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Joseph Campbell (1904-1987) was an American author and teacher best known for his work in the field of comparative mythology. 


Joseph Campbell was born in New York City in 1904 and became interested in mythology in his childhood. 

He loved to read books about Indigenous American cultures, and frequently visited the American Museum of Natural History in New York, where he was fascinated by the museum’s collection of totem poles. 


Joseph Campbell majored in biology his freshman year at Dartmouth, then transferred to Columbia University, where he specialized in medieval literature. After earning a master’s degree, he continued his studies at universities in Paris and Munich. 


While in Europe, Campbell was influenced by the art of Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, the novels of James Joyce and Thomas Mann, and the psychological studies of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. 

These encounters led to Campbell’s theory that all myths and epics are linked in the human psyche, and that they are cultural manifestations of the need to explain social, cosmological, and spiritual realities. 


After a period in California, where Campbell encountered John Steinbeck and the biologist Ed Ricketts, Campbell taught at the Canterbury School. In 1934, he joined the literature department at Sarah Lawrence College, where he taught until retiring in 1972. 


During the 1940s and ’50s, Joseph Campbell helped Swami Nikhilananda translate the Upaniṣads and The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. He also edited works by the German scholar Heinrich Zimmer on Indian art, myths, and philosophy. 

In 1944, with Henry Morton Robinson, Campbell published A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake. 

His first original work, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, came out in 1949 and was immediately well received. In time, it became acclaimed as a classic. In this study of the “myth of the hero,” Campbell describes a pattern of a heroic journey and asserts that all cultures share this pattern in their heroic myths. This book also outlines the conditions, stages, and results of the archetypal hero’s journey. 


Joseph Campbell died in 1987. In 1988, a series of television interviews with Bill Moyers, Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth, Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth, introduced Campbell’s views to millions of people. The video series is free to stream on YouTube, and the accompanying book remains in print today.

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