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The Cosmic Contest: A Systems Study in Indo-European Epic, Myth, Cult and Cosmogony.

Brendan Stannard, (Southport: Carib Publishing Co., 1992). 302 pp. ISBN 0-9508947-1-0. No price given. The author of this book attempts to interpret a variety of texts as realizations of a mythic pattern (termed FIM or |formal intellectual model) which consists of such elements as |The First/Second Quarrel', |The First/Second Contest', |The Interregum,' |The First/Second Sacred Marriage' or |The Renewal of Creation'. These texts range from Babylonian creation myths and various books of the Bible to Beowulf and the Chanson de Roland and are indiscriminately called |epics' (|The Cattle Raid of Cooley Epic', |The Exodus Epic', |The Jacob--Esau Epic', |The Song of Roland Epic', etc.).The author asserts that as far as he is aware |no similar interrelated study of epics covering such wide spans of cultures and time has been previously attempted' (p. 5), revealing hereby his ignorance of the Chadwicks' monumental Growth of Literature (1932-40), Bowra's Heroic Poetry (1952) or Hatto and Hainsworth's two volumes on Traditions of Heroic and Epic Poetry (1980-9), to name only a few outstanding contributions to the field. He seems to be equally unaware of the work of Joseph Campbell and Lord Raglan, which is all the more surprising as The Cosmic Contest reads like an idiosyncratic mixture of Raglan's postulate of a heroic life-cycle and Campbell's mythological speculations. Dumezil is occasionally mentioned in the text (consistently misspelt), but his works do not figure in the bibliography. It is doubtful that the author has profited from a reading of Dumezil's Mythe et epopee in view of his conviction that all the texts he himself interprets (including Babylonian, Tamil and Hebrew texts) belong to the archaic Indo-European (!) tradition; his explanation of this surprising phenomenon is that |like many archaic peoples, Hebrews, Celts and Tamils drew on "deep" Indo-European and human cultural traditions' (p. 135). Quite apart from the unacceptable use of the term |epic', the author's curious jargon (he tells the reader on p. i that his methodology is |the systemic methodology of reticular inquiry) and his uncritical scholarly stance, the mythological bias o f this book is so exaggerated (Beowulf is said to be a cosmogonic myth with Beowulf as a cosmic and solar hero, Hrunting the cosmic (moon and earth) weapon of the mother goddess, etc.) that the writings of the representatives of the nineteenth-century mythological school, such as those of Karl Mullenhoff, read like paragons of speculative restraint (and certainly of scholarly standard) by comparison with this book.
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Author:Reichl, Karl
Publication:Medium Aevum
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 1993
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