Article

Toward an Archetypal Psychology of Disability Based on the Hephaestus Myth

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Abstract

Over the last 20 years disability scholars have analyzed representations of people with disabilities as they appear in literature, myth, art, film, media, and other cultural artifacts. This research can contribute to the development of a new archetypal psychology of disability. Archetypal psychology uses mythical and poetic modes of discourse to deepen our understanding of lived experience and behavior. The stories associated with the Greek god Hephaestus are among the earliest representations of disability. His image is pervasive and spans the Western imagination from the ancient Greeks to the present. Thus, a detailed study of this myth is a logical starting point. Archetypal images from different historical eras, and disciplines, co-exist in what C.G. Jung called the "collective unconscious" where they can be compared and contrasted with each other. The Hephaestus myth helps to organize many shared images of disability into meaningful patterns that can inform our understanding of disability in contemporary culture.

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... Constructs of normalcy, presented both as archetypal and stereotypical imagery have become fossilised in myth, art, literature, theatre, film and the mass media for eons, often steered as hegemony by those in a position of power (Ebenstein, 2006). It is valuable to consider the derivation of these archetypes and stereotypes in order to comprehend the impact of these reinforced attitudes that have perpetuated society over the centuries. ...
... There is also a reference coming from Indian mythology: a poem, dated circa 4000 BC, describing how queen Vishpala, who was also a warrior, came to use an iron prosthesis after losing one of her legs in battle [4]. Other examples are easily traceable, like the first written references to prosthetic devices [5] to pictorial references about the ancient use of assistive products [6, 7]. ...
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