Joseph Campbell Biography

Joseph Campbell (author) (1904-1987), American writer, editor, and teacher, known for his writings on myths. Born in New York City, Campbell was educated at Columbia University. He specialized in medieval literature and, after earning a master's degree, continued his studies at the universities of Paris and Munich. While abroad he was influenced by the art of Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, the psychological studies of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, and the novels of James Joyce and Thomas Mann. These encounters led to Campbell's theory that all myths and epics are linked in that they are cultural manifestations of the universal need of the human psyche to explain social, cosmological, and spiritual realities.

Campbell returned to New York in 1929 and joined the faculty of Sarah Lawrence College, where he taught comparative literature from 1934 to 1972. He also edited works by the German scholar Heinrich Zimmerman on Indian art, myths, and philosophy. In 1944, with Henry Morton Robinson, Campbell published A Skeleton Key to Finnegan's Wake. His first original work, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949), became a classic. In this study of the “myth of the hero,” Campbell asserted that there is a single pattern of heroic journey and that all cultures share this essential pattern in their various heroic myths. In his book he also outlined the basic conditions, stages, and results of the archetypal hero's journey. Campbell's other works include the four-volume Masks of God (1959-1967), The Flight of the Wild Gander (1969), and The Mythic Image (1974). In the mid-1980s a popular television interview series with the American journalist Bill Moyers introduced Campbell's views to millions of people.

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