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review 2016-07-13 21:29
The Hero With a Thousand Faces
The Hero With a Thousand Faces - Joseph Campbell

The idea that there is no such thing as an original story isn’t even original in of itself. Joseph Campbell may have coined the monomyth, but writers and orators have been following set standards and conventions for thousands of years. What set THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES apart is that it applies these conventions to worldwide religious/mythological beliefs and human psychology.


Whether or not the titular hero is a worthwhile concept depends entirely on how much the reader likes seeing Nietzsche’s übermensch conflated with the Aristotelian tragic hero and Freudian id. Campbell draws from a wide variety of sources for his analyzes, and he correlates them all to spirituality and a shared subconscious with some success. At the same time, Campbell’s comparative approach makes multi-faceted classic heroes and gods appear dull and shallow in contrast to the one-off monsters or problems they encounter. If Campbell has to remove key elements of his examples in order to make them fit his theory, shouldn’t that invalidate his claims of the hero’s universal appeal?


Campbell’s thesis is compromised by the time in which it was written. HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES primarily uses Freudian psychanalysis to support his claims, and he unfortunately embraces very outdated conventions in the process. Perhaps due to the academic writing conventions of the time, he also tends to over-describe everything. The end result is that Campbell goes on and on about evidence or theories that I, as a modern reader, know for a fact are inherently flawed without his adding any significant insight.


The biggest problem with the book is that Campbell wildly misinterprets his subject matter. While it’s easy to grasp basic ideas Campbell presents, the text itself fails to substantially support them. His ideas often prioritize the functions of gender or hierarchy, but the numerous supporting examples he gives prioritize action and effect instead. The discrepancy could be explained by overreliance on 20th century gender roles, but Campbell is the first to claim that gender doesn’t matter. The contradictions are rarely resolved because he goes on to write about the dreams of random strangers or completely different myths instead. It’s telling that best written parts of the book are where Campbell focuses on obstacles instead of archetypes.  


Many of his sources date from the 1930s or before, and it shows. Even though he goes out of his way to condemn some of his peers’ imperialistic attitudes, Campbell can be just as judgmental. His opinions and exotification of aboriginal practices in particular is damning enough, but his some of his scientifically improbable “sources” read more like propaganda or bad pulp fiction. It wouldn’t be a problem if these segments weren’t used to support huge chunks of the monomyth. The issue is not a matter of offensiveness; if I can’t trust the accuracy of the material, I cannot trust the analysis thereof either. 


My pagan book club had a lot of fun discussion about the book, though, so at least I’m not walking away with a completely negative experience. Not recommended for solitary reading, in any case. 

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text 2016-01-05 20:22
Reading progress update: I've read 14 out of 432 pages.
The Hero with a Thousand Faces - Joseph Campbell,David Kudler

Good, but dense!   I'm unable to stop reading, though, so good sign.  I figure I'll end up devouring this. 

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text 2016-01-05 19:35
Pop Suar addition and good news
The Hero with a Thousand Faces - Joseph Campbell,David Kudler
Breath, Eyes, Memory - Edwidge Danticat
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol I: The Pox Party - M.T. Anderson

In a comment, I mentioned not stressing about the check engine light since I couldn't do anything about it.   It was showing up again this morning, and I called after work to make sure I could take it in. 


But when I got in my car, it was gone.   Probably either a fluke or because of the extreme cold, so that's good.   Money spent on that?  Zero dollars. 


I also got gifted a gorgeous edition of The Hero with a Thousand Faces, which I'm going to use as my modern day classics read for Pop Sugar.  I also tracked down my copy of Breathe, Eyes Memory and Octavian Nothing volume one to fit the Oprah's book club and National Book Award Winner category.  I was stressing over those, but I love the last two books and I've been meaning to read Campbell anyway, so this all works out. 

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review 2015-08-15 18:10
Wings of Art: Joseph Campbell on James Joyce by Joseph Campbell
Wings of Art - Joseph Campbell
bookshelves: published-1939, summer-2015, biography, lit-crit, lit-richer, essays, skoolzy-stuff, tbr-busting-2015, mythology, art-forms
Read from August 18, 2013 to August 15, 2015


Read by Joseph Campbell, music by Stanilas Syrewicz

High Bridge Company, 1995, ISBN 1565111133; Six Compact Discs, Out of Print

Description: Joseph Campbell co-authored the classic Finnegans Wake reference A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake: Unlocking James Joyce's Masterwork, and in these six tapes of an informal lecture to a small audience he presents another tour de force encompassing his analysis of Portrait, Ulysses, and Wake.
He delivers Joyce's theory of art (alone worth the price of the tapes), relates the texts' themes to mythology and philosophy, and generally provides a wonderful sense of James Joyce as a brilliant man of sorrows acquainted with grief, who labored mightily to bring forth the Big Three. Perhaps even on a level with Stuart Gilbert's James Joyce's Ulysses.


Lecture 1: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Pt1
Lecture 2: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Pt2
Finnegan's Wake

A generous preview of part of this work is available online: http://books.google.ca/books?id=31UBh...
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review 2015-04-30 20:49
Interpreting fairy tales and myths
The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales - Bruno Bettelheim

The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales

Bruno Bettelheim

Non-fiction 328 pages

Vintage Books, 1989, 1976


If you’ve taken courses on fiction writing or literature, it’s likely that you’ve heard about the hero’s journey. Joseph Campbell introduced this concept in his 1949 work, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Campbell, a popularizer of mythology, drew upon themes from Jungian psychology in his structural analysis of hero myths.


Child Psychologist, Bruno Bettelheim, while acknowledging Jung’s contributions, used a more Freudian approach in his analysis of fairy tales. Although there’s some degree of similarity between Bettelheim’s later and Campbell’s earlier work, Bettelheim makes no mention of Campbell.


Bettelheim is careful to point out, however, that fairy tales are not like myths. They serve different audiences and functions. Myths end in tragedy while fairy tales end happily. Fairy tales allow children to integrate id impulses with their developing egos. Myths, instead, are the voices of the superego. They moralize, while fairy tales allow their hearers to form their own conclusions.


Referring to Hercules having to choose between two women, one representing virtue and the other pleasure, Bettelheim says, “The fairy tale never confronts us so directly, or tells us outright how we must choose. Instead, the fairy tale helps children to develop the desire for a higher consciousness through what is implied in the story. The fairy tale convinces through the appeal it makes to our imagination and the attractive outcome of events, which entice us.”


He later elaborates, “Myths project an ideal personality acting on the basis of superego demands, while fairy tales depict an ego integration which allows for appropriate satisfaction of id desires. This difference accounts for the contrast between the pervasive pessimism of myths and the essential optimism of fairy tales.” I don’t agree entirely. Star Wars is often cited as an example of the hero’s journey. That movie ended happily rather than in tragedy. While Oedipus is certainly a tragedy, I’m not convinced that all myths must be pessimistic.


Bettelheim’s approach is primarily Freudian. As such, his interpretations deal with orality, sexuality, sibling rivalry, and the child’s sense of impotence. Campbell’s myth interpretation draws from the Jungian perspective. As such, it minimizes the importance of id, ego, and superego and emphasizes Jungian personality structures such as self, shadow and anima. Since the passing of Freud and Jung, neuroscience has identified many structures in the brain, however none are identical to those structures named by Jung and Freud. Nonetheless, those elusive structures remain useful for understanding both human personality and literature.


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