Joseph Campbell 1904-1987
American nonfiction writer, essayist, critic, and editor.
The following entry presents an overview of Campbell's career through 1999. For further information on his life and works, see CLC, Volume 69.
Recognized as a leading modern authority on mythology and folklore, Campbell is best known for writing The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949), a comparative study of hero myths from numerous cultures. Often noted for their extensive reproductions of primitive art and breadth of scholarship, Campbell's works have been credited with popularizing the study of myth.
Campbell was born on March 26, 1904, in New York City. Campbell developed an interest in Native American mythology and history after seeing Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show at Madison Square Garden as a child. He attended Dartmouth College from 1921 to 1922 before transferring to Columbia University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in 1925 and a master's in medieval literature in 1927. During the next two years Campbell studied French and German medieval literature in Paris and Munich while working towards a doctorate, an endeavor that he abandoned after being informed that mythology was an unsuitable topic for his thesis. Campbell returned to the United States in the early 1930s and, unemployed, spent most of his time reading at a cabin in Woodstock, New York. In 1934, Campbell joined the faculty of Sarah Lawrence College in New York, where he taught comparative mythology and literature until his retirement in 1972. He died on October 30, 1987.
In 1944, Campbell collaborated with Henry Morton Robinson on A Skeleton Key to “Finnegans Wake,” which explicates the structure, themes, and difficult passages of James Joyce's last novel. In Campbell's first major work, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, he argues that most heroes undergo a similar series of adventures: separation from the everyday world, initiation into a mystery or greater state of awareness through trials and ordeals, and a triumphant return in which the gifts of this experience are bestowed upon humanity. Using extensive quotations from epic literature and folktales from around the world, Campbell demonstrates numerous parallels between the aspirations and experiences of folk heroes from various cultures. His next major work, The Masks of God (1959-68), is a four-volume survey of mythological traditions. In the first volume, Primitive Mythology, he discusses the origins of mythology in prehistoric agricultural and hunting societies from archeological and psychological perspectives. Oriental Mythology charts the development of Eastern mythology in the religions of Egypt, India, China, and Japan, while Occidental Mythology focuses on classical Greco-Roman mythology, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The last volume, Creative Mythology, examines the use of mythology in Western art and literature from the twelfth century to the present. Campbell's other books include The Flight of the Wild Gander (1969), a collection of essays focusing on the biological origins of myth; Myths to Live By (1972), which is based on lectures Campbell delivered between 1958 and 1971; and The Mythic Image (1974), a lavishly illustrated volume examining artistic representations of myth.
The Hero with a Thousand Faces is regarded as one of Campbell's most popular works. Although his comparativist approach has been attacked for neglecting important distinctions between cultures, the study has been recognized as an important and influential analysis of myth because of its insightful explication of common elements in hero myths. Campbell attained widespread posthumous popularity for his interviews with Bill Moyers, which were aired as the PBS television series “Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth” in 1988. The series explored the relevance of myth to modern life and served as the basis for the best-seller The Power of Myth (1988). In 1989, Brendan Gill launched a controversial attack charging that Campbell, in contrast to his public persona, harbored racist and anti-Semitic views. Gill's claims have been supported by some who knew and worked with Campbell, and commentators continue to debate the validity of his scholarly methods, occasionally finding factual discrepancies and poorly supported arguments in his works. Nevertheless, Campbell's reputation as an eminent teacher and authority on myth remains largely unaffected.
A Skeleton Key to “Finnegans Wake” [with Henry Morton Robinson] (nonfiction) 1944
The Hero with a Thousand Faces (nonfiction) 1949
*The Masks of God. 4 vols. (nonfiction) 1959-68
The Flight of the Wild Gander: Explorations in the Mythological Dimension (nonfiction) 1969
Myths to Live By (lectures) 1972
The Mythic Image (nonfiction) 1974
†The Historical Atlas of World Mythology. 2 vols. (nonfiction) 1983-88
The Inner Reaches of Outer Space: Metaphor as Myth and as Religion (nonfiction) 1986
The Power of Myth [with Bill Moyers] (interviews) 1988
An Open Life [with Michael Toms] (interviews) 1989
The Hero's Journey: The World of Joseph Campbell: Joseph Campbell on His Life and Work [with Phil Cousineau and Stuart L. Brown] (nonfiction) 1990
Transformations of Myth through Time (lectures) 1990
*This series encompasses the following volumes: Primitive Mythology, Oriental Mythology, Occidental Mythology, and Creative Mythology.
