The Hero's Journey
Archdiocese of Milwaukee - Office for Schools
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The Hero's Journey

Have you ever wondered why the Hunger Games were so much like the Triwizard
Tournament?


Course Overview

This language arts class is focused on the work pioneered by acclaimed literature
philosopher Joseph Campbell who dedicated his life to collecting the stories of the world.
Through his travels he discovered so many similarities in the mythology of all cultures that he
theorized that every story can be connected back to one true story. This theory became
known as the monomyth or the Hero’s Journey. The journey, he theorized, represents the
human psyche’s quest for meaning in life, expressed through our dreams and our
subconscious. Through culture’s art and aspirations the monomyth was conveyed over and
over again as a hero’s quest for knowledge to bring back to society. Dedicating his life to this,
Campbell published his masterwork The Hero with a Thousand Faces in 1949. His work was the
basis for George Lucas’s Star Wars trilogy, during writing of which Lucas and Campbell
became close friends.


In this class students will learn the archetypes and structure of the monomyth from classic
mythology like Arthurian legend, “Hansel and Gretel” and the Minotaur of Crete all the way
to modern cinema. They will write analysis of some of the world’s great mythology and be
asked to find examples of the monomyth in the works they have read for recreation or school.
Students will conduct a group project in which they will dissect a seemingly simple Disney
movie to prove that indeed it too is bound by the theory of the monomyth.


If you’ve ever wondered why Harry Potter and Frodo Baggins have so much in common,
this class will teach you—soon you’ll realize that Dumbledore and Gandalf are just modern
Merlins. While these might seem like movie characters and story tales to most, they are deeply
rooted in cultural traditions and Joseph Campbell firmly clarified their place in literature.


Course Texts

Students will read many many short works including Greek, Roman, Western, and other
world stories. Texts will also include excerpts from longer works like Homer’s Odyssey and
Shakespeare. For a longer work students will examine the fantasy classic The Hobbit by J.R.R.
Tolkien.


Students can expect to write in various fashions about these texts but the emphasis will be
on high school level analysis. Students will be taught how to structure a analytical paragraph
as well as write full critical essays. Students will also be writing several assigned paragraphs
analyzing specific works and participating in online discussion with class members.


Major Collaborative Project

In order that students wrestle with the literary critical terms that help define Campbell’s
monomyth, they will participate in a group analysis project. While Disney movies appear to
be simple fables they are in fact complex examples of what The Hero with a Thousand Faces
defines. Groups will watch a selected Disney movie—perhaps one that they have seen many
times—however, they will be given the task of viewing it through the lens of the monomyth
critic. They will as a group identify the three phases of the Hero’s Journey: Separation,
Initiation, and Return and their various sub parts. They will also be asked to analyze the
movie’s use of archetypes, for instance: the shadow, the mentor, the trials, and many more.
Because this will all be done online, students will be honing their 21st century collaboration
skills as each group will be writing a collaborative essay and providing a presentation to the
class on the final day.


Course Objective

The course will provide high ability learners with opportunities to develop advanced
critical thinking and 21st century skills by:


• using interactive, web-based technology to seek, exchange, and respond to ideas
• collaborating with other high ability learners from throughout the Archdiocese
• asking and responding to high order questions
• discussing the ideas of self, peers, and professionals
• developing and refining a range of questions to frame a search for new understanding
that goes beyond literal facts
• constructing new understandings through applying critical thinking skills in an inquirybased
research process
• connecting learning to community and world issues and Catholic truths
• using writing and speaking skills to effectively communicate new understanding
• creating products that express new understanding
• using technology to organize and display knowledge in ways that others can view, use,
and critique


Instructional Hours

The course will run for nine weeks and is designed to replace one class period of each
school day. Students may be excused from their language arts/reading class to work
independently in a library or resource room setting with Internet access to complete weekly
tasks, such as responding to classmates comments or assignments online, completing research,
writing, and reading. Some schools and students have their students opt out of an English
class period while others allow their students to take Discovery Project classes as merely
enrichment outside of their normal class load.


Students will meet face-to-face with each other and the teacher for three 3-hour
workshops. During the workshops, students will engage in some of the following:


• unite with other high ability students
• receive basic instruction on high school writing expectations
• unite with the high school instructor facilitating the class
• become familiar with the online classroom
• collaborate with group members on shared projects and ideas
• present final projects in a presentation format
 

Expected Course Timeline

Week One: What is the monomyth and who is Joseph Campbell?

-First face-to-face meeting

Week Two: Myths, Archetypes, Boons and the Call to Adventure!

Week Three: The Hero’s Journey: the Separation/Departure

Week Four: The Hero’s Journey: the Initiation

Week Five: The Hero’s Journey: the Return

-Second face-to-face meeting

Week Six: In depth look at heroic “trials”

Week Seven: In depth look at the hero’s “mentor”

Week Eight: In depth look at the “great shadow”

Week Nine: Present Final Projects at Divine Savior Holy Angels___

-Final face-to-face meeting

Office for Schools

Archbishop Cousins Catholic Center
3501 S. Lake Drive
Milwaukee, WI  53207 (map)

Phone numbers

Janelle Luther: (414) 758-2256
Maureen Wurster: (414) 758-2254

Fax

414-769-3408

General email

schools@archmil.org

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