In essays that spin off Campbell's speeches before the Cooper Union Forum between 1958 and 1971, it's unsurprising that most passionate and intelligenIn essays that spin off Campbell's speeches before the Cooper Union Forum between 1958 and 1971, it's unsurprising that most passionate and intelligent piece spins off the first landing on the moon in 1969.
Whether it's human sacrifice understood in plant-based communities that owed their survival to the life-death-life cycle of the natural world, or the modern day's strain to reconcile our stories of godly creation with the evolutionary evidence among us, Campbell convincingly argues that our myths have always come from the truths of the world we live among. And when a new world--that is, literally thousands of new world--opened before us in 1969, who could say what new myths and new truths would emerge? Campbell's almost childish delight at the prospect shook me back into the wonder at the universe that I too often forget.
Packed with fascinating information, ambitiuous scope, and true intelligence, these essays tell stories about stories. At their best, as when he reflects on the narrative implications of humankind penetrating outer space, he fuses fact and myth in their common reality with both respect and wonder.
My enjoyment of the book, though, was tempered by recurring prehistoric assumptions. Campbell perpetually delineates between "primitive" and Western civilizations that by his account are much more evolved (despite his paternalistic affection for the myths of those "primitive" cultures). And he has a solidly patriarchal perspective. The book hinges on "man's" mythological journey, and while one might forgive the use of the masculine pronoun as a neutral reference to all of humankind as merely product-of-his-time sexism (the book was published in the early 1970s), in fact, Campbell's sexist assumptions go far beyond that, making me recoil. In his anecdotes and his asides, his language and his omissions, he limits this book by valuing only one-half of the population (less then that when you factor in his weird "primitive" thing).
Still, there's brilliance, and I join him in taking heart in the myths, so alike even among so many different people and lifestyles, that sustain us to this day. ...more
I've heard Virginia Woolf's Three Guineas (1938) called the unofficial companion to A Room of One's Own. In theearlier book, Woolf connects systemati I've heard Virginia Woolf's Three Guineas (1938) called the unofficial companion to A Room of One's Own. In theearlier book, Woolf connects systematic sexism to economics and art. She contends that a sister of Shakespeare, equal in the Bard's talent, would never write a word. All people deserve a living wage and private space, or else their potential will never be reached. It's not an act of charity either; our very society depends upon it. What has been lost because creative geniuses who were female lived in societies that limited them?
In Three Guineas, Woolf extends her ideas on gender and economics to include the prevention of war. Written during the Spanish Civil War, and as Hitler and Mussolini moved to extend their dominion, Woolf receives a letter from a pacifist organization asking for her membership, her financial donation, and her opinion on how our society can prevent the brutal violence that the enclosed photos of murdered Spanish children and burnt homes indicate.
Woolf's response, in the form of a series of letters, is this book.
Her reflection is still timely. As Woolf lays out the evidence for donating to "causes," and about the responsibilities of being a son or daughter of an educated man, she has such a thorough hand, it borders on satirical; I can imagine her bemused smile as she wrote. Woolf makes an airtight case for the deep connections of political domination and patriarchal domination. Her critique of education and religious systems that implicitly guide our society to militarism and war strikes true.
Particularly fascinating, Woolf illustrates her text with photographs: a clergyman in full regalia leading a procession; a military man in a parade wearing a jacket heavy with medals and ribbons; academics in a commencement ceremony, draped with robes and wearing tasseled hats. Her selection of images reflects her narrative style: she's presenting objective evidence of the authoritative positions, and at the same time, she pokes fun at the costuming of hierarchy.
My annotated Harvest Books edition includes facsmiles of Woolf's extensive notebooks, where she pasted letters, news clippings, and the like; much of it is her source material for Three Guineas. Curious reads, all.
I usually appreciate annotated editions, particularly of books that so embedded in their time and place as this one. The facsimiles from Woolf's notebooks was invaluable, and so were notes on public figures that Woolf discusses. But these annotation-happy editors take it far too far: overwraught explanations of the simplest things are ridiculous. Especially in juxtaposition with Woolf's style: her exhaustive research and clear-as-crystal reflection is carried forth with a smile and an intent.
The Harvest editors come off as desperate to sound smart. It made me a bit crazy.
Consider an endnote on the word "manifesto":
"manifesto (102) A manifesto is an open expression of one's tenets, goals, and plans, particularly with respect to politics, but also a form used for declarations of artistic intent. Readers in the late 1930s would invariably have connected the word with Karl Marx whose Communist Manifesto (1848) championed the rights of the working class and encouraged the proletariat to overthrow the bourgeoisie."
Seriously? Isn't manifesto pretty well initiated into mainstream English? Do the editors think only 1930s-era readers have heard of Karl Marx?
But don't let the editors of the Harvest edition overshadow what Woolf has to say for herself! My copy was plumped up with the editors' Preface, Chronology, Introduction, Appendix, Suggestions for Further Reading: Virigina Woolf, and Suggestions for Further Reading: Three Guineas. But standing true in the center is a solid piece of work, written in a genre that's diminishing but invaluable (the long-form essay), one that holds innovative thinking, impressive reasoning and sympahty with alternative points of view, and, yes, that bemused smile. ...more
Tremendously moving and informative. For so many of us, our understanding of Malcolm X is warped by misinformation and simplistic write-offs ("he hateTremendously moving and informative. For so many of us, our understanding of Malcolm X is warped by misinformation and simplistic write-offs ("he hates white people;" "he's too angry;" "he loves violence").
Get beyond the hear-say and read what he has to say for himself. The book is now one of my very favorites, and Malcolm X one of my greatest heroes....more