†This series includes the following volumes: The Way of the Animal Powers and The Way of the Seeded Earth.
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SOURCE: Highwater, Jamake. “The Myth is the Medium.” Commonweal 112 (22 March 1985): 183, 187-88.
[In the following excerpt, Highwater provides a laudatory assessment of The Way of the Animal Powers, calling the volume a “masterful presentation” of aboriginal folklore and mythology.]
Speaking of his painting, the American artist Arthur Dove said: “We cannot express the light in nature because we have not the sun. We can only express the light we have in ourselves.” It is not by accident that we have invented imagery that overcomes the limitations of language. Common to all of us is the manipulation of truth we call “poetic license.”
Our lives are filled with every conceivable ploy to escape or penetrate the “ordinary.” Even those of us who are most mundane despise our condition, and when we recount the simplest story it inevitably becomes something else: a “tall tale,” or a “fish story.” These terms are efforts to describe the remarkable interaction of imagination and something even more quixotic than imagination: that which many of us innocently call the truth. Clearly, tall tales are not true, and yet, even for naive realists (fundamentalist or scientistic) those who fervently believe in something as obsolescent and undependable as “the truth,” such tales are not counterfeit.
The universal inclination to evoke a reality...
(The entire section is 848 words.)
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SOURCE: Goodrich, Chris. “PW Interviews: Joseph Campbell.” Publishers Weekly 228 (23 August 1985): 74-5.
[In the following essay, Goodrich offers an overview of Campbell's life and work.]
Joseph Campbell starts talking about myth even before we exit the elevator en route to his room at the Clift Hotel in San Francisco. He has just returned from the coastal town of Mendocino, three hours to the north, where he participated in an annual retreat organized by the poet Robert Bly. Campbell is brimming with enthusiasm—he walks right by his suite on the first attempt, too busy describing his recent experience to remember which corridor is which. “You know that white Masonic hall in town? With that freemason symbol, the Time and the Virgin statues on the top? The town is wonderful, and that building—marvelous!”
“Marvelous” is a word one hears frequently while listening to Campbell, this year's recipient of the National Art Club's Medal of Honor and considered by many to be the world's foremost authority on mythology. So many things seem to excite Campbell and influence his writing—art, literature, history, archaeology, linguistics, psychology, philosophy—that it's hard to keep up with him. At 81, but looking at least 15 years younger, Campbell can't stop celebrating new experiences and, yes, marveling at how they so frequently seem to have a mythic dimension. Even the...
(The entire section is 2087 words.)
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SOURCE: Stott, Jon C. “Joseph Campbell on the Second Mesa: Structure and Meaning in Arrow to the Sun.” Children's Literature Association Quarterly 11, no. 3 (fall 1986): 132-34.
[In the following essay, Stott determines the influence of The Hero with a Thousand Faces on Gerald McDermott's Arrow to the Sun.]
Although it may be linked to a tale type widely distributed in North America, every native tale has its own integrity. As a product of the culture in which it is told, it is part of that culture's holistic view of reality; and that view of reality is rooted in the geographical location of the specific people. As Vine Deloria, Jr. has suggested in God is Red, his study of native religions, the beliefs of native peoples were closely tied to the places in which they lived: “Holy Places were well-known in what have been classified as primitive religions. The vast majority of Indian tribal religions have a centre at a particular place, be it river, mountain, plateau, valley, or other natural feature” (81). This is particularly true of the Pueblo peoples; their religious beliefs and the myths that embody them relate closely to the specific features of the Southwest in which they have lived for centuries.
The non-native writer who wishes to adapt native legends for children is faced with a difficult problem. He must maintain the delicate balance between making...
