Hero’s Journey, The
Joseph Campbell, arguably the greatest mythologist of our time, was certainly one of our greatest storytellers. This new cloth edition of The Hero’s Journey, published to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Campbell’s birth, recounts his own quest and conveys the excitement of his life-long exploration of our mythic traditions, what he called “the one great story of mankind.”
This masterfully crafted book interweaves conversations with Campbell and some of the people he inspired, including poet Robert Bly, anthropologist Angeles Arrien, filmmaker David Kennard, Doors’ drummer John Densmore, psychiatric pioneer Stanislov Grof, Nobel laureate Roger Guillemen, and others. Behind the man who spent his life journeying through the mythologies of the world was someone whose life was a deep personal quest for his own immortal hero. Through a series of interviews The Hero’s Journey follows the footsteps of Joseph Campbell as he tells stories of his life, his love, and his passion. Following Campbell’s own themes from The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Phil Cousineau, as editor, lets that story unfold.
First comes “the Call to Adventure” in which the young child, sensing the mystery and the poetry inherent in life, makes the first of his many discoveries, the Native American. Campbell immerses himself completely in this world, reading everything he can find. He then moves on, through his student days, along his own “Road of Trials” and his “Vision Quest,” searching out those places where his experiences, his own taste of life will be heightened. An athlete, traveler, and avid scholar, he moves to Paris, where he comes in contact with his very deepest passion, the world common to all of mankind—the world of inner transformation. He finds the immortal questions revealed in mythology, art, and literature and he begins to lecture and to write as he dedicates himself to the mythology of his own personal journey.
Campbell reflects in The Hero’s Journey on subjects ranging from the origins and functions of myth, the role of the artist, and the need for ritual, to the ordeals of love and romance. With his poetic and pragmatic language, Joseph Campbell stands as a signpost in a time when we have lost our connection to mythology.
The man behind the myth is lovingly revealed in this collection of interviews with the late Joseph Campbell. Using Campbell’s format for the “hero’s journey,” editor Phil Cousineau organized these interviews so that they reflect Campbell’s own chronological life quest. He begins with “The Call to Adventure,” in which Campbell speaks to his fascination with Native American myth as a child, and moves through “The Road of Trials” (his years in college and as a young professor at Sarah Lawrence) and the “Meeting with the Goddess” (referring to meeting his wife of 50 years, the modern dancer Jean Erdman).
Since most of the book is written in a question and answer format (with a few excerpts from lectures), much of the text is in Campbell’s own words. It is a feast for any fan to hear Campbell speak so personally about his own life while also imparting his usual insight and wisdom on every topic he discusses. A few morsels of this feast can be found in the following tidbits: for example, readers may be surprised to discover that Campbell considered his half-mile track races in college to be the “peak” experiences of his life. (Campbell was an esteemed track star at Columbia University in the mid-1920s.) Or that it was the famous Paris-dweller and bookseller Sylvia Beach who helped Campbell understand the meaning behind Ulysses in 1928 and was influential in steering Campbell into the realm of mythology and heroes. Or that Campbell believed that his uncanny ability to relate myths to contemporary life came from teaching female students at Sarah Lawrence.
“They always wanted the material to relate to themselves, to life,” he explained to interviewer Stuart Brown. “I attribute the popular aspects of my writing to the training I got from these students.” Or that The Hero with a Thousand Faces inspired numerous artists, including George Lucas of Star Wars fame and Richard Adams, author of Watership Down. This is also a generously illustrated book, with numerous photos of Campbell, many of which are shown in their authentic sepia tones. Numerous full-color images of famous artwork and images speak to each mythological theme in the book, such as the “Death of Socrates” (Jacques Louis David, 1787) and the painting of “Sacred and Profane” (Titan, circa 1514). — Gail Hudson, Amazon.com
For anyone who would like a reminder of Joseph Campbell and his important contribution to our understanding of myth and our own lives, I can’t think of a better place to begin than with this book. If you are already familiar with the movie, or the earlier edition, this revised edition is a good refresher. But, for all of us this volume can be an opening into the wondrous and exhilarating world of Joseph Campbell’s own works. I can think of no better beginning for enriching your own or anyone’s life than a growing familiarity with the life and work of this man. Here is an excellent place to start! — Ralph Walker, New Friends Review
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