Journal of Romance Studies

Confronting the shadow: the hero’s journey in Borges’ ‘El Etnógrafo’

Journal of Romance Studies (2012), 12, (2), 17–32.

Abstract

This article focuses on ‘El Etnógrafo’ [‘The Anthropologist’ (di Giovanni trans.)], a brief and deceptively simple tale from Borges’ Elogio de la sombra (1969) [In Praise of Darkness (1975)]. The tale’s protagonist, Fred Murdock, undergoes a profound transformation whilst conducting anthropological field research in the North American prairie, centred on his separation from his home and his dialogue with the tribal medicine man. In particular, under the instruction of the medicine man, Murdock learns to focus on and recount his dreams. The brief narrative may be appraised and amplified as embodying characteristics of the hero’s journey as examined by Carl Jung, and as illustrated by Joseph Campbell. In this perspective, Murdock accepts the call to adventure, engages in symbolic struggles, experiences a deep and transformative healing with the shaman, and returns home empowered with deeper wisdom. In this article I concentrate on the pattern of the hero’s journey as depicted both in ‘El Etnógrafo’ and in other tales of Borges, evaluating the particular healing dimension of the confrontation with the personal and collective shadow, the relationship with the wise senex-figure of the medicine man, and the attention to the language of dreams. I consider, consequently, the nature of psychic healing as portrayed both within the narrative – Murdock’s journey – and outside the narrative – the reader’s journey, as twin epistemological destinations. This article constitutes part of a larger project that evaluates the relationship between Borges’ aesthetic obra and Jung’s psychological writings, their shared attention to mysticism and to the role of dreams, myths, narratives, creativity and active imagination, healing and the process of individuation.

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Balderston, Daniel (1993) Out of Context: Historical Reference and the Representation of Reality in Borges (Durham, NC: Duke University Press). Out of Context: Historical Reference and the Representation of Reality in Borges Google Scholar

Barnstone, Willis (1999) With Borges on an Ordinary Evening in Buenos Aires: A Memoir (Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press). With Borges on an Ordinary Evening in Buenos Aires: A Memoir Google Scholar

Bell-Villada, Gene H. (1999) Borges and his Fiction: a Guide to his Mind and Art (Edinburgh, Texas: Texas Pan American series). Borges and his Fiction: a Guide to his Mind and Art Google Scholar

Borges, Jorge Luis (1974) Obras Completas: 1923–1972 (Buenos Aires: Emecé Editores). Obras Completas: 1923–1972 Google Scholar

Borges, Jorge Luis (1975) In Praise of Darkness, trans. Norman Thomas di Giovanni (London: Allen Lane). In Praise of Darkness Google Scholar

Borges, Jorge Luis (1979) The Book of Sand, trans. Norman Thomas di Giovanni and Alastair Reid (London: Penguin). The Book of Sand Google Scholar

Borges, Jorge Luis (1982) Borges at Eighty: Conversations, ed. Willis Barnstone (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press). Borges at Eighty: Conversations Google Scholar

Borges, Jorge Luis (1984) Seven Nights, trans. Eliot Weinberger (University of Michigan: New Directions). Seven Nights Google Scholar

Borges, Jorge Luis (1987) The Book of Imaginary Beings, trans. Norman Thomas di Giovanni (London: Penguin). The Book of Imaginary Beings Google Scholar

Borges, Jorge Luis (1989) Obras Completas: 1975–1985 (Buenos Aires: Emecé Editores). Obras Completas: 1975–1985 Google Scholar

Borges, Jorge Luis (1998) Jorge Luis Borges: Conversations, ed. Richard Burgin (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi). Jorge Luis Borges: Conversations Google Scholar

Borges, Jorge Luis (2000) The Total Library: Non-fiction, 1922–1986, trans. Esther Allen, Suzanne Jill Levine and Eliot Weinberger, ed. Eliot Weinberger (London: Allen Lane, The Penguin Press). The Total Library: Non-fiction, 1922–1986 Google Scholar