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SOURCE: Segal, Robert A. “Campbell as a Jungian.” In Joseph Campbell: An Introduction, pp. 125-35. New York: Garland Publishing, 1987.
[In the following essay, Segal discusses whether or not Campbell could accurately be called a Jungian.]
Joseph Campbell is often labeled a Jungian.1 He is certainly not a Jungian analyst and has undergone no Jungian analysis. If he is a Jungian, it is because he shares Jung's view of myth.
Campbell does cite Jung approvingly throughout his writings, far more often than he cites any other theorist of myth. Again and again, he favorably contrasts Jung's understanding of myth to that of not only nonpsychologists—for example, those who read myth literally—but, most conspicuously, Freud. He contrasts Jung's appreciation of the higher, adult meaning of myth to Freud's dismissive reduction of it to its childhood, sexual origins:
Myths, according to Freud's view, are of the psychological order of dream. … Both, in his opinion, are symptomatic of repressions of infantile incest wishes. … Civilization itself, in fact, is a pathological surrogate for unconscious infantile disappointments. And thus Freud … judged the worlds of myth, magic, and religion negatively, as errors to be refuted, surpassed, and supplanted finally by science. An altogether different approach is represented by Carl G. Jung, in...
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SOURCE: Campbell, Joseph, and Michael Toms. “Myth as Metaphor.” In An Open Life, edited by John M. Maher and Dennie Briggs, pp. 21-53. New York: Harper & Row, 1989.
[In the following interview, Campbell discusses various elements of mythology, the role of the shaman and the court jester, and Aztec and Mayan societies.]
[Toms]: We tend to use the word “myth” to mean something that is untrue or an erroneously held belief. Why is that?
[Campbell]: I can understand why that idea arose. Myth is metaphor. The imagery of mythology is symbolic of spiritual powers within us: when these are interpreted as referring to historical or natural events which science in turn shows could not have occurred, then you throw the whole thing out. You see, myths do not come from a concept system; they come from a life system; they come out of a deeper center. We must not confuse mythology with ideology. Myths come from where the heart is, and where the experience is, even as the mind may wonder why people believe these things. The myth does not point to a fact; the myth points beyond facts to something that informs the fact.
When you think, for instance, “God is thy father,” do you think he is? No, that's a metaphor, and the metaphor points to two ends: one is psychological—that's why the dream is metaphoric; the other is metaphysical. Now, dream...
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SOURCE: Segal, Robert A. “Frazer and Campbell on Myth: Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Approaches.” The Southern Review 26, no. 2 (spring 1990): 470-76.
[In the following essay, Segal contrasts the work and ideology of Campbell and James Frazer.]
No two writers on myth have been more popular than James Frazer and Joseph Campbell. Yet few others have had more mixed professional receptions. Frazer sought acclaim among anthropologists but became outdated within his lifetime. While Campbell was never taken seriously by folklorists, he cultivated a popular rather than academic following.
Both figures have nevertheless thrived as authorities elsewhere in the intellectual world—in literary circles above all. As John Vickery, Stanley Edgar Hyman, and others have shown, Frazer influenced not only leading modernist poets and novelists—notably, Yeats, Eliot, Lawrence, and Joyce—but also many leading scholars of literature: for example, Jessie Weston on the Grail legend, E. M. Butler on the Faust legend, C. L. Barber and Herbert Weisinger on Shakespeare, Jane Harrison on Greek religion and art, F. M. Cornford on Greek philosophy and comedy, Gilbert Murray on Greek epic and tragedy, Francis Fergusson on tragedy, Northrop Frye on all literature, and Lord Raglan on hero myths. All these studies trace literature back to myths that, following Frazer, were originally the scripts of the key...
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SOURCE: Underwood, Richard A. “Living by Myth: Joseph Campbell, C. G. Jung, and the Religious Life-Journey.” In Paths to the Power of Myth: Joseph Campbell and the Study of Religion, edited by Daniel C. Noel, pp. 13-28. New York: Crossroad, 1990.
