Campbell in Academic Circles

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Joe the Dragon
Posts: 116
Joined: Wed Sep 10, 2003 5:00 am

Post by Joe the Dragon » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Hi everyone,

Joseph Campbell was the first writer I was exposed to in the field of comparative mythology, and I've taken to him with great admiration.

I can't say i've read all of his stuff, or even most of it, but I like to think i've considered a decent portion of his work. I've read and reread his most general stuff, "Hero," "Power of Myth," "Inner Reaches," and a few others.
I certainly feel like i've at least got pretty good command of the basics.

Like I said, Campbell is really the only author in the entire field of comparative mythology that i'm at all familiar with, because as far as i know he's the only one with an interview that gets televised occasionally on PBS. (that's how i got sucked in)

As I've read through Campbell, he seems to present his ideas quite clearly. And to me, inexperienced in the field as i am, they seem like very good ideas... and what's more, they have had a profound effect on me, and been a great help n coming to terms with the world.

What i'm saying is not only do they seem to work in the realm of intellect and theory, but they also in the realm of experience.

But as I browse these message boards the reality is setting in beginning to occur to me that Joseph Campbell is not the only one who spent a great deal of time studying the great breadth of world religions and thought of something useful to say about it.

And I start to think that although Campell has been of practical use for me, it's still only one way of seeing things, and i really have no perspective or context with which to view these ideas within a larger field.

I know there are people here who are entrenched in the Religious Studies/Comparatively Mythology field, and I certainly am not...
I was wondering if anybody could help me understand Campbell's position in the Academic Community.

Are "Hero with a Thousand Faces" or "Masks of God" considered tomes of wisdom in the field, or is Campbell approached with speculation and conspiracy. Surely anybody who purports any Idea will have his critics... but among people in the know, are Campbell's principles generally accepted? or hotly debated? Or somewhere in between?

Joe :smile:
Posts: 28
Joined: Tue May 20, 2003 5:00 am

Post by DJG » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Campbell's standing in the academic community is a question that has always interested me. From what I've been able to gather, and this is purely my own informal take on the subject, was that he had a more mixed reputation as a scholar during, and shortly after, his lifetime. There were a number of criticisms that had been thrown at him, e.g. Campbell's scholarship is like a lake which is a mile wide but an inch deep, he's a "Jungian" and therefore shouldn't be taken seriously, he is a mere popularizer of myth, et al. These were some of the more superficial attacks on his work, but there were others that seemed to question the structure and approach he used toward the interpretation of myths.

But a few years after his death there seemed to be something like a reappraisal of his work. My sense was that two things were working on the years subsequent to his death. One was a better understanding of the true breadth of his project, the other was the enormous influence he and his ideas have had on this field and the creative community. Today Campbell's name and ideas seem to be ubiquitous. I'm absolutely amazed at the frequency and in what unorthodox places I see the term "Follow Your Bliss." Even works from the academy seem to footnote Joe completely unself-consciously these days.

So, my own take is that he has largely been, as the sociologists might say, institutionalized to a large extent. But because of the conservative nature of the "tenured track" mentality, it may be somewhat longer before the more profound/unconventional implications of his scholarship will be fully embraced by this group... if they ever are

Again, let me state that this is wholly my own informal take on this question, and, of course, is subject to gross overstatement and considerable misjudgment. ;^)

Mark O.
Working Associate
Posts: 1221
Joined: Sun Dec 08, 2002 4:52 am

Post by Mark O. » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Hello Joe and DJG,

Bits and pieces of other threads address the question about Prof. Campbell's reputation among other scholars... here are two: ... forum=28&5 ... 1&forum=28

Robert G.
Posts: 292
Joined: Tue Sep 14, 2004 7:48 pm

Post by Robert G. » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Joe, the download of David Miller's lecture at Pacifica deals with some of these issues, I thing it's worth checking it out. The audio is at ... 040417.mp3
the text is at ... e-Mind.htm