From Ritual to the Archaic in Modernism: Frazer, Harrison, Freud, and the Persistence of Myth

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

2 Scopus citations


This chapter offers the beginnings of an excavation into some key concepts adapted by modernist writers, James George Frazer, Jane Ellen Harrison, and Sigmund Freud, from nineteenth-century scientific discourse. They exemplify what Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer would later posit as the dialectical relationship between mythic thought and enlightenment. Then, the chapter suggests that the close alignment between literary humanism and the inquiry into the foundations of humanity is in large part the product of the passionate imaginations of individuals whose deep skepticism about established systems of belief led them to challenge - and in some cases - reformulates disciplinary boundaries. More broadly, it suggests that what on the surface of both Victorian science and modernist poetics might be seen as a contradiction between the drive toward rationalism and a reversion to archaic thoughts and practices illuminates a fundamental dialectic in the quest for self-understanding.

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationA Handbook of Modernism Studies
PublisherJohn Wiley and Sons
Number of pages19
ISBN (Print)9780470658734
StatePublished - Mar 17 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


  • Archaic religion
  • Humanism
  • James George Frazer
  • Jane Ellen Harrison
  • Literature
  • Modernist writers
  • Myth
  • Ritual
  • Science
  • Sigmund Freud


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