Karl Kerényi is now mostly remembered for his monographs on Greek mythological figures in the Bollingen Series and for his collaboration with Carl Gustav Jung from the 1940s on. The radical approach to mythology reflected in this work was Kerényi’s solution to what he perceived as a crisis of the humanities: a disciplinary fragmentation combined with the growing influence of the social sciences in the study of culture. Before he would have turned to the study of myth, Kerényi proposed media history as the foundation for the renewal of classical studies and the humanities in general. In a series of essays written in the 1930s, Kerényi theorized the media of ancient texts as central to cultural hermeneutics. His understanding of textual media as expressive of the essential characteristics of a culture was underpinned by a conservative-humanist critique of modernity. It shows strong affinities with the work of such figures as the cultural theorist Oswald Spengler. Offered as an alternative to what Kerényi considered the scientistic preoccupations rampant in modern academe, this vision is also clearly at odds with most later media-historical research and its interest in the affordances and social ramifications of the materiality of communication technologies.

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