Atonement and Epiphany


April 10th, 2011

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To all juniors: have a great trip! (I’m trying really hard to prevent myself from mentioning the hero’s journey.1 )

We began last week with a discussion of your Job analyses, looking over the trials he endured in preparation for his atonement and epiphany. Returning to Ovid, we read the story of Pentheus and Bacchus, which nicely wrapped up our conversation about Campbell’s atonement. The frame story of the Daughters of Minyas continued the theme of refusal and pride while the stories told by the girls highlighted the gods’ (often tragic) intervention in human affairs. In our discussion of final stories of Perseus, we highlighted Ovid’s skepticism of the greatness of the classic heroes and penchant for epic fights underscored with pathos.

Next week will be a little different, as most of the class will be out for the trip. Monday and Tuesday will be a recap of Campbell’s chapter on apotheosis in preparation for the “Ultimate Boon” and the hero’s return. We will also work through comparisons (these are the “Literary Connections” you are making in your journals) in preparation for the essay due Friday after next (April 22nd). These are very similar in structure to the essays you wrote at the beginning of this year, but should reflect your growing understanding of Campbell’s theories. We’ll discuss these further and look at a few examples in class at the end of this week.

  1. Oh well. []

Spring Break Reminder


March 21st, 2010

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Read and journal “Book I” of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. For bonus life points, read (and journal, always) the first section of “Emanations” from Campbell.

Monomyth in Under a Minute


February 28th, 2010

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On Friday I presented a brief overview of Campbell’s theory, hoping to give you some perspective as we move forward. What follows is a condensed version.

Joseph Campbell published The Hero with a Thousand Faces in 1949, after extensive studies of mythology and religions throughout the world. The work has since become an essential work for anyone wishing to explore the field of comparative mythology. Here, the Joseph Campbell foundation1 describes the work:

In this study of the myth of the hero, Campbell posits the existence of a Monomyth (a word he borrowed from James Joyce), a universal pattern that is the essence of, and common to, heroic tales in every culture. While outlining the basic stages of this mythic cycle, he also explores common variations in the hero’s journey, which, he argues, is an operative metaphor, not only for an individual, but for a culture as well. The Hero would prove to have a major influence on generations of creative artists—from the Abstract Expressionists in the 1950s to contemporary film-makers today—and would, in time, come to be acclaimed as a classic.

The steps in this “hero’s journey” are deceptively simple as Campbell presents them in the third section of the Prologue:image

Sound familiar? It should, as many (most?2) modern and mythic stories follow this pattern. Of course, when the hero “ventures forth,” it can be literal or metaphorical: Neo hops into the Matrix; Ralph Jack, and Piggy land on the island; Alice3, and Dante4 fall into their holes; Coraline5 and Lucy and Edmund6 move through their doorways. Remember, though, Neo was awakening to the “real world,” while Alice and Dante fell asleep.

Of course, they follow this one, too:


It’s the dramatic structure you learned in gradeschool7.

What makes Campbell’s structure interesting for us is it provides a language, a patch of common ground, for discussing the myths we will encounter in the Metamorphoses and in our daily lives.

Your reading for this weekend (“The Monomyth”) should clear much of this up, but definitely come to class with questions.

  1. Check out their website. []
  2. One of the major criticisms of Campbell’s work is that it is too general, glosses over too many details within a story to be of any value. We’ll discuss as we move forward. And don’t get me started about the fact that the hero is always presented as male… []
  3. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll []
  4. Divine Comedy by Dante []
  5. Coraline by Neil Gaiman []
  6. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis []
  7. or by watching M*A*S*H religiously []

Queue of Heroes


February 10th, 2010

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Your final papers will be due the last day of the session: Friday, 19th.

Name Chapter Date
A.J. Refusal of the Return Thursday 11th
D.F. The Magic Flight Thursday 11th
S.G. Rescue from Without Friday 12th
G.B. The Crossing of the Return Threshold Friday 12th
K.B. Master of Two Worlds Tuesday 16th
S.R. Freedom to Live Tuesday 16th
M.B. The Keys Wednesday 17th

Atonement with the Father


February 9th, 2010

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Heroes edition.

[By the way, for those who haven’t been watching, Claire is a girl with powers (she’s indestructible) and her father has fought through four seasons to keep her protected and her secret safe. They are currently buried in a trailer underground.]

Claire begins this journey with a dependence on her father: “You have a plan—I know you have a plan,” but rejects his belief that he must protect her from the world.

They speak as equals, and as her father loses hope, she fights to protect him.

Finally, Claire rejects her father’s belief that those with powers should stay hidden (at home, where it’s safe) and embarks on her own journey.