The Trickster-Father Feigns Death and Commits Incest: Some Methodological Contributions to the Study of Myth
Fiche mise à jour le 14 novembre 2018
The Trickster-Father Feigns Death and Commits Incest: Some Methodological Contributions to the Study of MythRésumé :
When studying myth, psychoanalytic investigators have generally started with a single text of the myth that is being analyzed and developed an interpretation of that single text. Such an approach, while useful, ignores the fact that a given myth usually "exists" in the form of several different versions. Structuralists, while professing a concern with the multiple versions of individual myths, rarely incorporate that concern into their work. This article demonstrates that interpretations of the same myth can be evaluated by paying attention to how the versions of that myth differ from society to society. The particular myth considered is a North American Indian myth, in which a Trickster-Father feigns death and then reappears as someone else in order to have intercourse with his own daughter. Three interpretations (two psychoanalytic, one structuralist) of this myth are offered. Thefirst suggests that the myth reflects a projection, onto the father himself, of a daughter's incestuous desires for her father. The second suggests that the myth reflects afather's unconscious desirefor his daughter. The third suggests that the myth is really concerned with making some statement about exogamy. Hypotheses derived from each interpretation are operationalized and tested, using information from the Ethnographic Atlas (Murdock 1967). The data suggest that only the second interpretation cannot be rejected. Thefinal section of the article discusses some of the more general questions about mythic thought that might be investigated by using the methodological procedure described here.