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Myth for Moderns: Erwin Ramsdell Goodenough and Religious Studies in America, 1938-1955
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Myth for Moderns: Erwin Ramsdell Goodenough and Religious Studies in America, 1938-1955 (Hardback)

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Erwin Goodenough is known primarily as an historian of religion whose writings on Philo Judaeus and Jewish symbols have had a major impact on the study of Judaism through their emphasis on the existence of multiple Judaisms, especially Hellenistic. However, he was also a pioneer in regarding sex as integrally related to the spiritual. His insistence on the "value of 'myth' for moderns" in 1937 anticipated Joseph Campbell's development of that thesis and his popular television talks on the subject with Bill Moyers. To see how Goodenough came to these views it is necessary to follow the course of his life, as it determined the directions his scholarship took and his conclusions. We gain insight as we trace his personal journey, from the fundamentalist Methodist upbringing through his introduction to the Harvard Divinity School's empiricism, his first marriage and the years at Oxford, his relationships with Tom French, Carl Jung, Erik Erikson, and his divorce and remarriage. Myth for Moderns chronicles Goodenough's extraordinary life, providing insight in narrative form peppered with excerpts from letters to his parents, his second wife, and his many friends. Interviews conducted by the author with those who knew him throughout his life further complete the life story of this intriguing man. With seven black and white photographs.

Eleanor Bustin Mattes is retired Professor Emerita of English, Wilson College.

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