Borges, Jorge Luis (2005) Obra Completa IV: 1975–1988 (Buenos Aires: Emecé Editores). Obra Completa IV: 1975–1988 Google Scholar

Burgin, Richard (ed.) (1969) Conversations with Jorge Luis Borges (Florida: Holt, Rinehart & Winston). Conversations with Jorge Luis Borges Google Scholar

Burgin, Richard (ed.) (1998) Jorge Luis Borges: Conversations (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi). Jorge Luis Borges: Conversations Google Scholar

Campbell, Joseph (1949) The Hero with a Thousand Faces (New York: Bollingen Foundation, Pantheon Books). The Hero with a Thousand Faces Google Scholar

Campbell, Joseph (1988) The Power of Myth, with Bill Moyers (New York: Doubleday). The Power of Myth Google Scholar

Campbell, Joseph (2004) Pathways to Bliss (California: New World Library). Pathways to Bliss Google Scholar

de Costa, René (2000) Humor in Borges: Humor in Life and Letters (Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press). Humor in Borges: Humor in Life and Letters Google Scholar

Earle, Peter G. (2000) ‘Review: The Secret of Borges. A Psychoanalytic Inquiry into His Work by Julio Woscoboinik’, Hispanic Review 68.1, 99–101. Review: The Secret of Borges. A Psychoanalytic Inquiry into His Work by Julio Woscoboinik Hispanic Review 68.1 99 101 Google Scholar

Eliade, Mircea (1972) Shamanism: archaic techniques of ecstasy (New Jersey: Princeton University Press). Shamanism: archaic techniques of ecstasy Google Scholar

Fordman, Frieda (1953) An Introduction to Jung’s Psychology (London: Penguin). An Introduction to Jung’s Psychology Google Scholar

Guibert, Rita (1974) Siete Voces: Los más grandes escritores latinoamericanos se confiesan con Rita Guibert (Mexico: Editorial Novaro). Siete Voces: Los más grandes escritores latinoamericanos se confiesan con Rita Guibert Google Scholar

Halifax, Joan (1982) Shaman: the Wounded Healer (London: Thames and Hudson). Shaman: the Wounded Healer Google Scholar

Hollis, James and David Rosen (2003) The Archetypal Imagination (Texas: A&M University Press). The Archetypal Imagination Google Scholar

James, William (1913) Varieties of Religious Experience [1902] (London: Longmans, Green & Co.). Varieties of Religious Experience Google Scholar

Jung, C.G. (1945) Tipos psicológicos, trans. Ramón de la Serna (Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana). Tipos psicológicos Google Scholar

Jung, C.G. (1956) Symbols of Transformation: An Analysis of the Prelude to a Case of Schizophrenia (New Jersey: Princeton University Press). Symbols of Transformation: An Analysis of the Prelude to a Case of Schizophrenia Google Scholar

Jung, C.G. (1983) Collected Works of C. G. Jung Vol 13: Alchemical Studies, trans. Gerhard Adler, ed. R. F.C. Hull (New Jersey: Princeton University Press). Collected Works of C. G. Jung Vol 13: Alchemical Studies Google Scholar

Jung, C.G. (1989) Memories, Dreams, Reflections, ed. Aniela Jaffé (New York: Vintage Books). Memories, Dreams, Reflections Google Scholar

Jung, C.G. (1993) C.G. Jung Speaking: Interviews and Encounters, ed. William McGuire and R.F.C. Hull (New Jersey: Princeton University Press). C.G. Jung Speaking: Interviews and Encounters Google Scholar

Kast, Verena (2006) ‘Anima/animus’, in The Handbook of Jungian Psychology: Theory, Practice and Applications, ed. Renos K. Papadopoulos (London: Routledge), 94–113. Anima/animus The Handbook of Jungian Psychology: Theory, Practice and Applications 94 113 Google Scholar

