Joseph Campbell's theory of myth: An essay review of his Oeuvre

Robert A. Segal*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Joseph Campbell has been writing about myth since 1943, and his most recent book, The Mythic Image (1974), is the culmination of his lifelong study of the subject. Since 1943 Campbell's view of myth has remained not only virtually unaltered but also virtually unproved. Campbell offers no arguments for any of his various assertions about myth: that modern society is in turmoil because modern man finds life meaningless; that modern man finds life meaningless because he has no myths, which alone give life meaning, that modern man has no myths because science precludes his acceptance of myths at the literal level; that the real meaning of myth is not, however, literal but symbolic; that the symbolic meaning of myth is psychological; that the psychological meaning of myth is Jungian; that when so understood, myth is acceptable to modern man; and that when accepted, myth can give life meaning and thereby end the turmoil of modern society. Rather than arguments, Campbell offers examples, but, subject as all of them are to alternative interpretations, they do not suffice. Finally, Campbell at times contradicts or qualifies his own otherwise dogmatic interpretation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67
Number of pages1
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Religion
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1978


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