Friday, 12 June 2009

Bookmap: The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler

Legend has it this book originated as a seven-page memo outlining mythic structure for Hollywood studios.

In the memo, Christopher Vogler interpreted Joseph Cambpell's "The Hero with a Thousand Faces", the book in which "Campbell explores the theory that important myths from around the world which have survived for thousands of years all share a fundamental structure, which Campbell called the monomyth."

Vogler simplifies Campbell's more scholarly work into a practical handbook for writers. In a new preface to the second edition he answers critics who called The Hero's Journey formularic by saying it is a form, not a forumula. He goes on to make some interesting contextual points about its reception in "herophobic" cultures such as Australia and Germany. "Australians," he says, "distrust appeals to heroic virtue because such concepts have been used to lure generations of young Australian males into fighting Britain's battles..." while "...the legacy of Hitler and the Nazis has tainted the concept... distorted the powerful symbols to enslave, dehumanize and destroy."

A new section looking at several modern films in heroic context includes "Titanic", "The Full Monty" and oddly "Pulp Fiction". The latter doesn't naturally fit the form, so instead it's used to view the individual journeys of the three characters Jules, Vincent and Butch.


Alex said...

Hi Richard,

I like the idea that these kind of story structures/forms are almost hardwired into the human mind, but was wondering if that were so, then for what purpose? Does thinking of life as a journey help us cope with death? Any ideas?



Richard Hare said...

Hi Alex,

Yes, although stories aren't so much hardwired as they emerge due to way the brain works as a way of making sense of the world around us.

What's interesting about Joseph Campbell's work is that he identifies the same types of mythic stories and symbols apparently emerging independently in different cultures and indicating what the basic preoccupations of humans are.