The presentation below was delivered at the “Teachers Teaching Teachers” CAIS Workshop at Chase Collegiate in April, 2011. It has been edited in minor ways.
— Bill Hunter, Hamden Hall School, PD Commission Member
The following work-up is a start on trying to make sense of how archetypes (i.e., culturally received beliefs and behaviors) function underneath (we might say) great works of literature. In the best works, such as the two I’ve selected to do overviews of, archetypes serve to deepen and shade the work, I would say, without seeming to steer the plot at all. In other words, just as meanings travel in our own lives without calling attention to themselves—except perhaps, in hindsight, often—so do archetypes underpin and give deeper resonance to lasting works of literature. The subject is a big one—big as culture itself, perhaps—and exploring such caves of meaning may have, literally, no end. Yet, all the more, perhaps, are riches promised for students of literature. Pliable, malleable, archetypes and the symbols they generate like buoys in the plot will perhaps always be in the eye of the beholder—and signals of possible wonders of meaning, lurking in the shadows.