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Adventure, Mystery, and Romance

Formula Stories as Art and Popular Culture

In this first general theory for the analysis of popular literary formulas, John G. Cawelti reveals the artistry that underlies the best in formulaic literature. Cawelti 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. He also defines the archetypal patterns of adventure, mystery, romance, melodrama, and fantasy, and offers a tentative account of their basis in human psychology.

344 pages | 6 x 9 | © 1976

Literature and Literary Criticism: General Criticism and Critical Theory

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Design of This Book
1. The Study of Literary Formulas
Formulas, Genres, and Archetypes
The Artistic Characteristics of Formula Literature
Formulas and Culture
2. Notes toward a Typology of Literary Formulas
Alien Beings or States
3. The Mythology of Crime and Its Formulaic Embodiments
The Godfather and the Literature of Crime
Elements of the New Formula
The Cultural Function of Popular Crime Formulas
4. The Formula of the Classical Detective Story
Patterns of the Formula
Cultural Background of the Formula
5. The Art of the Classical Detective Story
Central Artistic Problems of the Genre
Artistic Failures and Successes: Christie and Sayers
The Art of Simenon
Detective Stories and Detection as an Element in Other Literary Genres
The Future of the Classical Detective Story
6. The Hard-Boiled Detective Story
Hard-boiled and Classical Detective Stories
Patterns of the Formula
Cultural Backgrounds of the Formula
7. Hammett, Chandler, and Spillane
8. The Western: A Look at the Evolution of a Formula
Cooper and the Beginnings of the Western Formula
Nick of the Woods and the Dime Novel
Wister’s Virginian and the Modern Western
Zane Grey and W. S. Hart: The Romantic Western of the 1920s
The Classic Western: John Ford and Others
The Jewish Cowboy, the Black Avenger, and the Return of the Vanishing American: Current Trends in the Formula
9. The Best-Selling Social Melodrama
The Social Melodrama
The Aesthetics of Social Melodrama
The Evolution of Social Melodrama
Irving Wallace
Bibliographical Notes

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