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    Modules > Religions grecque et romaine : notions et méthodes > Les mythes et la mythologie > L’origine des mots et la difficulté d’une définition.

    Quelques définitions du mythe

    W. Burkert, Structure and History, p. 22-23 :
    « The specific character of myth seems to lie neither in the structure nor in the content of a tale, but in the use to which it is put (...) : myth is a traditional tale with secondary, partial reference to something of collective importance. Myth is a traditional tale applied; and its relevance and seriousness stem largely from this application. The reference is secondary, as the meaning of the tale is not to be derived from it—in contrast to fable, which is invented for the sake of its application; and it is partial, since tale and reality will never be quite isomorphic in these applications (...). The phenomena of collective importance which are verbalized by applying traditional tales are to be found, first of all, in social life. »

    A. Neschke, « Griechischer Mythos: Versuch einer idealtypischen Beschreibung », p. 119 :
    « Griechische Mythen sind Darstellungen wichtiger Lebensthemen, insbesondere des Handelns des Menschen, in den Lebensbereichen der kulturellen Gemeinschaft, denen die kollektive Vorstellung dieser Bereiche als transzendente Subjekte in der Rolle von Mitgliedern eines Haushaltes (oikos) zugrundeliegt. »

    A. Neschke, « Mythe et traitement littéraire du mythe », p. 52 :
    « Si, comme le présuppose la pratique des historiens et des archéologues plus particulièrement, on est d’accord pour désigner par le mot ‘mythe’ chaque récit ou chaque représentation figurée qui a pour sujet soit un dieu, soit un héros (les deux types de personnages traditionnels propres à la Grèce ancienne), il serait plus conséquent de définir le mythe grec non pas comme un récit, mais comme une représentation de personnages traditionnels au moyen de formes symboliques, qui sont ou bien des symboles figurés ou bien linguistiques voire narratives (sic). »

    J. Bremmer, Interpretations of Greek Mythology, p. 7 :
    « What exactly is a Greek myth? We started this chapter with Burkert’s definition of myth (...). This definition has proved to be valid for the whole period of Greek history. At the same time, however, we have seen that myths are not always traditional tales, nor is their collective importance the same during the whole of Greek history. Perhaps one could propose a slightly simpler definition: ‘traditional tales relevant to society’. It is true that to us the appearance of gods and heroes is an esential part of Greek myth, but the supernatural presence is only to be expected when religion is embedded in society. Western secularised societies have nearly abolished the supernatural, but they usually still have their favourite (historical) tales that serve as models of behaviour of are the expression of the country’s ideals. It is their relevance to Greek society that makes the mythoi still fascinating today, for however different the Greeks were from us, they were also very much the same. »

    J. Bottero, Lorsque les dieux faisaient l’homme. Mythologie mésopotamienne, Paris, 1989, p. 83 : « [le mythe] est imagination calculée pour procurer une explication religieuse des choses. »

    Fr. Graf, Greek Mythology, p. 1-8 :
    « It is still difficult to define myth satisfactorily... Many solutions have been proposed, only to be rejected. The most banal and least controversial of these may serve as a starting point: myths are traditional tales (...) Myths are transmitted from one generation to another, without anyone knowing who created them: this is what is meant by traditional (...). The reason for the continuous mutation of myth—the motor of the tradition...—is its cultural relevance. A myth makes a valid statement about... everything on which human experience depends. If conditions change, a myth, if it is to survive, must change with them. »
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