The Scholar With a Thousand Faces: Joseph Campbell’s Enduring Legacy

Robert Walter (Joseph Campbell Foundation)

Much has been written about Joseph’s Campbell’s legacy since his untimely death in 1987. His contributions to the study of literature, film and television are well-traveled terrain. As are thoughts regarding his “popularizing” of the study of myth through, among other things, the groundbreaking series of conversations Joe had with Bill Moyers (Joseph Campbell and The Power of Myth) which were first broadcast the year after his death and have since become the most viewed six hours of programming in PBS history. What remains to be explored more deeply, however, is Joe’s lasting influence in academia. Changes in the fields of neuropsychology and neurobiology, hemispheric science, child development, depth psychology, educational theory and evolutionary biology demand a reassessment of Campbell’s work and how it, in many ways, precipitated and presaged the paradigm-changing advancements in these fields. The new era of interdisciplinary studies that has produced such hybrids as neuroanthropology and linguistic archaeology are just the kind of “cross pollination” of ideas Campbell advanced in his own work. Campbell has been wrongly accused in some circles of seeking to ignore the differences between cultures in rigid pursuit of their similarities. But what some have called “cultural appropriation” can be more rightly seen in the quantum revolution as the inter-disciplinary study of variability, the quest to find that part of our story that was written by none and yet shared by all.   [Originally Published in the AAA 2013 Conference Program]