Adventure, Mystery And Romance: Formula Stories As Art And Popular Culture John G. Cawelti.epub [BETTER]
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Adventure, Mystery And Romance: A Review of John G. Cawelti's Classic Book on Popular Literature
John G. Cawelti (1929-2022) was one of the pioneers in establishing an academic respectability to the study of popular culture. He was a professor of English and humanities at the University of Chicago and the University of Kentucky, and a former president of the Popular Culture Association. He wrote several books and articles on various genres of popular literature, such as detective fiction, westerns, crime stories, and social melodramas.
One of his most influential works is Adventure, Mystery And Romance: Formula Stories As Art And Popular Culture, first published in 1976 by the University of Chicago Press. In this book, Cawelti reveals the artistry that underlies the best in formulaic literature. He discusses such seemingly diverse works as Mario Puzo's The Godfather, Dorothy Sayers's The Nine Tailors, and Owen Wister's The Virginian in the light of his hypotheses about the cultural function of formula literature. He describes the most important artistic characteristics of popular formula stories and the differences between this literature and that commonly labeled \"high\" or \"serious\" literature.
Cawelti also defines the archetypal patterns of adventure, mystery, romance, melodrama, and fantasy, and offers a tentative account of their basis in human psychology. He analyzes the evolution and variations of these formulas over time and across cultures, and explores their social and ideological implications. He argues that formula stories are not merely escapist entertainment, but also expressions of collective dreams and desires that reflect and shape our cultural values.
Adventure, Mystery And Romance is a seminal book that provides a comprehensive and insightful framework for understanding popular literature as a form of art and popular culture. It is a must-read for anyone interested in the history, theory, and criticism of popular genres and their cultural significance.
In the following chapters, Cawelti applies his theoretical framework to various examples of popular formula stories. He examines the mythology of crime and its formulaic embodiments in works such as The Godfather and The Maltese Falcon. He explores the formula and the art of the classical detective story and the hard-boiled detective story, comparing and contrasting authors such as Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Georges Simenon, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Mickey Spillane. He traces the evolution of the western formula from James Fenimore Cooper to John Ford, and discusses the artistic achievements and cultural meanings of writers such as Owen Wister, Zane Grey, and Louis L'Amour. He analyzes the best-selling social melodrama as a genre that dramatizes contemporary social issues and conflicts, using examples such as Gone with the Wind, Valley of the Dolls, and The Exorcist.
Cawelti concludes his book by reflecting on the future of popular literature and its relation to high literature. He suggests that popular genres are not static or rigid, but dynamic and adaptable to changing cultural contexts and audiences. He also argues that popular literature and high literature are not mutually exclusive or antagonistic, but complementary and interdependent. He calls for a more open and inclusive approach to literary criticism that recognizes the value and diversity of both forms of literature.