About Notes toward a Typology of Literary Formulas (the weekly ID)

So here is my ID for Popular Literature, taken from

John G. Cawelti: Adventure, Mystery and Romance: Chapter 2

As Cawelti has explain in the previous chapter before (The Study of Literary Formulas), he claims that particular formulas clothe cultural images, myths and themes in archaetypal story forms that appear to be transcultural if not universal. Formulas are more highly conventional and more clearly oriented toward some form of escapism the creation of an imaginary world in which fictional characters who command the reader’s interests and concern transcend the boundaries and frustation that the reader ordinarily experience.

Moral fantasy can be distinguish as the form of physical or material fantasy that the writers imagine a world materially different from the ordinary reality, but the the characters and situations they confront are still governed by the general truths of human experience, like James Bond adventure.

Cawelti discerns five primary moral fantasies and defines them specifically to adventure with a basic formula of a hero overcoming obstacles, victory over death or in more recent cultural situation with crime and its pursuit, war, international espionage, and so on. Romance got its moral fantasy with love trumphant and permanent, overcoming all obstacles and diffiulties even sometimes it ends by the death of the lovers just like we can see in the story of Romeo and Juliet or Tristan and Isolde, gothic romance is apparently one of the most popular present-day formula, makes use of elements of adventure and mystery. Mystery itself is the investigation and discovery of hidden secrets or such, pursued as an end in itself the search is primarily an intellectual, reasoning activity. Melodrama might be the most complicated explaination I’ve read in this text, I’m not quite sure if I can say that melodrama consist of all the formulaic types since sometimes it also conclude the quest for love, adventure, even mystery, has come to be associated with violence and sensationalism and sometimes comes close to tragedy with some crucial difference. But the thing is that melodrama may be seen as a formula for the definition of good and evil, right and wrong according the the universal moral. Alien Beings or States deals with horror stories, the presence of a character or state that make graps the audience horror reaction due to the lack of their experience with imaginary creatures of some sort. The characteristic of the type is the representation of some alien being or state and the underlying moral fantasy is our dream that the unknownable can be known and related to in some meaningful fashion.



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