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Veszy-Wagner, L. (1972). The Corpse in the Car: A Minor Myth Creation. Am. Imago, 29(1):53-69.

(1972). American Imago, 29(1):53-69

The Corpse in the Car: A Minor Myth Creation

L. Veszy-Wagner

Slochower's (28) thesis is that we have to distinguish myths (legends) and “mythopoeic” works of individual literary origin which arise “when the literal account of the legend could no longer be accepted.” In this paper, I want to deal with a quite different type of myth.

Usually, these legends are not less anonymous than those deriving from ancient times but are almost (or entirely) contemporaneous. These “modern” myths, however, differ from the old ones inasmuch as 1. They are not any more part of a religious structure—all religious content is lacking in them; 2. Yet, they are as credulously, one may say superstitiously, accepted by the narrator who claims to have first hand knowledge that they happened in fact, and by his faithful audience who believe him. 3. Their literary form is the anecdote, a degraded form of a story or a legend. 4. They often disappear for a time, or forever, if they are not good enough for the purposes of mythopoesis; in other words, if they are so eroded or have so little literary merit that they are unable to stimulate the imagination of writers to pick them. However, their psychological value is all the same incontestable.

Only the “great” myths may constitute a form of adaptation to reality (Arlow) (2); the lesser ones, new or old, could only grapple with this ego-task (sometimes even hinder its success by their clumsy attempts and eroded contents). Kanzer (18) is nearer to the mark when he asserts that myths bind repressed instinctual impulses. In fact, repressed instinctual impulses are to be found also behind the “anecdotal,” modern myths—otherwise, it would not be likely that the narrator's and his audience's credulity should get so firmly established.

However, with the religious content, the tragic element has also disappeared from mythology,—although Freud (7) regarded myths as the “secular dreams of youthful humanity.”

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