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Romance of the Grail – Joseph Campbell (2022)

I have never been much fond of Joseph Campbell (1904-1987). In the Amazon Kindle Store (but you can also get this book as a soft- or hardcover or audio book) I ran into a stack (18 so far) of titles in a series of collected works. Since it never hurts to learn of other opinions and because the subject of the present title is interesting, I decided to read me another Campbell.

The collected works series are compilations of articles, essays, lectures, etc. of Campbell, given sometimes over the course of decades and then compiled and ordered per theme. Therefor it is not a work by Campbell, but a book edited, in this case by Evans Lansing Smith.

In the introduction we read how the editor as a student got acquainted with Campbell, first on an excursion later attending lectures at universities and other occasions. Campbell is presented as a story teller and that is exactly what he is in this book.

After a general introduction into the (pre)history of the Arthurian myths follows a long and detailed retelling of the Parzival story of Wolfram von Eschenbach, but in the words of Campbell. This is amusing here and there, but in general I find it too popularly. With the Tristan story things become more informative and part three even has a theme: “the waste land”.

The first appendix is Campbell’s dissertation and I prefer the (somewhat) more academic presentation over the previous parts. The text about the “dolorous stroke” is -in my opinion- also the most interesting part of the book, even though it is a text of a young Campbell.

Overall I can only repeat once more that Campbell’s approach often is not mine. Blunt statements such as “he was a sun god”, following Frazer in seeing “fertility gods” everywhere, the stress on the psychological approach, I prefer Campbell’s colleagues with other nuances.

But, the book shows that Campbell spent decades on the subject, returning to it, evolving in his thinking, mirroring it to new discoveries either or not from other cultures. He obviously had a wide interest and he seems to present all information and comparisons straight from his head. He also has many things that I do agree with. Overall, Romance of the Grail made an alright read.

2022 New World Library, isbn 1608688283

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