Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Memoir as contemporary myth
by Murdock, Maureen, Ph.D., Pacifica Graduate Institute, 2010, 332; 3475550
Abstract (Summary)

Like Hermes, the archetypal mediator between the realms of heaven, earth and the underworld, the memoirist mediates between time past and time present. Memoirs bring forward an event of the past and re-enact it by giving it form in writing. Contemporary memoirs address some of the same archetypal themes found in ancient myths such as origins, the mother-child relationship, initiation, quest, descent and return. Myth fuels the psychic desire of humans to understand their origins and therefore their destinies, and memoir writing fuels the individual's search for meaning. This dissertation analyzes memoir as it relates to myth and depth psychology and the production piece, Hooked on Hope, explores in particular the myth of Demeter and Persephone as it relates to the mother/child archetype.

Hermes has been portrayed in myth as trickster and liar, just as the memoirist has been accused, at times, with playing loose with the truth. This project shows through a review of the current literature on memory that emotions affect memory, and time and distance from the event enhances or distorts recall. Just as myth does not provide absolute truth about the origins of life, memoir cannot provide absolute truth about a remembered event. Truth in memoir is relative to the emotional memory of the narrator.

The hallmark of memoir is the ability of the writer to discover meaning in her life. Much as in the process of psychotherapy between a patient and therapist, an inter-subjective field emerges in the process of memoir writing to reveal the unconscious. The self-reflection required of a memoirist mirrors that of a patient integrating unresolved material. Soul work occurs in the writing of memoir.

After analyzing the myth of Demeter and Persephone, contemporary memoirs about the parent/child relationship are examined to demonstrate the archetypal themes of descent and return and parental love and powerlessness. Specific memoirs written by parents about a child's addiction or mental illness are analyzed to illustrate the themes of abduction, grief, wandering, immortalizing the "golden child," and waiting for the return. This dissertation provides mythic perspective on the genre of memoir writing: memoirists are our contemporary mythmakers.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Downing, Christine
Commitee:
School: Pacifica Graduate Institute
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 72/11, Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Modern literature, Folklore, Psychology
Keywords: Demeter and Persephone, Depth psychology, Memoir, Mythology
Publication Number: 3475550
ISBN: 9781124884554
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