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Reply To: James JOYCE:Joseph Campbell and Jean Erdman -the Hero-Heroine Dance


What a wonderful greeting, Mary, which I’m reading in California not long after dawn here on Bloomsday (sorry for the delay in your post appearing; for a first post it was auto-flagged as potential spam due to the multiple links – such wonderful links – and needed to be manually approved).

All roads lead back to Joyce – or at least through, Joyce – for Joseph Campbell. Here, in a yet to be published work, Joe explains what happened when he arrived in Paris to work on his doctorate:

Well, it opened up first in Paris. Everybody was there—Picasso, Joyce, Matisse; I’ll never forget the exhibit of the Intransigents out in the Bois de Boulogne. I knew nothing about art; New York knew nothing. I learned about modern art and its relationship to all these myths⁠.

And I discovered Joyce⁠. The whole thing opened up like crazy when I found Ulysses, which was forbidden in the States⁠. I had to smuggle my volume in. You went to a bookstore feeling you were doing something pretty far out and said, “Avez-vous Ulysses?”⁠

That third chapter of Ulysses—“Ineluctable modality of the visible: at least that if no more, thought through my eyes. Signatures of all things I am here to read, seaspawn and seawrack, the nearing tide, that rusty boot.” I couldn’t understand what I was reading! What the hell’s going on here? I went to Sylvia Beach at the Shakespeare and Company Book Shop in indignation: “How do you read this?” And she said, “As follows.” And gave me a start.

Joyce assumed scholarship. He wrote things only a person with a bit of literacy would know. And he’d been a Catholic who had found a way out without losing his symbols⁠.

The first drafts of Finnegans Wake were being published in the avant-garde magazine transition, edited by Eugene Jolas⁠. I must say I was totally baffled as everybody was, but I bought the whole year of transition as it came out and studied it closely, realizing there was something there that was meaning a lot to me, and I didn’t quite know what it was (so, by the time Finnegans Wake was published in 1938, I was ready for it⁠).

I was pulled in. And with that I began to lose touch with my Ph.D. direction. Suddenly the whole modern world opened up. With a bang!⁠

No surprise, he never did finish that Ph.D.