Research Library

Joseph Campbell - Chronology

 

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Adapted from The Hero's Journey: Joseph Campbell on his Life and Work, edited by Phil Cousineau.

1904 Joseph Campbell was born in New York City on March 26.

1910 His lifelong interest in Native American Indians is sparked when his father takes him and his younger brother, Charlie, to see Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show at Madison Square Garden.

1913-18 The Campbell family moves to New Rochelle, New York. His interest in Native traditions is so strong he reads through the entire collection of Indian mythology in the children's section of the Public Library. At age eleven he is admitted to the adult stacks to continue his studies. A prolonged illness when he is 14 keeps him at home where he studies natural science.

1919 Fire destroys the family home in New Rochelle, killing his grandmother and destroying his collection of Indian books and relics.

1919-21 Campbell is enrolled at Canterbury prep school, New Milford, Connecticut where his favorite subject is biology.

1921 He enters Dartmouth College to study biology and mathematics. In his sophomore year, he discovers the humanities after reading Merejkowski's The Romance of Leonardo da Vinci. He transfers to Columbia University and enters the English Department.

1924-26 As a member of the track team he sets the Columbia and New York City records for the half-mile. He plays saxophone in jazz bands for college and fraternity dances. On an ocean voyage to Europe he befriends Jiddu Krishnamurti, who introduces him to Oriental philosophy.

1925 He earns a Bachelor of Arts degree from Columbia University and runs with the New York Athletic Club track team in the AAU championships in San Francisco. He visits Hawaii and attends the Indian Rodeo in Yakima, Washington.

1926 Returns to Columbia in order to run with the track team and study medieval literature. He completes his Masters thesis, The Dolorous Stroke which is about the Grail legend.

1927-28 Bust of Joseph Campbell: A Proudfit Traveling Fellowship enables him to study Romance philology, Old French, and Provençal at the University of Paris under Joseph Bedier, translator of Tristan and Iseult. He encounters modern art (Picasso, Brancusi, and Braque) and modern literature (Yeats, Eliot and most notably Joyce) for the first time. His friend Angela Gregory sculpts his portrait in the studio of master sculptor Antoine Bourdelle who instructs him in aesthetics. He transfers to the University of Munich to study Sanskrit literature and Indo-European philology and there discovers the works of Freud, Jung, Thomas Mann, and Goethe.

1929 He returns to the United States two weeks before the stock market crash. He quits work on his doctorate and retires to Woodstock with his sister, Alice renting a cabin for $20 a year. There he pursues the line of study he began in Paris, reading extensively.

1931-32 He drives alone across the country in his mother's Model T Ford to think out his future. He stops in San Jose, California, to see his old friend nutritionist Adelle Davis. She introduces him to John and Carol Steinbeck, and their neighbor, biologist Ed Ricketts. With Ricketts, he travels up the coast of British Columbia to Alaska, collecting inter-tidal fauna, an experience which reconfirms his belief in the relationship between mythology and biology.

1933 After applying to 85 colleges and universities, he accepts a job offer from his old headmaster at Canterbury prep school where he teaches history, English, French, German, while studying Spengler, Mann, Jung, Joyce. He resigns at the end of the year, and returns to Woodstock to read and write.

1934 He is invited to teach at the recently founded Sarah Lawrence College. He immediately accepts, remaining in the Literature department for 38 years.

1938 Campbell marries Jean Erdman, his former student and a member of the Martha Graham Dance Company.

1941 He meets Indologist Heinrich Zimmer, who recommends him to Paul and Mary Mellon, the founders of the Bollingen Series, to produce the premier volume in their series and his first publication: the Commentary to Where the Two Came to Their Father: A Navaho War Ceremonial, text by Jeff King and paintings by Maud Oakes.

1942 He works with Swami Nikhilananda on the translation and editing of The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna and the Upanishads for the next three years.

1943 Zimmer suddenly dies of pneumonia and his widow asks Campbell to edit Zimmer's posthumous writings, to which he devotes twelve years. 1946: Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization, 1948: The King and the Corpse, 1951: Philosophies of India, 1955: The Art of Indian Asia.

1944 A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake, written with Henry Morton Robinson is published. He writes the commentary to an edition of Grimm's Fairy Tales and joins the editorial staff of The Dance Observer. He begins work on The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

1949 After much revision and rejection by two publishers, The Hero with a Thousand Faces is published in the Bollingen Series. It is given an award by the National Institute of Arts and Letters.

1951 He is named the general editor of the series Myth and Man, which includes Alan Watt's Myth and Ritual in Christianity.

1953 Campbell is appointed President of the Creative Film Foundation, and editor of the series Papers from the Eranos Yearbooks which consist of papers given over a twenty year period at the Eranos conferences in Ascona, Switzerland. He meets Carl Jung, Mircea Eliade, and D.T. Suzuki in Switzerland.

1954 On sabbatical leave, he travels in India, Ceylon, Thailand, Burma, Hong Kong, and Japan.

1956 Campbell begins serving as a lecturer at the Foreign Service Institute, State Department, Washington, D.C.

1957 Presents his first paper at an Eranos Conference, "The Symbol Without Meaning"

1959 He presents "Renewal Myths and Rites of the Primitive Hunters and Planters" at the Eranos Conference and publishes the first volume of the series, The Masks of God.

1967 Campbell is named to the Board of Directors of the Society for the Arts, Religion, and Contemporary Culture.

1968 He presents the first of many seminars for Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California.

1969 The Flight of the Wild Gander: Explorations in the Mythological Dimension is published.

1972 He publishes Myths to Live By, a collection of lectures delivered at the Cooper Union in New York City. Campbell retires from Sarah Lawrence College and is named President of the Society for the Study of Religion. He travels to Iceland and Turkey. With Jean Erdman he founds the Theater of the Open Eye in New York City.

1974 The Mythic Image is published.

1976 He receives the Melcher Award for Contributions to Religious Liberalism and leads tours to Egypt and Greece.

1978 Campbell receives an honorary doctorate from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York.

1982 Joseph Campbell moves to Hawaii

1983 The Historical Atlas of World Mythology: Vol. I, The Way of the Animal Powers is published. He is befriended by filmmaker George Lucas and is invited to Skywalker Ranch to see the Star Wars trilogy, which was greatly influenced by his work.

1984 Campbell's 80th birthday celebration at the Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco is attended by 1,000 people, with Sam Keen, Chungliang Al Huang, Stanley Keleman, Barbara Myerhoff, Marija Gimbutas, and Robert Bly in attendance.

1985 He is awarded the Medal of Honor for Literature by the National Arts Club of New York for The Way of the Animal Powers.

1986 The Inner Reaches of Outer Space: Myth as Metaphor and Religion is published. He participates in seminar entitled, From Ritual to Rapture, with psychiatrist John Perry and the band, The Grateful Dead.

1987 The New Director's/New Films Festival at the Museum of Modern Art, New York hosts the premier of The Hero's Journey: The World of Joseph Campbell. On October 30, Joseph Campbell dies in Honolulu, Hawaii.

1987 The PBS series, The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers airs in December.

1988 The Joseph Campbell Chair of Comparative Mythology is established at Sarah Lawrence College.

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