But, even in this generous reading of Campbell, I cannot deny the problems with his narrow view of a woman’s role.While he doesn’t overtly refute the possibility or importance of women making heroic contributions to a more public sphere, he also never mentions women outside the context of marriage and family.
I was already 32 when Nick and I got married, and I had a profound and urgent sense that there was no time to waste. I wondered how my life would change, how my relationship with my husband would change so early in our marriage.
This feeling was so strong that sometimes I worried I was intuiting some danger coming my way. I wasn’t sure what I would do about childcare or work.
In college I remember learning some scientists believe humans evolved into a social species because it is nearly impossible for a woman or baby to survive childbirth alone.
During labor I realized more viscerally what I had been afraid of.
Of becoming a mother, Campbell tells Moyers, “You have to be transformed from a maiden to a mother.
That’s a big change, involving many dangers.” I’d considered myself an adult for a decade, but with Thea’s birth I was also someone new. A few months into motherhood, I was talking to the mom of a girl on the track team I coach. I wanted other people to think I was a fast runner, a good writer, that I had kissed someone.
During those Joseph Campbell years, my favorite poem was Stephen Dunn’s villanelle “Tangier.” I had the poem up in my classroom, and I’d look at it when I was deep into my third hour of grading papers, fantasizing about running away to a village in Nova Scotia where I would wear sweaters and drink coffee by a fire, and though I know only one person in all of Canada, it did not sound as lonely as teaching high school English in Connecticut.
The poem opens with the lines: “There’s no salvation in elsewhere;/ forget the horizon, the seductive sky./ If nothing’s here, nothing’s there.” Tangier becomes a stand-in for any escape where one might leave the burden of the self behind.
I was lonely and scared I’d always be lonely, and embarrassed to encounter the worst sides of myself that this loneliness highlighted.
Because Campbell’s ideas are rooted in mythology, I didn’t feel like I’d given in to reading self-help or inspirational literature, and yet I really did feel uplifted if not inspired by reading the transcript of the interviews.