Mythic Worlds, Modern Words
In 1927, as a twenty-three-year-old postgraduate scholar in Paris, Joseph Campbell first encountered James Joyce’s Ulysses. Known for being praised and for kicking up controversy (including an obscenity trial in the United States in 1920), the novel left Campbell both intrigued and confused, as it had many others. Because he was in Paris, he was able to visit the Shakespeare & Company bookstore—the outpost of the original publisher of Ulysses, Sylvia Beach. She gave him “clues” for reading Ulysses, and that, Campbell attested, changed his career. For the next sixty years, Campbell moved through the labyrinths of Joyce’s creations—writing and lecturing on Joyce using depth psychology, comparative religion, anthropology, and art history as tools of analysis. Arranged by Joyce scholar Edmund L. Epstein, Mythic Worlds, Modern Words presents a wide range of Campbell’s writing and lectures on Joyce, which together form an illuminating running commentary on Joyce’s masterworks. Campbell’s visceral appreciation for all that was new in Joyce will delight the previously uninitiated, and perhaps intimidated, as well as longtime lovers of both Joyce and Campbell.
Now available in a trade paperback edition, Mythic Worlds, Modern Words is a masters meet-up between the twentieth century’s quintessential mythologist and its most exemplary literary modernist. Forty years of Campbell’s lectures, articles and unpublished writings on the novels of James Joyce, drawn together by Joycean scholar Edmund L. Epstein, serve as a lens to examine both the nature of myth in art, and the myriad-minded work of the man whom many have called the greatest literary artist of the modern era.
An appendix includes both question and answer sessions from Campbell’s lectures, and a series of articles penned by Campbell and Henry Morton Robinson (co-author with Campbell of A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake), unveiling the Wake-like themes that suffused Thorton Wilder’s Broadway hit, The Skin of Our Teeth.
“Along with his famous studies of heroes, Jung, global myths, and world religions, Joseph Campbell was also an early and important James Joyce scholar, best known for A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake, coauthored with Henry M. Robinson. [Mythic Worlds, Modern Words] gathers Campbell’s lectures and shorter essays on Joyce’s work, opening with an obituary notice about the writer and ending with a controversial account of Thornton Wilder’s play The Skin of Our Teeth (which Campbell believed was little more than aWake rip-off). In between Campbell proffers his interpretations of the major works, emphasizing their use of archetypal figures and situations.” — Washington Post Book World
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