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 []

The Final Paper

British Literature

January 25th, 2010

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In which you compile a number of sources to prove an amazing point about a novel of your choice.

I’ll present the essay in steps, then lay out the rules. Remember to record all information (essay titles, author names, URLs of interesting essays, and search queries) in your journal. Bring this journal tomorrow.

  1. Think about a few novels you’ve really enjoyed.
  2. Look up the titles or authors in the EBSCO Databases here. (Click the link, then click “EBSCO Databases, then “Select All,” continue, then “Continue,” check “Full text,” then enter your terms.)
  3. If you don’t find several articles about your book or author, start over from #1 –or– search for similar titles and authors, the period in which it was written, or the genre. Root around, you may come up with an idea just by searching similar works.
  4. Once you have a number of articles, check the bibliography, the source, the subject matter of each. If one looks solid, continue. If not, move on to the next one.
  5. Skim the article. If it’s interesting, print it (or email a copy to yourself and print at school tomorrow) and repeat #4 with another article. If it isn’t interesting, discard it and repeat #4.
  6. Once you have a number of interesting articles, grab your copy of the book and begin re-reading it if you’d like.
  7. Reflect and feel content about your full night’s work.

We’ll discuss all of the specific guidelines in class tomorrow, but here are some to set you in the right direction:

This is going to be a research paper over the historical, philosophical, or cultural context of the novel. As you go, you’ll record all steps, information gathered, and ideas in a journal. I will meet with each of you daily until you have a solid footing with this project. Come to class every day with an explanation of your night’s work along with your research, the work and your journal.

Historical: You will be explaining what circumstances may have enabled the novel to come about (the impact of previous works or the historical context). For example, if you wrote over Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, you might write about the “perfect storm” of Victorian Gothic literature and scientific exploration during the Edwardian eras.

Philosophical: You will be writing over the philosophy presented in the novel. A Freudian interpretation of Lord of the Flies (which we touched on during our discussions) would be appropriate here.

Cultural: Some novels seem to be timeless and continue to have impacts today. With the cultural essay, you will research the impact a novel had on a time period other than the one in which it was written. Of course, tracing the repercussions of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein would be great, or the resurgence of Lord of the Flies during the sixties (thanks, Ellen!) or recently, with the production of the movies.

Post any and all questions below or write them in your journals for class tomorrow. We’ll be looking at all of these approaches in more detail then.

Enter Lord of the Flies

British Literature

October 13th, 2009

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We will begin discussing Lord of the Flies by Wm. Golding when we return from Fall Break. You may pick up a copy at Gardener’s on the cheap (though they may not have many copies in stock) or at any other fine bookseller in the area.

We will be journaling as we go, so start as soon as you open the book. We’ll be focusing on themes of power and democracy, as well as social interaction. Keep in mind our discussion of money in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead:

PLAYER: Everything has to be taken on trust; truth is only that which is taken to be true. It’s the currency of living. There may be nothing behind it, but it doesn’t make any difference so long as it is honored. One acts on assumptions (51-52).

Here’s our schedule for the remainder of the semester. Of course, this is subject to change with advance warning:

Date Discussion (Chapters) Due
Mon. (19) Character names, setting, historical background (1-2) Journal over R&G and beginning of Lord
Tues. (20) Symbolism (3-4)  
Wed. (21) Diction, imagery (5-6)  
Thurs. (22) Allegory and microcosm (7-8)  
Fri. (23) Primitivism, Hobbes, the social contract Journals over 1-8
Mon. (26) Simon, Bacchae, (9-10)  
Tues. (27) Simon, con’t (11-12) Journals over novel
Wed. (28) Reflection on themes, brainstorming  
Thurs. (29) Thesis writing, begin outline from journals  
Fri. (30) Peer review of outlines, group discussion Outlines
Mon. (02) Peer review of rough drafts Rough drafts
Tues. (03) One-on-one discussion of rough drafts, begin writing final  
Wed. (04) Presentations of final drafts Final drafts
Thurs. (05) Con’t presentations, discussion of plan for next semester  


All missing or reworked assignments must be turned in by Monday, the 26th of this month—there will be no exceptions.

Lord of the Flies Essay Friday

British Literature

October 10th, 2007


Here is the plan for the rest of the week:

Tonight (Wednesday)—If you have not completed your journal for this book, please do so. Consider the three possible essay topics and choose one tonight. Make a note of pages from the book that might support an argument. You do not need a thesis statement yet—just research your chosen question. We will compile this into an outline in class tomorrow.

Thursday in classWe will workshop ideas and each person will come up with a thesis statement based on his or her chosen prompt. We will write topic sentences and begin finding support for each paragraph point.

Thursday nightWith your outline nearly completed (I will grade based on progress in class Thursday), refine the outline, making sure every point is filled out (with evidence from the text) and supportive of your thesis.

Friday in class—We will write the essay, turn in the journals and outlines. Writing should be easy by this time as the thesis is clear, the points are organized, and everything is supported from the text.

If you have any questions, let me know.

Lord of the Flies, Continued

British Literature

October 5th, 2007


Remember to read chapters 9 and 10 over the weekend and journal what you read.