Bronislaw Malinowski (1884-1942) was a wide-ranging thinker whose ideas affected almost every branch of the social sciences. And nowhere is this impact more evident or more persistent than on the study of myth, ritual, and religion. He articulated as never before or since a program of seeing myths as part of the functional, pragmatic, or performed dimension of culture — that is, as part of activities that did certain tasks for particular human communities. Spanning his entire career, this anthology brings together for the first time the important texts from his work on myth. Ivan Strenski’s introduction places Malinowski in his intellectual world and traces his evolving conception of mythology. As Strenski points out, Malinowski was a pioneer in applying the lessons of psychoanalysis to the study of culture, while at the same time he attempted to correct the generalizations of psychoanalysis with the cross-cultural researches of ethnology. With his growing interest in psychoanalysis came a conviction that myths performed essential cultural tasks in “chartering” all sort of human institutions and practices.
Originally published in 1992.
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