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Hawthorne, Sian (2006) Origins, Genealogies, and the Politics of Mythmaking: Towards a Feminist Philosophy of Myth. PhD thesis. SOAS, University of London. DOI:

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This thesis develops and advocates a feminist philosophy of myth in order to reformulate influential understandings of the roles and functions of myths in recent mythological scholarship. The initial hypothesis which the thesis establishes in Chapter 1 is that the designation of myth qua myth is neither innocent nor organic; highly consequential interests are at stake when myths are narrated, and, moreover, the categorisation of some types of narrative as ‘myth’ and others as ‘science’, or ‘philosophy’, for example, indicates powerful assertions about their relative level of validity and authority. I argue that these assertions are implicated in discursive strategies of containment and exclusion and allied to forms of identity construction characterised by an assertion of singularity. They further rely on the location of a non-transcendable point of origin as a means of securing the stability and legitimacy of these constructions. I develop this argument, in Chapters 2–7, through an extended case study of the German search for origins from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, and demonstrate its relationship to the German romantic attempt to construct a noble German identity. I critique these forms of identity and origin construction, arguing that the German case is but one example of the western metaphysical theories of ontology which are indebted to inflected patrilinearity, the main feature of which is a preoccupation with monogenetic singularity. I consequently develop an alternative feminist model of origins and identity in Chapters 8–10 based on poststructural and psychoanalytical feminist theories of maternality as a site of splitting, doubling, and process. I acknowledge that while the identification of origins is an ontological convention, the assertion of patrilineal provenance creates forms of subjectivity that are exclusionary, dialectical, and monolithic, and are, therefore, inadequate frameworks for constructing ethically oriented models of identity in a post-feminist context. In contrast, I suggest that metaphors of maternal origin offer a considerably more promising, if transitional, discursive frame for articulating identities that stress multiplicity, connectedness, immanence, and dialogue.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
Keywords: Myth, Mythmaking, Mythology, Romanticism, German Nationalism, anti-semitism, Tacitus, Johan Gottfried Herder, Jakob Grimm, Wilhelm Grimm, Kinder- und Hausmarchen, Deutsche Mythologie, William Jones, Aryan, Max Muller, Joseph Arthur Comte de Gobineau, Houston Stewart Chamberlain, urheimat, ursprache, folklore, Volk, urvolk, patrilinearity, origin, Julia Kristeva, Jacques Lacan, narrative identity, politics of identity, selfsame, differance, discourse, discursive practice, maternality, feminist philosophy
SOAS Departments & Centres: Legacy Departments > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Department of the Study of Religions
Legacy Departments > Centre for Gender and Religions Research
SOAS Research Theses
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 18 Apr 2007

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