Arthur Conan Doyle is the creator of the most enduring figures in the history of detective fiction. Both Sherlock Holmes and his assistant-narrator, Dr Watson, have enjoyed enormous popularity since their late-Victorian appearance on the literary scene. In postmodern times, moreover, their adventures have undergone a process of adaptation that has produced a wide range of rewritings and pastiches. Freely revisited, modernized, parodied and subject to trans-medial appropriation, the Holmes myth has nurtured the imagination of neo-Victorian writers, directors, illustrators and other participants in the kaleidoscopic world of postmodern literature and culture. It suffices to consider the popularity of novels such as Norbu Jamyang’s "Mandala of Sherlock Holmes" (2003), of the Guy Ritchie films, of recent TV shows like "Elementary" and "True Detective", or of comic series like "Victorian Undead". This paper explores some effects of today’s proliferation of the Holmes myth across two continents, two cultures and two media. Partly by drawing on Zygmunt Bauman’s theories, I aim to show that recent American ‘rewritings’ of this myth offer insights into the fundamental ambivalence of contemporary processes of cultural assimilation. More specifically, by examining how American authors and directors have transposed Conan Doyle’s texts into a new context, I intend to reveal the gap between all projects of national homogeneity and the postmodern reality of obliteration of cultural distinctiveness. The United States have, indeed, assimilated and ‘nationalized’ fundamental ideologies of the Victorian age, such as liberalism, worldwide imperialism and trust in the law and order system. These ideologies, which were prominent in Conan Doyle’s context but are less strong in today’s Britain, continue to permeate American society and culture. By examining how the Holmes myth has been refashioned across the Atlantic, we can thus get interesting clues of the coexistence of opposing tendencies in the American cultural milieu. While continuing to appropriate and nativize foreign ideas, this milieu is in fact influenced by transnational forces that are primarily generated by a globalized cultural market. The friction between national and global is evident in the latest process of Americanization of Conan Doyle’s legacy. My objective is to analyse some short stories written in 2009 which transplant the Holmes canon into American terrain. These narratives combine celebratory and parodic images of Americanness which, in the Conan Doyle prototypes, is never immune from the stigma of ‘strangehood’. An interesting text is Robert Pohle’s “The Flower of Utah”. Conceived as a sequel of "A Study in Scarlet", this story is a pastiche of American stereotypes, such as the frontiersman and the hard-boiled detective. Pohle adapts the original’s ideology to his cultural milieu, as shown by his heroicizing of American ‘baddies’ and his feminist re-interpretation of the heroine. There are, however, subtle ironies that undermine the text’s exaltation of local values, such as the stigmatization of primitive figures living in the heart of the American continent. A similar friction emerges in recent TV shows. In "True Detective" (2014-), for instance, the Holmes myth is skilfully disassembled and reassembled anew by Cary Fukunaga, who uses American crime stereotypes (the decadent investigator, the serial killer) to nativize his filmic text. Still, there is in his radical re-interpretation a sense of ontological void that clashes with the conservatism of American crime shows. Perplexingly refashioned into two provincial anti-heroes, the couple Holmes-Watson ironically suggests the dispersal of community-shared beliefs and the growing predominance of a ‘liquid modernity’ in which social forms and ideas no longer have time to solidify.

Sherlock Holmes in America. A Literary Myth across Continents and Media

COSTANTINI Mariaconcetta
2017

Abstract

Arthur Conan Doyle is the creator of the most enduring figures in the history of detective fiction. Both Sherlock Holmes and his assistant-narrator, Dr Watson, have enjoyed enormous popularity since their late-Victorian appearance on the literary scene. In postmodern times, moreover, their adventures have undergone a process of adaptation that has produced a wide range of rewritings and pastiches. Freely revisited, modernized, parodied and subject to trans-medial appropriation, the Holmes myth has nurtured the imagination of neo-Victorian writers, directors, illustrators and other participants in the kaleidoscopic world of postmodern literature and culture. It suffices to consider the popularity of novels such as Norbu Jamyang’s "Mandala of Sherlock Holmes" (2003), of the Guy Ritchie films, of recent TV shows like "Elementary" and "True Detective", or of comic series like "Victorian Undead". This paper explores some effects of today’s proliferation of the Holmes myth across two continents, two cultures and two media. Partly by drawing on Zygmunt Bauman’s theories, I aim to show that recent American ‘rewritings’ of this myth offer insights into the fundamental ambivalence of contemporary processes of cultural assimilation. More specifically, by examining how American authors and directors have transposed Conan Doyle’s texts into a new context, I intend to reveal the gap between all projects of national homogeneity and the postmodern reality of obliteration of cultural distinctiveness. The United States have, indeed, assimilated and ‘nationalized’ fundamental ideologies of the Victorian age, such as liberalism, worldwide imperialism and trust in the law and order system. These ideologies, which were prominent in Conan Doyle’s context but are less strong in today’s Britain, continue to permeate American society and culture. By examining how the Holmes myth has been refashioned across the Atlantic, we can thus get interesting clues of the coexistence of opposing tendencies in the American cultural milieu. While continuing to appropriate and nativize foreign ideas, this milieu is in fact influenced by transnational forces that are primarily generated by a globalized cultural market. The friction between national and global is evident in the latest process of Americanization of Conan Doyle’s legacy. My objective is to analyse some short stories written in 2009 which transplant the Holmes canon into American terrain. These narratives combine celebratory and parodic images of Americanness which, in the Conan Doyle prototypes, is never immune from the stigma of ‘strangehood’. An interesting text is Robert Pohle’s “The Flower of Utah”. Conceived as a sequel of "A Study in Scarlet", this story is a pastiche of American stereotypes, such as the frontiersman and the hard-boiled detective. Pohle adapts the original’s ideology to his cultural milieu, as shown by his heroicizing of American ‘baddies’ and his feminist re-interpretation of the heroine. There are, however, subtle ironies that undermine the text’s exaltation of local values, such as the stigmatization of primitive figures living in the heart of the American continent. A similar friction emerges in recent TV shows. In "True Detective" (2014-), for instance, the Holmes myth is skilfully disassembled and reassembled anew by Cary Fukunaga, who uses American crime stereotypes (the decadent investigator, the serial killer) to nativize his filmic text. Still, there is in his radical re-interpretation a sense of ontological void that clashes with the conservatism of American crime shows. Perplexingly refashioned into two provincial anti-heroes, the couple Holmes-Watson ironically suggests the dispersal of community-shared beliefs and the growing predominance of a ‘liquid modernity’ in which social forms and ideas no longer have time to solidify.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11564/685252
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