century English novels?

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  • Greek myths become the foundation of most19th century English novels.

    4 6.67%
  • Greek myths are alluded to in many 19th century English novels but the novels shape themselves.

    44 73.33%
  • Greek myths are alluded in many novels, but they are only allusions to clarify a scene or character.

    12 20.00%
  • There is no relationship at all between Greek myths and the 19th century English novel.

    0 0%
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Thread: Influence of Greek Myths

  1. #1
    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    Influence of Greek Myths

    My friend novlist*star* is doing a class project on the influence of Greek myths on 19th cenmtury English novels. Below is a poll. Please give your best judgement as to your perception of the extent of that influence, if any. She will collect this data for her class project. All voters are welcomed.

    Note: The length of the questions were limited in the poll. The full context of all the above questions are the following:

    1- Greek myths become the foundation of most19th century English novels. Their themes and structures are integral to many novels.

    2- Greek myths are alluded to in many 19th century English novels but the novels shape themselves. The novels share the same themes of the Greek myths, but the novels take their own structure.
    The example for this point is Frankenstein by Mary Shelly

    3- Greek myths are alluded in many novels, but they are only allusions to clarify a scene or character. They do not integrate into the novel's themes or structure.
    The example for this point is The Mill on the Floss novel by George Eliot. It is when Maggie is compared to Medusa.

    4- There is no relationship at all between Greek myths and the 19th century English novel.
    Last edited by Virgil; 05-28-2009 at 01:48 AM.
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  2. #2
    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    My perception is that 19th century English novels use allusions to Greek myths, but that is as far as it goes. The themes are 19th century themes and I can't think of any novels that formulate the novel itself as a mythic text. Frankenstein, the example given, does come close, but I think that's more the exception than the rule.
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  3. #3
    shortstuff higley's Avatar
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    I'll be curious to see what everyone else says. My knowledge of English 19th century literature is sorely limited but the idea of mythology directly or subconsciously guiding the development of a story or its characters is an interesting one. While I don't feel justified in hazarding my own ignorant vote, I'd say that in general mythology has helped to shape the common views of tragedy and romance we have now.

    So basically I just was no help whatsoever. :P
    '...A cast of your skull, sir, until the original is available, would be an ornament to any anthropological museum. It is not my intention to be fulsome, but I confess that I covet your skull.' --Dr. Mortimer, The Hound of the Baskervilles

  4. #4
    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by higley View Post
    I'll be curious to see what everyone else says. My knowledge of English 19th century literature is sorely limited but the idea of mythology directly or subconsciously guiding the development of a story or its characters is an interesting one. While I don't feel justified in hazarding my own ignorant vote, I'd say that in general mythology has helped to shape the common views of tragedy and romance we have now.

    So basically I just was no help whatsoever. :P
    You didn't vote though. I think she needs to collect data.
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

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  5. #5
    shortstuff higley's Avatar
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    Okay okay. I voted as knowledgeably as I could.
    '...A cast of your skull, sir, until the original is available, would be an ornament to any anthropological museum. It is not my intention to be fulsome, but I confess that I covet your skull.' --Dr. Mortimer, The Hound of the Baskervilles

  6. #6
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    There's not an "Other" category? I don't pretend to have read everything from the 19th century, but I believe almost all literature - and storytelling in general - Is an amalgamation of MULTIPLE previous sources... Not just one.

    So I believe trying to single out an influence such as just "Greek Myths" is going to be extremely difficult. And I wish you the best in trying to figure it out

    I voted, simply to give your friend the data they wanted.

  7. #7
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    Honestly, I have read more 19th century poetry than novels, more of which contain allusions to Greek mythology than anything else, particularly in Romanticism - Keats, Shelley, Byron, Tennyson, Coleridge? Some seem borderline Romanticism with Victorian-era poets, but have enough references to Greco-Roman mythology worth mentioning. Novels? Perhaps not quite as much, but the general influence of literature among literature in this era of, assumingly, Western literature seems enough to consider that much of it bluntly originated from Greco-Roman material.

