The American Monomyth

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The American Monomyth is a 1977 book by Robert Jewett and John Shelton Lawrence arguing for the existence and cultural importance of an ‘American Monomyth,’ a variation on the classical monomyth (the hero’s journey, a theme found in narratives from around the world) as proposed by Joseph Campbell. The hero ventures from the normal world into a supernatural one, winning a decisive victory there and returning with a ‘boon.’

In contrast, Jewett and Lawrence define the American monomyth as: ‘A community in a harmonious paradise is threatened by evil; normal institutions fail to contend with this threat; a selfless superhero emerges to renounce temptations and carry out the redemptive task; aided by fate, his decisive victory restores the community to its paradisiacal condition; the superhero then recedes into obscurity.’

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