Thursday, June 14, 2007

Joseph Campbell’s hegemony in popular theory of Mythology

As we all know, Yahadut gets attacked with 'religion' and 'myth' (in good part by not defining any of the terms) - and one of the first things that comes to mind in the wake of the phrase "Myth" is that 'myths' are not 'true'. At university, one of the first things taught about 'religions' is that they are primarily about 'myth' - and (left to ascertain yourself if you are not told), that the most significant thing about 'religions' is that they are not about truth. I think one man is primarily responsible for defining the significance and meanings of the terms Myth and Religion for millions of educated Westerners - and due to this influence, one of the most effective modern antisemites - Joseph Campbell. I hope to edit in some specific discussion of his antisemitism and the proliferation of his particular theory of myth and the significance of it for religion later, but here are some sources, some of which are online;

Ellwood, Robert. The Politics of Myth; a Study of C. G. Jung, Mircea Eliade, and Joseph Campbell. SUNY: Albany, NY, 1999.

Friedman, Maurice. “Why Joseph Campbell’s Psychologizing of Myth Precludes the Holocaust as a Touchstone of Reality”, Journal of The American Academy of Religion. Summer 1998, v.67 p.385

Gill, Brendan, "Faces of Joseph Campbell”, New York Review of Books, 28/9/89

Lefkowitz, Mary. “Myth of Joseph Campbell”, American Scholar, Summer 1990. p.429

Manganaro, Marc. Myth, Rhetoric, and the Voice of Authority: A Critique of Frazer, Eliot, Frye, and Campbell. (1992)

Segal, Robert. “Joseph Campbell as Antisemite and as Theorist of Myth: A Response to Maurice Friedman”. Journal of the American Academy of Religion, June 1999 v.67 p.461

Segal, Robert. "Joseph Campbell on Jews and Judaism" Religion Volume 22, Issue 2, April 1992: 151-170.

Segal, Robert. Joseph Campbell; An Introduction.

“Brendan Gill vs Defenders of Joseph Campbell-An Exchange”. Various Authors. New York Review of Books, v. 36, number 17 (November 9, 1989) (after this piece came the pieces discussing his anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism).

Some of the main defenses of Campbell have been based in contending that he was a anti-zionist, a defense which serves two purposes; 1) to butress the claim of a meaningful distinction between anti-semitism and anti-zionism by associating campbell with anti-zionism 2) sanctifies him as a liberal vanguardist for making an open political stance at a time when admirers can only harbor the sentiment. That it seems he was also a paleoconservative regarding important liberal concerns makes no difference. I came across this blog by Maggie Macary [], on Joseph Campbell and anti-Semitism, but it appears to be down; from the introduction I read elsewhere [], the authors questioning of the definition of anti-Semitism (which would seem to be central to her defense of Campbell against allegations), fails in the same sense that deliberately obfuscating “anti-Zionism” and anti-Semitism fails [links]. Maggie Macary worked for the Pacifica Institute, which hosts - revealingly – a joint “Joseph Campbell and Marija Gimbutas Archive”…for Gimbutas, just Google for critiques (and Pagan/radical Gender Feminist claims that the arguments - like all arguments - are inherently patriarchal and irrelevant…), also here [Goddess Unmasked].

Recent conversation with a coworker made it clear that there are those who would see criticism of his antisemitism (known, acknowledged, documented), as merely reactionary, that the allegation of antisemitism is due merely to the truth-claim of the critics religion being challenged. None of the sources I offered to him, or here, are by remotely Orthodox people!! "Semites" obviously aren't all religious fundamentalists...and to comfortably claim that the criticisms are being made by, for example, Jewish fundamentalists - is to obfuscate Judaism and Jews as people...i.e. to fulfill the historical definition of an antisemite. I had him shaking, it was cute.

A Related Topic; Early Man, primal cultures and Monotheism as a “late development”;

Brandewie, Ernest. Wilhelm Schmidt and the Origin of the Idea of God
Evans-Pritchard. Theories of Primitive Religion
Rambam. Mishneh Torah. Avodat Kochavim. Ch. 1
Schmidt, "William" (Wilhelm?). Origin and Growth of Religion

hopefully more sources/editing to come.


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