Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Joseph Campbell was a rare scholar whose work won enormous popular appeal. Even before the 1988 public television series Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth posthumously made his name a household word, The Hero with a Thousand Faces and its many sequels had exerted a profound influence on the lives of many people, some of whom themselves became influential. Director George Lucas, for example, crafted his first groundbreaking Star Wars trilogy (1977-1983) with Campbell’s themes explicitly in mind.
Campbell’s approach to mythological studies drew inspiration from three chief sources. The first influence was a scholar of mythic India, Heinrich Zimmer, whose posthumous books Campbell edited in the years leading up to publication of The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Zimmer’s example, Campbell said in an interview in The Open Life, gave him the courage “to interpret myths out of what I knew of their common symbols.” At the beginning of The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Campbell proposes “to bring together a host of myths and folk tales from every corner of the world, and to let the symbols speak for themselves.” The difficulties implicit in such a method constitute one of the key issues in evaluating Campbell’s work.
Campbell’s second major influence was Swiss psychotherapist Carl Jung and his theory of archetypes, which Campbell defines in his introduction to The Portable...
(The entire section is 1121 words.)
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