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Greenfield, B. (1983). The Archetypal Masculine: Its Manifestation in Myth, and Its Significance for Women. J. Anal. Psychol., 28(1):33-50.

(1983). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 28(1):33-50

The Archetypal Masculine: Its Manifestation in Myth, and Its Significance for Women

Barbara Greenfield


Most of us, who were duly socialised in the gender traditions of Western culture, grew up learning to characterise certain aspects of reality as ‘masculine’ and others as ‘feminine’. Sometimes the source of this categorisation can clearly be traced to biological differences between the sexes, or to the different positions held by women and men in society. At a certain point, however, the categories of ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ take on a life of their own; in other words, culture elaborates upon simple differences until an entire mythos is created. Our current gender stereotypes, of course, come out of a long tradition of Western myth, and are thus invested with a great deal of psychological significance. If we are to be concerned with modifying these stereotypes, then we must begin by attempting to understand as deeply as possible not only the nature of our cultural myths and categories, but also their significance for the psychological development of the individual.

One useful way of psychologically analysing cultural myths, stereotypes and images is to reduce them to their most basic underlying principles in the manner of the Jungian psychology. Jung's method of pulling together disparate segments of experience into single, unified metaphorical structures called archetypes will help to define the essential features of cultural stereotypes which continue to structure much of our thought. Much work has already been done in Jungian and post-Jungian psychology to discuss the meaning of the archetype of woman and the effect of this archetype on men (e.g., Neumann's The Great Mother (10), or Lederer's The Fear of Women (7). Very little work, however, has been done to analyse the archetype of Man—the animus—and the meaning of this archetype for women. Although Neumann, Campbell and others have written extensively about the figure of the hero, these have been incomplete treatments of the manifold forms of the archetypal (traditional) masculine.


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