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Lesser, S.O. (1973). Mythopoesis. Mythic Patterns in the Literary Classics: By Harry Slochower. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1970. 362 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 42:147-152.

(1973). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 42:147-152

Mythopoesis. Mythic Patterns in the Literary Classics: By Harry Slochower. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1970. 362 pp.

Review by:
Simon O. Lesser

Slochower's basic thesis is presented in the first section of this volume. The chapters that follow are devoted to an examination of the Book of Job, Greek mythopoesis, The Divine Comedy, Don Quixote, Hamlet, Faust, Moby Dick, The Brothers Karamazov, Pelle the Conqueror, Gide's Theseus, Camus's Sisyphus, Sartre's The Flies, and Mann's The Magic Mountain and Doctor Faustus. One cannot put down this book without a feeling of admiration for the author's wide-ranging scholarship. Yet it seems to me that the author's basic argument is questionable.

In his preface Slochower declares: 'The machine and leisure in themselves cannot be held responsible for our spiritual "malaise". It is true that the corruption of our economic-social-political relations contributes to the corroding of our motives, to the reigning attitude of "what's in it for me?". However, on a deeper level, the difficulty is nurtured by our obsession with the immediate present… It has no future because—and this anticipates the argument of the book—it lacks the vision of values created in the past by our living mythic tradition. Without such a basic platform, the satisfactions of technology are not humanly adequate. We remain restless, nervous, irritable' (pp. 13-14). I fully agree with Slochower that 'our obsession with the present … lacks the vision of values created in the past by our living mythic tradition'. But I would argue that this state of affairs is irreparable. Even when these values are embedded in books they have little effect.

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