The Implied Spider

Politics and Theology in Myth

Wendy Doniger

Columbia University Press

The Implied Spider

Pub Date: October 1999

ISBN: 9780231111713

256 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $32.00£28.00

Pub Date: April 1998

ISBN: 9780231111706

256 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $90.00£74.00

Pub Date: April 1998

ISBN: 9780231500135

256 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $31.99£28.00

The Implied Spider

Politics and Theology in Myth

Wendy Doniger

Columbia University Press

At this time of heightened political sensitivities, it may seem impossible to make serious comparisons among different cultures. And at a time when human difference is so relentlessly celebrated, it may even seem impossible to talk about the traditions and experiences that join us across race, religion, and nation. Wendy Doniger offers a powerful antidote to the paralysis of postcolonial intellectual life. In this spirited, enlightening book, she shows just how to make sense of, and learn from, the extraordinary diversity of cultures past and present. Tapping a wealth of traditions, from the Hebrew Bible to the Bhagavad Gita, Doniger crafts a new lens for examining other cultures, and finding in the world's myths--its sacred stories--a way to talk about experiences shared across time and space.

"Of all things made with words," Doniger writes, "myths span the widest of human concerns, human paradoxes." Myths, she shows, bridge the cosmic and the familiar, the personal and the abstract, the theological and the political. They encourage us to draw various, even opposed, political meanings from a single text as it travels through different historical contexts. And she demonstrates how studying myths from cultures other than our own can be exhilarating and illuminating.

Myth, Doniger shows, provides a near-perfect entree to another culture. Even if scholars such as Freud, Jung, and Joseph Campbell typically overstated the universality of major myths and suppressed the distinctive natures of other cultures, postcolonial critics are wrong to argue that nothing good can come from a systematic comparative study of human cultures. Doniger offers an engaged, expansive critical tool kit for doing just that. She suggests critical and responsible ways in which to compare stories--or texts or myths or traditions--from different cultures by revealing patterns of truth from themes that recur time and again.

In this book, Doniger helps expand the arena of meaning we live in, leaping, in her words, "from myth to myth as if they were stepping stones over the gulf that seems to separate cultures." She enables us to see, at last, the "implied spider" that weaves the web of meaning that sustains all human cultures-the fabric of our shared humanity.
A timely meditation on what comparative studies might mean.... The Implied Spider wrestles with the problems of carrying out the kind of study represented by Splitting the Difference—a cross-cultural comparison of different stories from different areas of the world, different tribes, different languages. Margaret Anne Doody, London Review of Books
This is a racy, enjoyable book.... Deriving from Plato an understanding of myth as both truth and lie, Wendy Doniger brings to her study a wealth of story and folklore from many different traditions, exploring creatively the enduring role of myth through time and across cultures. Alwyn Marriage, Theological Book Review
An entertaining and highly accessible look at how myths reveal what is common to all humanity. Parabola
In these creative, often dazzling displays of erudition and insight, Wendy Doniger gives a ceaselessly engaged and always subject-filled view of myth. Another gem in the string of gems that mark Doniger's scholarly productivity. Bruce Lawrence, Duke University
A book that is particularly worthy of the attention of readers in religious studies beyond the history of religions. Since it is Doniger's most methodological book, The Implied Spider is important, not for its analysis of myths, but for the arguments that it makes in support of the comparative study of myths. Religious Studies Review
1: Knives
2: The Parts
3: Spider and the Politics of:
Universal Problems
Cross-Cultural Problems
The Implied Spider
The Postcolonial and Postmodern Critique of Comparison
The Problem of Individualism
The Art and Science of Mythology
4: MicroMyths, Macromyths, and Multivocality
The Myth with No Point of View
Many Voices
Micromyths and Macromyths
The Myth with Points of View
Inverted Political Versions
Inverted Political Readings of Contemporary Mythic Texts
5: Mother Goose and the Voices of Women
Old Wives' Tales
Women's Point of View
Men's Voices in Women's Texts
Women's Voices in Men's Texts
Androgynous Language
Salvaging Women's Voices
6: Textual Pluralism and Academic Pluralism
The Archetype
Diffusion and Survival
The Foul Rag and Bones Shop of the Heart
Jumping off the Bricolage Bus
The Greening of Claude Levi-Strauss
Seventy Different Interpretations
The Multiversity
Walking the Tightrope
Notes
Bibliography
Index

About the Author

Wendy Doniger is Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions at the University of Chicago and a member of the Committee on Social Thought. Her books include Dreams, Illusions, and Other Realities; Other Peoples' Myths; The Cave of Echoes; and the English-language edition of Yves Bonnefoy's Mythologies. Her translations of such sacred texts as The Rig Veda are widely considered definitive.