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April 1991


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Benjamin Alpers <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 10 Apr 91 11:36:14 EDT
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
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With any luck, this will be the last time I ever write anything about Joseph
Campbell.  To be honest, I take him a lot less seriously than a lot of other
people on this list (hence the mythobabble comment); I'll leave the Campbell
comments to those who think he's worth bothering with.
However, I share Malcolm Dean's view that accusations of antisemitism should
be taken _very_ seriously.  I feel I may have been a little too flippant about
not providing references before so here they are:
"The Faces of Joseph Campbell" by Brendan Gill in _The New York Review of Books
_, September 28, 1989, 16+
"Joseph Campbell:  An Exchange" in _The New York Review of Books_, November 9,
1989, 57+
Some key excerpts:
"Campbell's bigotry had another distressing aspect, which was a seemingly
ineradicable anti-Semitism.  By the time I came to know him, he had learned to
conceal its grosser manifestations, but there can be no doubt that it existed
and that it tainted not only the man himself but the quality of his scholarship
.  For example, he despised Freud, and it appeared from our talks that he did
so in large part because of the fact that Freud was Jewish.  He approved
highly of Jung and not least because Jung _wasn't_ Jewish."
                                        -- Brendan Gill, "The Faces of Joseph
Gill goes on to relate the story of Campbell's urging political neutrality
shortly after Pearl Harbor in a speech entitled "Permanent Human Values."
Addressing undergraduates at Sarah Lawrence, Campbell argued that artists
should remain "devoted to the disciplines of pure art" and not become political
simply because "a Mr. Hitler collided with a Mr. Churchill." This speech led
to an argument with Thomas Mann, the great German novelist and longtime
advocate of a democratic Germany in his art which Campbell apparently never
forgave man for.
It is interesting in the exchange that followed two months later, some of
Campbell's _defenders_ added grist to the mill.  Joan Konner, in what is
otherwise an all-out defense of Campbell admits "I have heard about his
intolerance on several fronts.  That he was opinionated I certainly came
to see in daily drives to the location for taping [Ms. Konner had produced
the Moyers interviews].  But that is just more of life's mysteries, how one
so learned can be, in some ways, so limited; and one so seeing can be so
blind."  Huston Smith, in another letter which defends Campbell against
Gill, admits that his defense "does no excuse the side of Campbell that I
(with Gill) consider shadow."  Smith concludes by drawing an analogy between
Campbell and Wagner, Picasso, and Heidegger and ends by wondering how, in
general, one should treat brilliant people with intolerable views.  Roy
Finch, in yet another defense of Campbell, admits that Campbell views were
a result of "political naivite."  Finch describes these views as "romantic
fascism" and "crypto-fascism" but excuses them by arguing that at least
Campbell was an anticommunist!!  Carol Wallace Orr, who in no way pretends
to defend Campbell, recalls working with him on _Mythic Image_ while at
the Princeton University press.  "In addition to his anti-Semitism," Orr
writes, "I remember in particular his vexation over blacks being admitted to
Sarah Lawrence."  The exchange concludes with a response from Gill which
includes more stories of Campbell's prejudices, including the one about
giving the moon to the Jews which was mentioned by someone in a previous
By the way, are other people getting multiple copies (around 40 by my count)
of these annoying failed delivery messages?  It appears that node loop problems
(or whatever they are) continue.
-- Ben Alpers
   Dept. of History
   Princeton University