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Joseph Campbell
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JOSEPH CAMPBELL

Joseph Campbell (1904-1987) was a world-renowned mythologist who helped modern society understand the true power that storytelling has in our culture and within our personal lives. He studied and identified the universal themes and archetypes that are present in mythical storytelling across history and across the world. His seminal work, The Hero With a Thousand Faces, outlined what Campbell called the Hero’s Journey, a motif of adventure and personal transformation that is used in nearly every culture’s mythical framework. George Lucas was an avid admirer of Campbell’s writings, and used them as a direct reference in his creation of Star Wars.
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Joseph Campbell (1904-1987) was a world-renowned mythologist who helped modern society understand the true power that storytelling has in our culture and within our personal lives. He studied and identified the universal themes and archetypes that are present in mythical storytelling across history and across the world. His seminal work, The Hero With a Thousand Faces, outlined what Campbell called the Hero’s Journey, a motif of adventure and personal transformation that is used in nearly every culture’s mythical framework. George Lucas was an avid admirer of Campbell’s writings, and used them as a direct reference in his creation of Star Wars.
Over one hundred years ago, on March 26, 1904, Joseph John Campbell was born in White Plains, New York. Joe, as he came to be known, was the first child of a middle-class Roman Catholic couple, Charles and Josephine Campbell. Joe’s earliest years were largely unremarkable; but then, when he was seven years old, his father took him and his younger brother, Charlie, to see Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show. The evening was a high point in Joe’s life; for, although the cowboys were clearly the show’s stars, as Joe would later write.
Campbell attributed what he called his preoccupation with mythology to childhood trips to Buffalo Bill’s Wild West exhibition and to visits to the American Museum of Natural History, where he was fascinated by artifacts of Native Americans. Raised as a Roman Catholic, he saw parallels between seemingly unique Christian beliefs, such as the Virgin Birth of Jesus, and the religious beliefs of Native Americans. Because the similarities between them seemed too close to be coincidental, he concluded that the beliefs could not be the result of independent historical development. That early conclusion implanted in Campbell his fundamental convictions: that similarities rather than differences between myths count most, that mythologies worldwide are related, that myth must be interpreted nonhistorically and nonliterally, and that religions systematically misinterpret their own myths.