Mythopoeic definition and meaning

Mythopoeic is a form of literature that has the structure, look and feel of a myth, but is in fact a contemporary creation rather than a story passed down by tradition. The word was created by one of the genre’s great practitioners, J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings (1954-5). Although the bulk of mythopoeic texts tend to be works like Tolkien’s, namely fantasy, this is not exclusively the case. As Richard Slotkin demonstrates in a powerful work, Regeneration through Violence (1974), works of so-called serious literature to do with the history of a nation can also be classified as mythopoeic. For example, the cycle of Rambo films taken together offer a potent counter narrative to standard accounts of American history – in Rambo’s universe the Vietnam War was won by its soldiers, but lost by the politicians.

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