Joseph Campbell

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Biographical Information

Joseph John Campbell (1904 – 1987) wiki

"Joe graduated from Canterbury in 1921, and the following September, entered Dartmouth College; but he was soon disillusioned with the social scene and disappointed by a lack of academic rigor, so he transferred to Columbia University, where he excelled: while specializing in medieval literature, he played in a jazz band, and became a star runner. In 1924, while on a steamship journey to Europe with his family, Joe met and befriended Jiddu Krishnamurti, the young messiah-elect of the Theosophical Society, thus beginning a friendship that would be renewed intermittently over the next five years.

"After earning a B.A. from Columbia (1925), and receiving an M.A. (1927) for his work in Arthurian Studies, Joe was awarded a Proudfit Traveling Fellowship to continue his studies at the University of Paris (1927-28). Then, after he had received and rejected an offer to teach at his high school alma mater, his Fellowship was renewed, and he traveled to Germany to resume his studies at the University of Munich (1928-29).

"It was during this period in Europe that Joe was first exposed to those modernist masters—notably, the sculptor Antoine Bourdelle, Pablo Picasso and Paul Klee, James Joyce and Thomas Mann, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung—whose art and insights would greatly influence his own work. These encounters would eventually lead him to theorize that all myths are the creative products of the human psyche, that artists are a culture's mythmakers, and that mythologies are creative manifestations of humankind's universal need to explain psychological, social, cosmological, and spiritual realities...

"His travels next carried him north to San Francisco, then back south to Pacific Grove, where he spent the better part of a year in the company of Carol and John Steinbeck and marine biologist Ed Ricketts. During this time, he wrestled with his writing, discovered the poems of Robinson Jeffers, first read Oswald Spengler's Decline of the West, and wrote to some seventy colleges and universities in an unsuccessful attempt to secure employment. Finally, he was offered a teaching position at the Canterbury School. He returned to the East Coast, where he endured an unhappy year as a Canterbury housemaster, the one bright moment being when he sold his first short story ("Strictly Platonic") to Liberty magazine. Then, in 1933, he moved to a cottage without running water on Maverick Road in Woodstock NY, where he spent a year reading and writing. In 1934, he was offered and accepted a position in the literature department at Sarah Lawrence College, a post he would retain for thirty-eight years.

"In 1938 he married one of his students, Jean Erdman, who would become a major presence in the emerging field of modern dance, first, as a star dancer in Martha Graham's fledgling troupe, and later, as dancer/choreographer of her own company.

"Even as he continued his teaching career, Joe's life continued to unfold serendipitously. In 1940, he was introduced to Swami Nikhilananda, who enlisted his help in producing a new translation of The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna (published, 1942). Subsequently, Nikhilananda introduced Joe to the Indologist Heinrich Zimmer, who introduced him to a member of the editorial board at the Bollingen Foundation. Bollingen, which had been founded by Paul and Mary Mellon to "develop scholarship and research in the liberal arts and sciences and other fields of cultural endeavor generally," was embarking upon an ambitious publishing project, the Bollingen Series. Joe was invited to contribute an "Introduction and Commentary" to the first Bollingen publication, Where the Two Came to their Father: A Navaho War Ceremonial, text and paintings recorded by Maud Oakes, given by Jeff King (Bollingen Series, I: 1943).

"When Zimmer died unexpectedly in 1943 at the age of fifty-two, his widow, Christiana, and Mary Mellon asked Joe to oversee the publication of his unfinished works. Joe would eventually edit and complete four volumes from Zimmer's posthumous papers: Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization (Bollingen Series VI: 1946), The King and the Corpse (Bollingen Series XI: 1948), Philosophies of India (Bollingen Series XXVI: 1951), and a two-volume opus, The Art of Indian Asia (Bollingen Series XXXIX: 1955).

"Joe, meanwhile, followed his initial Bollingen contribution with a "Folkloristic Commentary" to Grimm's Fairy Tales (1944); he also co-authored (with Henry Morton Robinson) A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake (1944), the first major study of James Joyce's notoriously complex novel.

"His first, full-length, solo authorial endeavor, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (Bollingen Series XVII: 1949), was published to acclaim and brought him the first of numerous awards and honors—the National Institute of Arts and Letters Award for Contributions to Creative Literature...

"Joe first lectured at Esalen Institute in 1965. Each year thereafter, he returned to Big Sur to share his latest thoughts, insights, and stories. And as the years passed, he came to look forward more and more to his annual sojourns to the place he called "paradise on the Pacific Coast." Although he retired from teaching at Sarah Lawrence in 1972 to devote himself to his writing, he continued to undertake two month-long lecture tours each year... In 1988, millions were introduced to his ideas by the broadcast on PBS of Joseph Campbell and The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers, six hours of an electrifying conversation that the two men had videotaped over the course of several years. When he died, Newsweek magazine noted that "Campbell has become one of the rarest of intellectuals in American life: a serious thinker who has been embraced by the popular culture." [1]

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References

  1. about, organizational web page, accessed May 1, 2012.