Artwork: ghost

Guest Lecture by Joseph Campbell at University of Chicago, Transcript 11/24/68

Author: JTB '20-22
As seen in: My Creation Myth #

Good evening students. I’d like to begin by thanking those of you who showed up to this lecture. I guess the rest of your classmates decided they’d rather spend Thanksgiving with their families! (light laughter) I’m here today to talk about myths, and how I am living inside of one.

Now, you don’t need to have a PhD to say that human life and mythology share some common features. I say this all time and I am illiterate. Truly anyone can say anything, anytime. But rather than talk about that, I’d like to talk about the time I was approached at a very young age by a hideous old goblin, who told me I could save my starving family by following him into the forest. Next slide, please.

He had two holes where his nose should be, and scraggly white hair where his eyes should be. One touch of his wrinkled, leathery hands was enough to make you want to vomit, as I frequently did when he began to appear in my shower every morning for a month. You can see a close up of his fingers here, and here. You could call that fateful day when I followed him into his woodsy hovel my “Call to Adventure” if you will, and the subsequent twelve years I spent trying to escape his labyrinth my “Adventure.” Next slide.

But just because I endured a series of trials and hardships does not make me a hero. Refugees and homeless people are certainly not heroes, for example. A hero is marked above all by good deeds. Here’s a shot of me really just going to town on this centaur I had to fight in the labyrinth. Next slide. Ah, and here’s a shot of me signing the agreement to let Schmekel the Goblin “have his way” with my first-born daughter every spring, in exchange for my freedom. The sucker let me go immediately after that. Next slide.

(picture of a playground slide) Oops, wrong “slide.” (winking, light laughter) My daughter in the audience is gonna kill me for all these “Dad jokes,” right Melissa? Wave to the students. That’s my daughter. Wave, Melissa. Okay, next slide.

Okay, and this is actually the wrong slide. Please go one forward. There, this is me standing next to the centaur’s dead body.

Now I’d like to argue that the patterns we find in mythology are universal and could be psychoanalyzed to reflect humanity’s deepest desires, though because I started this lecture an hour late I’ll instead just wrap things up with the quick argument that my experience was the one true Hero’s Journey, and I am the one true hero. Thank you, all.