Understanding Joseph Campbell
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In this thesis I will be offering an analysis of C.G. Jung’s influence on the theoretical framework of the American comparative mythologist Joseph Campbell. My first main argument will be that Campbell underwent what I am calling a ‘Jungian turn’ around 1968: before this date he was vague and sometimes even dismissive about Jung, while after that date he became suddenly highly positive about Jung’s ideas (particularly about his concept of the archetype). My second main argument will be that this shift in attitude towards Jung occurred because Campbell’s interpretation of Jung changed. Before 1968 Campbell thought of Jung’s concept of the archetype as a ‘closed system’: a completely innate psychological structure that isn’t open to ‘imprinting’ by the environment in any way whatsoever. From 1968 onwards, however, he came to think of the archetype as the equivalent of a so-called ‘open innate-releasing mechanism’, which is the ethologist Konrad Lorenz’s term for a psychological structure that, although it has an innate component as well, is nevertheless open to ‘imprinting’ by the environment. As Campbell’s ideas prior to 1968 had been based on this concept, he realised that his own theoretical framework was compatible with Jung’s to a large extent. My final argument will be that the theoretical position which Campbell arrived at in the final phase of his career (which revolves around the concept of the open innate-releasing mechanism, but which has several other specific characteristics) is the same as the interpretation of Jung put forward by the scholar Anthony Stevens. As Stevens’ work is indisputably Jungian in nature, we might therefore draw the conclusion that it is possible to think of Campbell’s work as ‘Jungian’ in nature as well. However, as there are also some important differences between Campbell and Jung, I am arguing instead that we think of Campbell’s work in the final phase of his career as ‘post-Jungian’: this is the scholar Andrew Samuel’s term for a thinker who may not agree with Jung about every single issue, but whose work is still firmly rooted in his core ideas.