Kristal, Efraín (2002) Invisible Work: Borges and Translation (Vanderbilt University Press). Invisible Work: Borges and Translation Google Scholar

McKenna, Terence (1991) The Archaic Revival (San Francisco: Harper). The Archaic Revival Google Scholar

Molloy, Sylvia (1994) Signs of Borges (Durham, NC: Duke University Press). Signs of Borges Google Scholar

Orrego Arismendi, Juan Carlos (2007) ‘Borges: sus cuentos sobre indios araucanos y el siglo XIX’, Variaciones Borges 24 (July), 35–55. Borges: sus cuentos sobre indios araucanos y el siglo XIX Variaciones Borges 24 35 55 Google Scholar

Portugal M. Saliba, Ana Maria (2001) ‘Borges y Freud: Conjunciones’, Variaciones Borges 12, 179–92. Borges y Freud: Conjunciones Variaciones Borges 12 179 92 Google Scholar

Rodríguez Monegal, Emir (1978) Jorge Luis Borges: A Literary Biography (New York: Dutton). Jorge Luis Borges: A Literary Biography Google Scholar

Rodríguez Monegal, Emir (1990) ‘Borges and Derrida: Apothecaries’, in Borges and His Successors: The Borgesian Impact on Literature and the Arts, ed. Edna Aizenberg (Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press), 128–155. Borges and Derrida: Apothecaries Borges and His Successors: The Borgesian Impact on Literature and the Arts 128 155 Google Scholar

Rowlandson, William (2011) ‘Borges’s Reading of Dante and Swedenborg: Mysticism and the Real’, Variaciones Borges 32, 59–87. Borges’s Reading of Dante and Swedenborg: Mysticism and the Real Variaciones Borges 32 59 87 Google Scholar

Sarmiento, Domingo (2001) Facundo: Civilización y Barbarie (Madrid: Mestas). Facundo: Civilización y Barbarie Google Scholar

Schlamm, Leon (2010) ‘Revisiting Jung’s dialogue with yoga: observations from transpersonal psychology’, International Journal of Jungian Studies 2.1, 32–44. Revisiting Jung’s dialogue with yoga: observations from transpersonal psychology International Journal of Jungian Studies 2.1 32 44 Google Scholar

Tcherepashenets, Nataly (2008) Place and Displacement in the Narrative Worlds of Jorge Luis Borges and Julio Cortázar (New York: Peter Lang). Place and Displacement in the Narrative Worlds of Jorge Luis Borges and Julio Cortázar Google Scholar

Ulla, Noemí (2002) ‘Notas sobre “El cautivo” de Jorge Luis Borges’, Variaciones Borges 13, 227–33. Notas sobre “El cautivo” de Jorge Luis Borges Variaciones Borges 13 227 33 Google Scholar

Von Franz, Marie-Louise (1975) C.G. Jung: his Myth in our time (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons). C.G. Jung: his Myth in our time Google Scholar

Williamson, Edwin (2004) Borges: A Life (London: Viking). Borges: A Life Google Scholar

Wilson, Jason (2006) Jorge Luis Borges, Critical Lives (London: Reaktion Books). Jorge Luis Borges, Critical Lives Google Scholar

Woodall, James (1997) Borges: A Life (New York: Basic Books). Borges: A Life Google Scholar

Woolger, Roger (2011) ‘Understanding C.G. Jung’s Red Book’, The Network Review (Journal of the Scientific and Medical Network), Summer 2011, 3–8. Understanding C.G. Jung’s Red Book The Network Review 3 8 Google Scholar

Woscoboinik, Julio (1998) The Secret of Borges: A Psychoanalytic Inquiry into His Work, trans. Dora Carlisky Pozzi (Lanham, MD: University Press of America). The Secret of Borges: A Psychoanalytic Inquiry into His Work Google Scholar

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Rowlandson, William

Rowlandson, William