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archetype (ärˈkĭtīpˌ) [Gr. arch=first, typos=mold], term whose earlier meaning, “original model,” or “prototype,” has been enlarged by C. G. Jung and by several contemporary literary critics. A Jungian archetype is a thought pattern that finds worldwide parallels, either in cultures (for example, the similarity of the ritual of Holy Communion in Europe with the tecqualo in ancient Mexico) or in individuals (a child's concept of a parent as both heroic and tyrannic, superman and ogre). Jung believed that such archetypal images and ideas reside in the unconscious level of the mind of every human being and are inherited from the ancestors of the race. They form the substance of the collective unconscious. Literary critics such as Northrop Frye and Maud Bodkin use the term archetype interchangeably with the term motif, emphasizing that the role of these elements in great works of literature is to unite readers with otherwise dispersed cultures and eras.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



concept of the original type, the prototype of the skeletal structure of all vertebrates, advanced by R. Owen (1847). The archetype theory is based on the comparison of traits common to the skeletons of various vertebrates, and it has created an abstract model, an ideal type of skeleton, which has not been completely realized by any animal, either extinct or living. This theory served as an expression of the natural philosophical school of morphology during the 18th and 19th centuries, when a reflection of general ideas was sought for in the structure of human beings and animals. Basic to the archetype is the ideal vertebrate system, consisting of eight parts (the body, the neural and hemal arches, the awned and transverse appendages, and the ribs). The entire skeleton is depicted as some kind of series of such modified vertebrae. In the skull Owen distinguished four vertebrae: the occipital, parietal, frontal, and nasal. C. Darwin reinterpreted the archetype theory; he conceived of it not as an abstract prototype but as an ancestral form which had actually existed at one time.


Owen, R. Report on the Archetype and Homologies of the Vertebrate Skeleton: Report of the 16th Meeting . . . of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. . ., 1846. London, 1847.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


A hypothetical ancestral type conceptualized by eliminating all specialized character traits.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


1. Psychoanal one of the inherited mental images postulated by Jung as the content of the collective unconscious
2. a constantly recurring symbol or motif in literature, painting, etc.
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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