Minos and the ModernsCretan Myth in Twentieth-Century Literature and Art

Minos and the ModernsCretan Myth in Twentieth-Century Literature and Art

Theodore Ziolkowski

Print publication date: 2008

ISBN: 9780195336917

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Abstract

This book considers three mythological complexes that enjoyed a unique surge of interest in 20th-century European literature, art, and music. While many works deal with the literary use of myth—a subject of growing interest in recent decades—it is conspicuous that most of them ignore the three myths that are identified with the island of Crete and linked by the figure of the legendary King Minos: Europa and the bull (his parents), the minotaur (his stepson) and the labyrinth, and Daedalus and Icarus (his subjects). The book adduces the ideas of such precursors of modernism as Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud to explain the revitalization of myth in the early twentieth century. It posits an essential distinction between “primary” and “secondary” myth: that is, myth that has been ironized beyond its original religious meaning and liberated for literary and artistic adaptation. To this end the work analyzes examples drawn from every realm of art—from fiction and poetry and drama to painting, sculpture, opera, and ballet—to explore the particular appeal of the three Cretan myths to the modern consciousness.