Cover for SCHROEDER: Robert Johnson, Mythmaking, and Contemporary American Culture. Click for larger image

Robert Johnson, Mythmaking, and Contemporary American Culture

Awards and Recognition:

Certificate of Merit for Best Research in Recorded Blues by the Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC), 2005.

An examination of the culture of myth making by looking at the myths surrounding Robert Johnson and how they were used by various writers and artists

Suddenly Robert Johnson is everywhere. Though the Mississippi bluesman died young and recorded only twenty-nine songs, the legacy, legend, and lore surrounding him continue to grow. Focusing on these developments, Patricia R. Schroeder's Robert Johnson, Mythmaking, and Contemporary American Culture breaks new ground in Johnson scholarship, going beyond simple or speculative biography to explore him in his larger role as a contemporary cultural icon.

Part literary analysis, part cultural criticism, and part biographical study, Robert Johnson, Mythmaking, and Contemporary American Culture shows the Robert Johnson of today to be less a two-dimensional character fixed by the few known facts of his life than a dynamic and contested set of ideas.

Represented in novels, in plays, and even on a postage stamp, he provides inspiration for "highbrow" cultural artifacts--such as poems--as well as Hollywood movies and T-shirts. Schroeder's detailed and scholarly analysis directly engages key images and stories about Johnson (such as the Faustian crossroads exchange of his soul for guitar virtuosity), navigating the many competing interpretations that swirl around him to reveal the cultural purposes these stories and their tellers serve.

Unprecedented in both range and depth, Schroeder's work is a fascinating examination of the relationships among Johnson's life, its subsequent portrayals, and the cultural forces that drove these representations. With penetrating insights into both Johnson and the society that perpetuates him, Robert Johnson, Mythmaking, and Contemporary American Culture is essential reading for cultural critics and blues fans alike.


"Patricia Schroeder's book is intellectually generous and morally acute. She is sensitive both to what is lost when Robert Johnson is disappeared from history into myth, and what is gained when both the man and his work become the common property--the imaginative free field--of all those, like Schroeder herself, who could never have encountered Johnson or his songs in their own place and time."--Greil Marcus

"Patricia Schroeder's masterful study of Robert Johnson touches the virtual and the historical, from Websites to short stories, documentary films to recent legends. Venturing well beyond the bluesman'sMississippi home and the records he made in the late 1930s, she shows how our modern world has embraced him as a complex and emblematic figure."--Stephen Wade, editor and producer of A Treasury of Library of Congress Field Recordings


Patricia R. Schroeder is a professor of English at Ursinus College, the author of The Feminist Possibilities of Dramatic Realism and The Presence of the Past in Modern American Drama.

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