Myths We Live By

Description

181 pages
Contains Bibliography
$24.00
ISBN 0-7766-0444-9
DDC 291.1'3

Author

Year

1998

Contributor

Reviewed by William Glassman

William Glassman is a professor of psychology at Ryerson Polytechnical
University in Toronto.

Review

Colin Grant explores the role of myth in contemporary life in a book in
which “myth” refers not to “falsehood,” but rather to frameworks
of understanding that give meaning to one’s life (often in conjunction
with religion).

Grant, who is Head of the Department of Religious Studies at Mount
Allison University, asks whether there exist mythic frameworks in
today’s world and whether they function in the way that religion does,
as a framework for meaning. After exploring the nature of myth in
general, he looks at seven areas that seem to provide mythic elements:
science, sport, consumerism, values, ecology, sex, and society. He then
returns to the relationship between myth and religion, discussing the
difficulties posed by the prevailing contemporary attitude that sees
neither myth nor religion as relevant to living.

Grant’s analysis is interesting and touches on themes and phenomena
that will be familiar to most readers, such as overconfidence in
science, exploitation of human needs in advertising, and environmental
degradation. However, the discussion seems curiously dated; for example,
there is no mention of computer technology, which seems ripe for
consideration as a mythic framework today, and most of the references
are fairly old (only a half-dozen or so were written after 1990).

A further concern is that the treatment of topic areas sometimes seems
less than balanced. For example, Grant conveys the sense that most
scientists today are logical positivists, when in fact logical
positivism has been largely superseded by other more moderate stances. A
similar problem arises when he discusses the ideas of Joseph Campbell
(whose Myths to Live By clearly influenced the title of this volume).
While Grant avers that “[it could be] that our reading of Campbell’s
treatment of myth misses the point completely,” it seems his real
concern is not that Campbell lacks respect for myth, but rather that
Campbell lacks empathy for “the historical reality of Christ.”

Such criticisms aside, Grant provides an accessible overview for
readers wishing to reflect on the myths around us.

Citation

Grant, Colin., “Myths We Live By,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 28, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/401.