Date of Award

5-2005

Level of Access

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Liberal Studies

Advisor

Kristina Passman

Second Committee Member

Jay Bregrnan

Third Committee Member

Nancy Ogle

Abstract

This thesis addresses the ultimate question of western humanity; how does one find meaning in the present era? It offers the reader one powerful way for this to happen, and that is through the stories found in the pages of Fantasy literature. It begins with Frederick Nietzsche's declaration that, "God is dead." This describes the situation of men and women in his time and today. The statement has to do with the general disconnection of humanity in the western world from its foundations. All society had been based on the mythological literature of the past, but beginning in the Renaissance these tales had come under criticism. By the time of Nietzsche, they had fallen to the wayside. Humanity focused more on its ability to think than on the wisdom of former ages to govern society. Unfortunately, western humanity needed mythology to survive. Mythology reconnected it to a primal wisdom that truly guided how one should live. This thesis argues that Fantasy literature provides a way for humanity to once again have a relationship with the wisdom found in mythology. The evolution of consciousness has raised humanity's ability to think critically and reflect. As it evolved, humanity outgrew the mythology of the past. Fantasy makes mythology relevant for the reader of today. Fantasy does this through the use of symbols. The old myths were made of symbols that universally spoke to the human condition. When the myths became dated and consciousness changed, the symbols lost their power because they could not be understood. Fantasy takes these symbols and places them in fresh settings. This allows today's western mind the ability to once again access the wisdom found in mythology. A method based upon the Medieval "Fourfold Reading" is described to help draw wisdom out of Fantasy. It involves reading a text as a narrative, symbolically, morally, and creatively. Several examples are given from popular fantasy books, including Harry Potter. But the real hope of this thesis is that the readers of fantasy stories will become the creator of his their own tales. These stories will be embodied in their lives and actualize the wisdom found in the symbols of universal meaning discovered through the new myths of today.

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