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Reply To: Campbell on Personal Mythology


Understood, thank-you! In teaching Joseph Campbell (primarily to high school students), I typically focused on the Hero’s Journey, along with excerpts from Power of Myth. The students almost always adhered to a familiar arc, a sort of Hero’s Journey meta-journey!

1. Skepticism about the universality of the stages of the Hero’s Journey.

2. Acceptance of the universality of the Hero’s Journey (often after experimenting with applying it to unlikely material such as a TV show).

3. Disbelief/wonderment about the universality of the Hero’s Journey.

4. An exploration of personal connections to various stages of the journey, inspired by the prevalence of archetype in mythology (aka “Maybe there’s something to all this!”).

5. Sometimes mind-blowing personal connections to individual or cumulative stages of the Hero’s Journey, often achieved through journaling, small group discussion, or guided meditation.

And one of the most useful things about studying Joseph Campbell for me as the teacher was that it then gave the class a collective vocabulary for discussing other texts, with a focus on situational, symbolic, and character archetypes.  For the rest of the year, any time we read something new, a student was bound to notice an archetypal aspect of the text, i.e. “Character X is an example of Situational Archetype Y!”

We also had some interesting discussions about the relationship between Campbell describing the Hero’s Journey, the concepts then being exploited for commercial purposes by Hollywood, and the ensuing ouroboros of aspects of the journey continuing to show up media. Students are often struck by the fact that Campbell shared the journey as a way of facilitating an understanding of myth and meaning only for (some) media creators to adapt it as a means of popularizing their content, which was fodder for all sorts of great discussion about artistic creation, intent, myth and commerce.

Hope that gives you some idea!