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Reply To: Campbell on Writing


Shaahayda, you write

I’ll mention Campbell’s own words, ‘Historical Development of  Mythology’ is what I am  interested in — Not the various volumes of the Historical Development of  Mythology, which too are master pieces.” (I think you mean the Historical Atlas of World Mythology” rather than the “Historical Development of Mythology” in that second sentence.)

I hate to sound contrary (not that I can help it – Mercury is in retrograde), but do keep in mind that Ms. Yang is specifically addressing The Hero with a Thousand Faces. That has a different accent than Campbell’s later work.

Speaking of the difference between The Hero with a Thousand Faces, and, four decades later, The Historical Atlas of World Mythology, Joe explains:

The big organizing principle that I am using is historical and geographical—it’s an atlas. In The Hero with a Thousand Faces, I was stressing the archetypes; the accent was psychological. Here, I am stressing the differentiations and the distribution of the differentiations.

Hero with a Thousand Faces didn’t focus on the historical development of mythology (the working title, you may recall, was “How to Read a Myth”). Though the quote you borrow from James is correct in terms of the perspective Campbell developed across the whole arc of his life, that historical development of myth isn’t the point of the work Yang is addressing – but if you share that quote, absent context, it comes across as if you are claiming that is indeed the point of The Hero …

If you are going to reach out, I suspect you’d get better traction gently highlighting demonstrable errors she can correct (PoM is not a television adaptation of HWATF; books credited to Heinrich Zimmer are not major works by Campbell, etc.), rather than steer her toward a big picture understanding not directly related to the task she set out to accomplish.