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The first collection of Joseph Campbell’s writings and lectures on the Arthurian romances of the Middle Ages, a central focus of his celebrated scholarship, edited and introduced by Arthurian scholar Evans Lansing Smith, PhD, the chair of Mythological Studies at Pacifica Graduate Institute.
Throughout his life, Joseph Campbell was deeply engaged in the study of the Grail Quests and Arthurian legends of the European Middle Ages. In this new volume of the Collected Works of Joseph Campbell, editor Evans Lansing Smith collects Campbell’s writings and lectures on Arthurian legends, including his never-before-published master’s thesis on Arthurian myth, “A Study of the Dolorous Stroke.” Campbell’s writing captures the incredible stories of such figures as Merlin, Gawain, and Guinevere as well as the larger patterns and meanings revealed in these myths. Merlin’s death and Arthur receiving Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake, for example, are not just vibrant stories but also central to the mythologist’s thinking.
The Arthurian myths opened the world of comparative mythology to Campbell, turning his attention to the Near and Far Eastern roots of myth. Calling the Arthurian romances the world’s first “secular mythology,” Campbell found metaphors in them for human stages of growth, development, and psychology. The myths exemplify the kind of love Campbell called amor, in which individuals become more fully themselves through connection. Campbell’s infectious delight in his discoveries makes this volume essential for anyone intrigued by the stories we tell—and the stories behind them.
Praise for Romance of the Grail:
“Drawing from both published and personal audio recordings, transcribed lectures, notes, letters, published works, and more, Smith (chair, mythological studies, Pacifica Graduate Inst.; Sacred Mysteries) has assembled a significant body of Campbell’s (1904–87) work on Arthurian legends, including his previously unpublished master’s thesis, ‘A Study of the Dolorous Stroke.’ Topics include parallels between Arthurian and Eastern mythologies, the role of marriage vs. love, grail symbolism and the Grail King, influences of Christianity and pagan beliefs, a discussion of Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival, Tristan and Iseult, Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table, and more. As Smith suggests, this collection provides readers with insight into the effect of Arthurian literature on Campbell’s work in comparative mythology, the idea that these stories are the original ‘secular mythology’ or legends as metaphors for growth and of ‘Amor,’ a love that encourages individual identity. VERDICT: Smith provides well-rounded and concise essential readings on Arthurian mythology by one of America’s leading mythologists and incredible storytellers. Highly recommended for readers interested in Campbell, mythology, or Arthurian studies.”
— Library Journal
Praise for Joseph Campbell:
“No one in our century—not Freud, not Thomas Mann, not Lévi-Strauss—has so brought the mythical sense of the world and its eternal figures back into our everyday consciousness.”
— James Hillman
“Campbell has become the rarest of intellectuals in American life: a serious thinker who has been embraced by the popular culture.”