The Ecstasy of Being: Mythology and Dance
By Joseph Campbell | Edited by Nancy Allison
This title is part of the The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell series
Joseph Campbell’s collected writings on dance and art, edited and introduced by Nancy Allison, CMA, the founder of Jean Erdman Dance, and including Campbell’s unpublished manuscript “Mythology and Form in the Performing and Visual Arts,” the book he was working on when he died.
Dance was one of mythologist Joseph Campbell’s wide-ranging passions. His wife, Jean Erdman, was a leading figure in modern dance who worked with Martha Graham and had Merce Cunningham in her first company. When Campbell retired from teaching in 1972, he and Erdman formed the Theater of the Open Eye, where for nearly fifteen years they presented a wide array of dance and theater productions, lectures, and performance pieces.
The Ecstasy of Being brings together seven of Campbell’s previously uncollected articles on dance, along with “Mythology and Form in the Performing and Visual Arts,” the treatise that he was working on when he died, published here for the first time.
In this new collection Campbell explores the rise of modern art and dance in the twentieth century; delves into the work and philosophy of Isadora Duncan, Martha Graham, and others; and, as always, probes the idea of art as “the funnel through which spirit is poured into life.” This book offers the reader an accessible, yet profound and provocative, insight into Campbell’s lifelong fascination with the relationship of myth to aesthetic form and human psychology.
“Unusual insights . . . with a great deal of new information. [Campbell’s] writing reveals deep knowledge of dance and aesthetics, and clarity of thought. There are also excellent notes related to both Parts I and II at the end of the book, and these add to the reader’s understanding of the various issues and artists under discussion. Readers will find a great deal to think about in this small collection of Campbell’s work, and the book will also serve as an introduction to the thoughts of an important American writer — one who influenced many with his teaching, ideas, and books.”
— Journal of Dance Education
Mythology, in other words, is not an outmoded quaintness of the past, but a living complex of archetypal, dynamic images, native to, and eloquent of, some constant, fundamental stratum of the human psyche. And that stratum is the source of the vital energies of our being. Out of it proceed all the fate-creating drives and fears of our lives. While our educated, modern waking-consciousness has been going forward on the wheels and wings of progress, this recalcitrant, dream-creating, wish-creating, under-consciousness has been holding to its primeval companions all the time, the demons and the gods. [share]