sjams's Reviews > The Hero with a Thousand Faces

The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
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's review
Jun 19, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: 2011, spiritual, nonfiction, mythology
Read from June 15 to July 02, 2011

[This book] was huge and dense and I sort of wish I'd been able to spend more time with it. Time to take notes and absorb what exactly it was positing here. I picked up a few bits and pieces, but I'm not sure of the "in general" idea of the book. The human psyche is connected and expresses itself through story? Okay, I get that. And that he's proving this with examples of myths from different cultures and how they follow the same journey. But I had a few qualms with some of the "universal" archetypes, and I guess that's because I honor complexity and diversity.

Nearer to the beginning of the book, Campbell discusses the male/female polarity of many figures in myth, which reminded me of Wicca yet again. This is too simplistic and heteronormative (oh goody, one of my college's favorite words!) for me to take too seriously, to be honest. If I accept homosexuality, bisexuality, polysexuality/polyamorous... whatever there is out there, I can't (personally) turn around and acknowledge these myths and this cycle that worships heterosexuality. I can't simplify. And I doubt Campbell was thinking about that, but since I make things too complex, I did, and it made clearer to me (again!) that I really do dislike that system.

Simplifying mythology to the Hero's Journey was interesting, but to me, again, the interest was not in simplifying mythology to the archetypes but exploring how many variations there are in the same theme. If Campbell had written his book from that angle I would've probably nodded my head vigorously as I read along. Granted, he was proving that there are archetypes, which you need to establish before celebrating the diversity spawned from them. So he can do that, and I can be fascinated by how different all the stories are!

Also, since he attributed it so often, I'm ready to read The Mabinogion now. I have a book called Women in Celtic Myth, but I think most of the stories in it were retold from The Mabinogion, so I want to go to the source. I really want to read more mythology now! There's so many good stories out there! :D

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06/19/2011 page 253
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