Dissertation Abstracts

Social Myths in Modern Mass Literature (By The Example of the American Female Novel)

Author: Chernovskaia, Margarita S., marmila05@mail.ru
Department: sociology
University: Saint-Petersburg State University, Russia
Supervisor: V. V. Vasilkova, PhD in philosophy
Year of completion: 2013
Language of dissertation: Russian

Keywords: social myth , mass literature , archetype , social behavior
Areas of Research: Arts , Women in Society , Theory


In the last 20 years, thanks to globalization, the American female novel as a genre of mass culture has become the leader of not only American, but also of the world book market. Although considerable research has been devoted to the philological and cultural aspects of literature, less attention has been paid to the sociological aspect of this issue, particularly in the sociology of literature. Traditionally, studies in the sociology of literature have focused on the analysis of production, consumption, and readers’ practices by generally applying quantitative methods. In this particular study, we choose to qualitatively analyze the literary text and its deep social meaning, by applying the narrative method. The narrative analysis reveals the deeper structure of the text, including the values, norms and social attitudes used in describing social groups and social processes. It correlates with structural hermeneutics of G. Alexander as applied to the study of mass literature, which assumes sociocultural research of semantic structures conveying social myths and archetypes serving as interpretive models for explaining and organizing (constructing) the social world. While exploring the social myths of the American female novel, we have combined different theoretical and methodological approaches including the approach of G. Alexander as well as structuralist approach (V. Propp), psychoanalytical theory (K. Jung) and literary theories in the context of feminism and post-feminism (A. Pratt, J. Bolen).

We have analyzed 18 American female novels by such acknowledged authors as Danielle Steel, Nora Roberts and Mary Higgins Clark. These novels have been selected according to the top lists of the largest specialized sites. The procedure of building up a causal sequence of narrative events and interpreting it in the context of the social myth was based on various courses in narrative analysis (event-structure analysis developed by D. Heise and L. Griffin), different versions of structural approach (R. Barthes, V. Propp and T. van Dijk) and K. Yung's theory. The result of our study has been the development of three female models of social behavior within the cosmological model of the myth: 1) a model of dominance; 2) a model of social partnership and 3) a model of temporary replacement. These archetypal models reflect new social values and such social processes as modification and reversing of traditional gender roles.

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