  8. #8
    Registered User prendrelemick's Avatar
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    I am constantly recognising plot devices and characters from the Greeks. In literature from all ages. Perhaps they are universal human themes, but the Greeks got there first. (Or wrote it down first) We see hubris, pathos, bathos, we see Clytemnestras, cassandras and cyclopses.

    If you are talking about deliberate allusional content, it is fairly common in works of that time, often included to illustrate a point.

  9. #9
    Registered User kiki1982's Avatar
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    I think how those myths are used in the text (as a major theme on development of characters, as an indication for how to interpret characters/events etc, or just as an allusion to the situation there and then) is mainly down to the author.

    Has the author the mind to discern in that myth a major theme or not. If he has, like Brontë, he puts it in his books. If he hasn't, then he doesn't and just thinks about a certain situation he read somewhere and puts it in the text. (I can't think of an example, I'm afraid)

    I am not too familiar with English literature and I am slowly working my way through it.

    To humour you I will just vote for the foundation, as my experience in 19th century is that it is very profound and that those writers spent a lot of time thinking. So it is well possible that they spent time studying myths as well. It was the closest to my opinion. Can't you put something that combines the two as stated above?
    Last edited by kiki1982; 05-28-2009 at 04:43 AM.
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  10. #10
    Registered User prendrelemick's Avatar
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    Those 19 century writers would certainly be very clued up on the classics. But they had a problem with the different moral values between the two societies. Heros that robbed, cheated, raped and murdered just didn't fit the bill. Their 19 century agendas were different, the good guys had to win, or at least recieve a reward for their piety.

    I'll probably vote for the second option, but I need to think a bit more first.

  11. #11
    Registered User kelby_lake's Avatar
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    Not sure. There's lots in poetry but I actually think there's more influence on 20th century American Drama and European Drama.

  12. #12
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    A lot of the influential authors of the time use typical Greek tragedy ingredients... The tragic hero who makes a tragic mistake because not having full knowledge of a situation is regularly present, and the Byronic hero seems to be created after the tragic hero. That is, the tragedy has already occurred in his youth and it turned the hero's character into the Byronic one, and so we have sympathy with him. The story/plot constructions and hero characters rely heavily on heroes with human flaws or who have made mistakes, and they are thrown into situations and circumstances beyond their powers of control. The latter too is common for Classic Greek tales.

    So, yes, I would say Greek myths make the foundation to 19th century writing

  13. #13
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    Greek culture in general is evident in all western literature and art works. To single out greek myths as influencing factor of 19th cent english literature reads therefore like a bad joke.

  14. #14
    Voice of Chaos & Anarchy
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    There is another possibility that you neglected in the poll. To wwit, ancient myths and modern literature address the same themes and some of the same situations, so modern writers can draw from myths to make allusions that clarify their works, or they can write something new that does not allude to myth but addresses the same facet of humanity in a way that parallels the treatment from ancient myths.

    Earthlings simply do not write about many different things, because they are interested in only a few matters such as reproduction, aggrandizement, revenge, survival, etc.

  15. #15
    Dreaming away Sapphire's Avatar
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    Interesting - I wish Novlist*star* all the luck with this project. It's a tough one!

    I do not think I know enough about 19th century English novels to make a well founded stand on this subject. If I have to vote, I would say choice #2 "Greek myths are alluded to in many 19th century English novels but the novels shape themselves."
    It goes too far to call them the foundation of all those books written in the 19th century. I personally think the foundation of a book comes from the writers frame of mind, and his/her experiences and fantasies. Not from other stories, as much as those might have shaped the writer.
    Option #3 can only be used if writers expected their readers to really know the Greek myths. I mean, otherwise it would not be clarifying - would it? I am not sure enough about the 19th century way of living to say this is true, but it does make me think that books were written for the elite... Were they? Maybe, as those were the ones who had the time to read and opportunity to go to school... As you can read, I am really not sure whether to vote 2 or 3
    Option number 4 can only be true if the writers were not familiar with the myths. I don't think that's the case - after all, it's right after/during Romanticism

    I do not think this is necessarily limited to the 19th century novels. I think earlier literature/stories does influence later literature. And as there are many parallels between Greek myths and other myths and stories... Well, in the end - if you look for a link I am sure you can find it in any book of your choice .
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