[In the following essay, Underwood finds parallels between the approaches of Campbell and C. G. Jung to the de-mystification of religion and the “natural history of religious myth, symbol, and sentiment.”]
… Myths grab you somewhere down inside. As a boy, you go at it one way, as I did reading my Indian stories. Later on, myths tell you more, and more, and still more. I think that anyone who has ever dealt seriously with religious or mythic ideas will tell you that we learn them as a child on one level, but then many different levels are revealed. Myths are infinite in their revelation.
How do I slay that dragon in me? What's the journey each of us has to make, what you call “the soul's high adventure”?
My general formula for my students is “Follow your bliss.” Find where it is, and don't be afraid to follow it.(1)
The purpose of this series of reflections is to explore some of the connections between the psychiatrist C. G. Jung's ideas and Joseph Campbell's as they relate to their common concerns regarding myth, religion,...
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SOURCE: King, Karen L. “Social Factors in Mythic Knowing: Joseph Campbell and Christian Gnosis.” In Paths to the Power of Myth: Joseph Campbell and the Study of Religion, edited by Daniel C. Noel, pp. 68-80. New York: Crossroad, 1990.
[In the following essay, King examines Campbell's treatment of Gnosticism.]
The symbolic field is based on the experiences of people in a particular community, at that particular time and place. Myths are so intimately bound to the culture, time, and place that unless the symbols, the metaphors, are kept alive by constant recreation through the arts, the life just slips away from them.1
In his conversations with Bill Moyers, recorded in the book and television series The Power of Myth, Joseph Campbell succeeds in bringing the study of religion to the attention of a wide public audience. For scholars and teachers, his lesson of engagement with the concerns of the contemporary world is pedagogically useful. The refusal or inability of “specialists,” as he calls them, to write for and communicate with the public has left a gap between the public and the academy, and a void in academic research. Campbell has sought in his own writing and in his teaching to bridge this gap.
I believe Campbell has succeeded in reaching a large audience because his direct engagement with many issues of...
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SOURCE: Segal, Robert A. “Joseph Campbell's Mythology: A Review Essay.” Southern Humanities Review 25, no. 3 (summer 1991): 267-75.
[In the following essay, Segal underscores the significance of mythology to Campbell's oeuvre.]
No one in this generation did more to revive popular interest in myth than Joseph Campbell. He preached myth the way others preach religion. He even opposed myth to religion. For him, myth alone has saving power. Whoever has myth is contented, and whoever does not is forlorn. Campbell beseeched humanity to “live by” myth. Because living by myth requires understanding myth, Campbell not only amassed myths but, even more, analyzed them. He regarded himself as a theorist of myth, not merely as a teller of myths.
I. THE POWER OF MYTH
Campbell had been popular ever since his first book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949), but the 1988 public television interviews with Bill Moyers made him legendary. The Power of Myth is an edited transcript of those interviews, which have been rebroadcast regularly ever since.
In The Power of Myth, as in his other writings, Campbell declares all myths so similar as virtually to be one:
That is one of the amazing things about these myths. I have been dealing with this stuff all my life, and I am still stunned by the...
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SOURCE: Grebe, Coralee. “Bashing Joseph Campbell: Is He Now the Hero of a Thousand Spaces?” Mythlore 18, no. 1 (autumn 1991): 50-2.
[In the following essay, Grebe addresses Brendan Gill's critique of Campbell, finding many of the charges specious.]
Since Brendan Gill's critique of Joseph Campbell appeared in the September 28, 1989 New York Review of Books,1 it seems that students, critics and even passersby have an opinion on Campbell's character, work and scholarship. Gill's accusations that Campbell was a racist, an anti-semite, a sexist and that his scholarship is pablum, have found both friends and foes. Some have shot Campbell's reputation so full of holes that he could be referred to as the “Hero of a Thousand Spaces.”
Unlike Gill, I never met Campbell, and can offer no opinion on his personal life. I know him only through his writings and public appearances, and dare say that the same is true for most people who recognize Joseph Campbell's name. Though it may be a disadvantage to have never had the veil of Campbell's personality through which to interpret his work, it is also an advantage in evaluating his ideas without bias.
