In Search of Cupid and Psyche: Myth and Legend in Children's Literature
The primary text for this section of the course is the "Cupid and Psyche" section of The Transformations of Lucius, Otherwise Known as The Golden Ass / a new translation by Robert Graves, from Apuleius, chapters 7,8 and 9. I have made this available as a web document (Apuleius.html); for easy reference, I have included the page numbers as they appear in the edition published by Farrar Straus, in 1951, eighth printing, 1972. These chapters have been published more recently as The Tale of Cupid and Psyche/ Lucius Apuleius; translated by Robert Graves. Boston: Shambhala, 1992. Glosses of the essential story (e.g., Bullfinch’s) are available as web documents on the internet, and are recommended reading.
In The Golden Ass,, the tale of Cupid and Psyche is told by an old woman who recounts the story of "Cupid and Psyche" in order to quell the fears of a terrified kidnap victim; we are going to read "Cupid and Psyche" as though it were told directly by Apuleius. Let's remember, by effacing the context of the story, we are inevitably distorting it; however, "Cupid and Psyche" does seem to stand on its own, and our authority for doing this derives from precedent:it has been interpreted as a unitary work since the fifth century when Fulgentius analyzed it as an allegory about Christ; in addition "Cupid and Psyche" has also been frequently published out of context, as a self-contained story: there has even been an independent publication of Graves’s translation, the one we are using as the "ground" for our explorations of children's literature.
Read the story once for plot, character, setting, style, and other conventions of Western narrative structure.
After reading some of the critical and supplementary material noted below, read again paying more attention to mythical and archetypal elements and symbollism, bearing in mind that myth is not a representation of experience, it is about experience; it is interpretive and therefore it is also about meaning.
Read Foundational myths (found.html)
Look on Internet for other versions of "Cupid and Psyche" (Bullfinch, etc.)
Read general theories of myth:read Guerin (guerin.html)
Read general psychoanalytic theories about Cupid and Psyche (see Bettleheim. html, Neumann.html, etc.)
Read Mythic Elements of Cupid and Psyche (elements.html)
Think about the following questions:
How would you characterize the tone of the story? Is it light-hearted? Morbid? Does its
outward lightness mask its profundity, or do its serious moments simply temper its true spirit
of gaiety and romance? Is it what 20th century critics might call "black comedy?"
or might once have called "screwball comedy?" Or are we diverted by superficial resemblances
and kept from acknowledging something darkly disturbing about this fairy tale? What might be
its appeal as children's literature?
Apuleius.html/\/\/ Chapter One: Apuleius \/\/\/ Apuleius-questions 2