Symbols That Move Us
We believe that we invent symbols. The truth is that they invent us... Gene Wolfe
‘Symbols and Myth-Making in Modernity’ unpacks the deep culture that nourishes human perception of reality through symbols. From ancient, mythical creatures and rites through Renaissance masterpieces to cinema, religion and art, the book illustrates how ever-present symbols erupt in popular culture today and what work they do in transforming self and society.
Why do people queue up and break the bank to watch fantasy movies? Why do some fictional characters and mythical creatures arrest our mind and senses? Why do some images and tales affect us so deeply, so much so that we see them all around and inside us? From heroic journeys to uncanny feelings to invincible goddesses, ‘Symbols and Myth-Making in Modernity’ investigates the metaphoric power of symbols in human imagination today and in the past. The book traces how ever-present cross-cultural symbols, residing in ancient rites, masterpieces of Renaissance, Sufi poetry, religion and myths, erupt in popular culture today, including in cinema, books, visual art, music and politics.
The book unpacks a post-Jungian, phenomenological theory of deep culture that nourishes human perception of reality through symbols and myths. It describes how complex symbols such as those in ancient myths, religions or modern popular culture should be seen as multivalent, irreplaceable, shared to the extent that they carry significance across cultures and times and pointing to interiority or inner transformation, including as compensation or as affirmation. Moreover, the most popular and common symbols are not fantasized by individuals but are rather grasped or intuited from the culture they live in. Symbols are manifest in popular culture yet simultaneously hidden so that their significance becomes apparent only with appropriate conceptual lenses which carries signification beyond the literal object itself. Art and rituals are the societal vessels that disclose the depth of the symbol and its relevance to daily life.
Symbols have always been situated within a system of meaning — a mytho-logia. But moderns have largely lost conscious access to a mythology. This offers mythology for our time, illustrating its relevance in modern rituals of popular movies, religion and politics. Dismantling literalism and disturbing our view of the world, at each step the book unpacks how people relate to the world through symbols, how symbols play out in the modern world, and the work they do in transforming the self. At the same time, deep culture is helpful in pointing to ruptures — where modern myths stumble — thereby leading to new analyses of emerging societal crises and identifying new potential solutions.
“Deep Culture showcases an innovative theory that is both rigorous and applicable for making sense of the symbolic world around and within us. Tatiana and Ali Qadir are delightful guides, sensitively navigating an entrancing journey into the depths of popular culture and the mythical bedrocks of our psyches. This is an exceptional, multidisciplinary scholarship presented accessibly." —Dr. Durre Ahmed,Clinical PsychologistChairperson, Center for the Study of Gender and Culture,Pakistan.
“In this refreshingly innovative work, the authors incisively relate the mythical themes in popular films such as Matrix, Moana, and Pirates of the Caribbean, among others, to ancient mythemes. They reveal the link between ancient myths and the themes foregrounded in this type of film. More importantly and revealingly, they show how modernity’s aversion to ambiguity, multivalence, and especially to interior transformation leads to a situation that has produced fragmentation. Fragmentation modernity generates both at the level of the individual and at the societal level. This situation has given rise to epidemic levels of mental illness and drug addiction in modernity as well as to a deepening of political fragmentation and ecological destruction.” —Dr. Frederique Apffel-Marglin,Professor Emerita of Anthropology,Smith College, USA.
“Certain to provoke spirited debate, this interdisciplinary tour de force offers a framework for the exploration of mythic structures in religion and art as well as contemporary politics, such as attitudes toward the veil and the multiple fundamentalisms that arise in response to it.” —Dr. Neilesh Bose, Associate Professor, Department of History, Canada Research Chair, Global and Comparative History, University of Victoria, British Columbia.
“Drawing on the analytical psychology of Carl Jung and post-Jungian scholarship, Tatiana Tiaynen-Qadir and Ali Qadir open the symbols and myths of contemporary popular culture from a fascinating perspective. Rather than seeing the worldwide success of ‘Western’ popular culture as a manifestation of ‘Americanization’ and cultural imperialism, they suggest that present-day mass culture recycles ancient symbols and myths of global deep culture, shared by the entire humanity. Yet this does not mean that the authors merely celebrate an eternal repetition of ancient hero myths. By scrutinizing the myths of popular culture, they reveal critical truths about ourselves and our current era.” —Pertti Alasuutari,Professor of Sociology,Tampere University, Finland.
We have written this book as an exploration. We want, above all, to convey to you our excitement about thinking of culture and cultural expressions in this way that connects past to present, symbols to society, and art to action. The theory of deep culture provides the ingredients to do this in a systematic way that leads to insights into our times that may otherwise be obscured. As such, the book should serve as a platform to launch further contemplation, investigation, study, observation, and pedagogy. Our experience in sharing this material in classrooms, journals, and beyond shows that it can lead to fascinating new directions. The analytical instances we detail are new and important in themselves, but also offer a way to think about other cultural expressions. We invite you, as participants and students of the culture of our time, to explore your world in this way and to contribute to mapping the logos in which the myths of our time live. From studying about culture in its various forms to designing films and games, to writing fiction, we believe the theory of deep culture scaffolds cultural expressions and helps make sense of popular culture.
Acknowledgments; Introduction: Culture Is Deep; Complex Transformations of the Self: The Hero as a Symbol; The Uncanny: Monsters, Blood, and Other 3: A.M. Horrors; The Feminine: Citadel of Metaphors; It’s culture all the way down; Bibliography; Index