Perhaps a personal anecdote would best illustrate this point. In college, I had known a professor only through his lectures and publications. Later, when I met him, he who had seemed a sage had much more of the...
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SOURCE: Seeman, Chris. “Tolkien and Campbell Compared.” Mythlore 18, no. 1 (autumn 1991): 43-8.
[In the following essay, Seeman finds parallels between Campbell's and J. R. R. Tolkien's treatment of mythology.]
I. COMPARING TOLKIEN AND CAMPBELL
The present occasion of a conference devoted to the discussion of archetypes in fantasy literature invites a broader comparison of the work of Joseph Campbell with that of the Mythopoeic Trinity of Tolkien, Lewis and Williams. What follows is an exploration of some key dimensions of Tolkien and Campbell's thinking about myth which might serve as a basis for further reflection on their commonalities and differences. Joseph Campbell and J. R. R. Tolkien share the ambiguous status of having exercised an immense popular appeal, both posthumously and during their own lifetimes, while often receiving only marginal recognition by the academic communities in which they worked. Yet beyond these biographical similarities, their respective writings about myth address themselves to at least three significant themes on which I would like to elaborate. Briefly stated, these may be characterized as a preoccupation with: 1) the creative role of the artist in modern society, 2) the comparative study of mythology as a source of cultural critique, and 3) myth and the problem of social order. Although not always explicitly invoked, these themes are...
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SOURCE: Frost, William P. “Joseph Campbell's Views on the Oneness of Jesus and His Father.” In Following Joseph Campbell's Lead in the Search for Jesus' Father, pp. 77-96. Lewiston, N.Y.: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1991.
[In the following essay, Frost considers Campbell's treatment of Judeo-Christian mythology.]
Besides the canonical biblical books (those officially approved by the hierarchy of Christianity and the Jewish authorities) there exists what is called “The Other Bible.” Willis Barnstone edited The Other Bible; on the cover is printed, “For the first time in one volume ancient esoteric texts from: the pseudopigrapha, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the early Kabbalah, the Nag Hammadi Library, and other sources.” This refers to the fact that orthodox Jews and Christians were very selective in picking those sources which promoted their own belief systems and doctrines. The other sources were regarded heretical, and some of the devil.
Campbell was not just a student of such non-canonical sources, he also was well at home with stories, myths, and texts of the Ancient Near East: Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Semitic cultures, especially Babylon and the Hebrew tradition. In such comparative studies he learned to appreciate the similarities and the differences, as well as the historical developments by which such cultures became characterized. Such universal interpretations...
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SOURCE: Larsen, Stephen, and Robin Larsen. “The Hero (1945-49).” In A Fire in the Mind: The Life of Joseph Campbell, pp. 327-46. New York: Doubleday, 1991.
[In the following essay, Larsen and Larsen chronicle the circumstances surrounding the writing and publication of The Hero with a Thousand Faces.]
The miracle is, that the magic is effective in the tiniest, nursery fairytale: as the flavor of the ocean is contained in a single droplet; or as the full mystery of the teeming life of the earth is contained within the egg of a flea. For myth is not manufactured; rather, it is a spontaneous production of the living psyche; it bears within it, undamaged, the germ power of its source.
—Joseph Campbell, early draft of The Hero with a Thousand Faces
During the early 1940s, as darkness afflicted the whole world, the Mellons' heroic young venture, the Bollingen Foundation, came under scrutiny.
There was in force a Trading with the Enemy Act, which forbade American citizens commerce of all kinds with the nations with whom the United States was at war. On a flight through Bermuda in 1941, carrying a portfolio of photographs for her archive, Olga Froebe-Kapteyn had come under suspicion from British intelligence, who in turn contacted the FBI. Perhaps state secrets were being smuggled among the archetypal images...
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SOURCE: Manganaro, Marc. “Joseph Campbell: Authority's Thousand Faces.” In Myth, Rhetoric, and the Voice of Authority: A Critique of Frazer, Eliot, Frye, and Campbell, pp. 151-85. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992.
