Outline on Archetypes


Sources:  The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms, Murfin and Ray editors

A Handbook of Critical Approaches to Literature, Guerin, et. al., editors




Archetype:  The original model from which something is developed or made; in literary criticism, those images, figures, character types, setting, and story patterns that, according to Carl Jung, are universally shared by people across cultures.  Stated simply, archetypes are universal symbols.


Collective Unconscious:  Archetypes are embedded deep in humanity’s collective unconscious and involve memories of situations, events, and relations that have been part of the human experience from the beginning.


Myths, dreams, narratives, songs, poetry, dance:  The means of manifesting the “human condition” through the collective unconscious.


Examples of archetypes:  The snake is almost universally recognized as an archetypal symbol for evil or for the male.  The Great Flood is found in almost every culture’s mythology as is the Cinderella story and the “Savior” character.  The sun and sky are almost always male symbols and the earth is generally a female symbol.


Archetypal Motifs:  Stories that appear in almost every culture:


·        Creation

·        Immortality

·        Heroic archetypes—the quest

·        The archetypal Great Mother and Terrible Mother

·        The seasons


Other images:


·        Water

·        Sun

·        Colors

·        Circle

·        Oval

·        Yang-yin

·        Numbers

·        Garden

·        Tree

·        Desert

·        River