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DVD Review: Joseph Campbell – Mythos 3, The Shaping of Western Culture

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Joseph Campbell has done so much to bring the myths of the world to a wider audience. He has written countless books on the subject of universal myths, including The Hero with a Thousand Faces and The Masks of God. He also appeared with Bill Moyers in the PBS miniseries The Power of Myth, which aired in 1988 (airing a year after his death).

In 1999, The Joseph Campbell Foundation released the first DVD in the Mythos series, a collection of Campbell’s filmed lectures. Intended as the ultimate collection of Campbell speaking in-depth on his favorite topic, the lectures took place during the last six years of his life. The sweeping series covers many of the themes he has always explored in his work, in both Western and Eastern mythologies.

The third DVD in the series has just become available, Joseph Campbell, Mythos 3, The Shaping of Western Culture. It includes two discs, with a total running time of 285 minutes. Subtitles are also available.

Anyone interested in mythology, art, religion, or philosophy would be interested in listening to the eloquent Joseph Campbell talk about archetypes in mythology and the similarity of classic stories from many cultures.

The majority of the production features Campbell, filmed in an informal setting, expounding on his themes, occasionally punctuated by stills of appropriate artwork. Art buffs will be interested in the list at the end of each disc that credits the museums and galleries that provided the various pieces of art used as illustrations.

Actress Susan Sarandon introduces the series as well as appearing at intervals to expound on some of Campbell’s themes or add some historical context. She helps tie together some of his stories as well as give the viewer biographical information about Campbell.

Disc 1

“Love as the Guide” — The Arthurian romances, including Tristan and Iseult. Campbell discusses how the Arthurian legends introduced romantic love and respect for the individual.

“The Path of the Heart” — Parzival and the Grail Quest. The search for the Holy Grail represented man’s desire to actually meet with God.

“Beyond Time and Space” — The Romantic philosophers. Campbell talks about German romantic philosophers such as Schopenhauer.

Disc 2

“Between Pairs of Opposites” — Thomas Mann and The Magic Mountain. “Life is a woman, laid out waiting for you.” Campbell compares The Magic Mountain to the tale of Faust, and poses the idea that there is a Mephistopheles inside all of us.

“Into the Well of Myth” — The Joseph novels and modern myth. Campbell discusses another of Mann’s novels, Joseph and His Brothers, and the author’s use of the Bible and other myths to tell his story.

Volume 4 in the Mythos series is still in production, featuring Campbell discussing he relation of mythology to the writings of James Joyce. In the meantime, all enthsiasts of myths, folklore or Joseph Campbell can enjoy this wonderful series.

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