[In the following essay, Manganaro explores Campbell's approach to and use of mythology, and discusses the appeal of his work.]
READING MODERNISM, READING MYTH
Like Frazer, Joseph Campbell has achieved great popularity as a reader of comparative cultures. Campbell's corpus, like Frazer's Golden Bough, has made the difficult transition from a modest scholarly readership to a massive popular audience. By July 1989, the posthumously published version of The Power of Myth, the book fashioned from Bill Moyers's interviews with Campbell airing on Public Broadcasting, had remained on the New York Times paperback bestseller list for fifty-seven weeks. The forty-year-old Hero with a Thousand Faces also made the list that year. The famous account of the policeman reporting to Jane Harrison that The Golden Bough “changed my life” finds strong parallels in the popular reception of Campbell today. In Campbell's case, the broad appeal has much to do with the message he sends to readers: myth can change your life. The titles of a number of his many books—The Power of Myth, Myths to Live By—underline the...
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SOURCE: Segal, Robert A. “Myth Versus Religion for Campbell.” In Uses of Comparative Mythology: Essays on the Work of Joseph Campbell, edited by Kenneth L. Golden, pp. 39-52. New York: Garland Publishing, 1992.
[In the following essay, Segal considers the relationship between mythology and religion in Campbell's work.]
“My favorite definition of religion,” declares Joseph Campbell, “is ‘a misinterpretation of mythology’” (Open [An Open Life] 78). No theorist of myth since the Victorian Indologist F. Max Müller pits myth against religion so severely as does Campbell. Typically, theorists view myth either as tied to religion or at least as compatible with religion. The antithesis that Campbell draws between myth and religion is the subject of this essay.
What the actual relationship is between myth and religion depends first on the definition of myth. When myth is defined as a story about one or more gods, the relationship is intimate. But when myth is defined otherwise—for example, as an important story of any kind—the agents can be humans or even animals. In hero myths the subjects are more often human than divine.
Myth need not even be defined as a story. It can refer to a sheer conviction like the American myths of the frontier and of the self-made man. Some mythic convictions do involve gods. For example, the myths of America as...
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SOURCE: Davis, Joseph K. “Campbell on Myth, Romantic Love, and Marriage.” In Uses of Comparative Mythology: Essays on the Work of Joseph Campbell, edited by Kenneth L. Golden, pp. 105-19. New York: Garland Publishing, 1992.
[In the following essay, Davis delineates Campbell's treatment of romantic love.]
Among the constant, continuing themes Joseph Campbell explores through his method of comparative mythology, none is more provocative, certainly none more timely, than that of romantic or passionate love and its expected outcome, marriage. Recognizing that in the West romantic love and marriage exist today in genuine crisis, Campbell speaks throughout his works to aspects and attributes of this subject from a perspective at once mythopoeic in its formulation, historical in its development, and personally transformative to individuals by its appearance and force in their lives. From Campbell's treatment in his books and collected essays and from his comments in those last volumes of interviews, it is possible, first, to organize a constructive focus of his views on the nature and the function of romantic love, including its Western origin, and, then, to explore its presence amid contemporary dysfunctions.1
The nature of true romantic love gives absolute primacy to the individual and to his or her experience of life. Such an orientation surmounts all other priorities and...
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SOURCE: Hyles, Vernon R. “Campbell and the Inklings—Tolkien, Lewis, and Williams.” In Uses of Comparative Mythology: Essays on the Work of Joseph Campbell, edited by Kenneth L. Golden, pp. 211-22. New York: Garland Publishing, 1992.
[In the following essay, Hyles finds parallels in the treatment of mythology in the works of Campbell, J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, and Charles Williams.]
