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The Hero's Journey:
Joseph Campbell on His Life and Work

by Joseph Campbell, Phil Cousineau

ISBN 1862045984 / 9781862045989 / 1-86204-598-4
Publisher Element Books Ltd
Language English
Edition Hardcover
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Book summary

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 [via]