As a comparative mythologist, Joseph Campbell charts the myth of the hero to develop his concept of bliss and to explain the place of sacrifice in myth. These dominant issues continue in all of Campbell's work, culminating in his series of interviews with Bill Moyers, The Power of Myth. Rebirth and archetypal repetition are part of the way Campbell looks at mythic patterns. Poets such as Blake, Yeats, and Hart Crane, and mythofabulists such as Joyce, García-Márquez, Barth, and the Inklings—J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, and Charles Williams—return to such primary themes. The myth of the hero, bliss, and sacrifice are dominant in the fiction of Tolkien, Lewis, and Williams, as they are in Campbell's comparative approach.
The creating of myths, that mythopoeic faculty that Campbell studied and that the Inklings practiced in fiction, seems to be inherent in the human life process, answering a basic human need. Myths form the matrix, the fabric, the soup out of which literature both...
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SOURCE: Doty, William G. “Joseph Campbell's Myth and/Versus Religion.” Soundings 79, nos. 3-4 (fall-winter 1996): 421-45.
[In the following essay, Doty discusses “some of the religious aspects of Campbell's myth-work, and his way of talking about myths as potent cultural forces.”]
Myths are clues to the spiritual potentialities of the human life.
—J. Campbell (1988b, 5)1
The logic of myth claims that there is always, no matter how it is disguised, qualified, or suppressed, a “hidden connection” or “inner law” linking chaos and cosmos, nature and culture.
Religion exists as a kind of sum of all other cultural systems to say that [the] ambiguities, the felt chaos of life, has meaning because it is interpretable. It is part of the larger fictional story—the myth—or the permanent cosmological structures of reality.
—N. J. Girardot (1983, 3, 7)2
What Norman Girardot calls the mythic logic undergirding the hidden connection of things is for Joseph Campbell the essential role of myth: it discloses symbolic inner/mystical meanings not apparent to the casual glance, and it protects such meanings from the historicist or literalist pathology which claims that particular...
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SOURCE: Ellwood, Robert. “Joseph Campbell and the New Quest for the Holy Grail.” In The Politics of Myth: A Study of C. G. Jung, Mircea Eliade, and Joseph Campbell, pp. 127-201. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999.
[In the following essay, Ellwood provides a biographical and critical study of Campbell and his work, and traces his literary and ideological development.]
“THE SAVANT AS REACTIONARY”
Joseph Campbell (1904-1987) was probably the best known of all interpreters of myth to late twentieth-century Americans, thanks to a series of learned but highly readable books, assiduous lecture-hall performances, and above all his posthumous PBS appearances with Bill Moyers. The response to that series of six interviews was remarkable. As Mary R. Lefkowitz put it: “On television Joseph Campbell was the embodiment of the ideal academic: gentle, fatherly, informative, reassuring, unworldly, spiritual, and articulate without being incomprehensible. He was knowledgeable about what we didn't have time (or inclination) to discover for ourselves, pleasantly remote, and (unlike most of nontelevision professors) entertaining. Campbell could tell a good story.”1
But perhaps Campbell's greatest triumph of all, though an indirect one, was in the overwhelmingly successful series of Star Wars movies, commenced in 1977 and directed by George...
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Golden, Kenneth L. Uses of Comparative Mythology: Essays on the Work of Joseph Campbell. New York: Garland Publishing, 1992, 278 p.
Includes critical essays on Campbell and his work.
Klavan, Andrew. “Joseph Campbell: Myth Master.” The Village Voice 33 (24 May 1988): 60-4.
Klavan elucidates the defining characteristics of Campbell's work and deems him “one of the greatest popular writers on mythology who ever lived.”
Tigue, John W. The Transformation of Consciousness in Myth: Integrating the Thought of Jung and Campbell. New York: Peter Lang, 1994, 153 p.
Analyzes the use of archetypes in mythology utilizing the theories of Campbell and Carl Jung.
Additional coverage of Campbell's life and career is contained in the following sources published by the Gale Group: Authors and Artists for Young Adults, Vol. 3; Bestsellers, Vol. 89:2; Contemporary Authors, Vols. 1-4R, 124; Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vols. 3, 28, 61, 107; Contemporary Literary Criticism, Vol. 69; DISCovering Authors 3.0; Literature Resource Center; and Major 20th-Century Writers, Eds. 1, 2
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