'Once upon a time...' with these words children and adults alike enter into the mystical world of stories. In The Western Dreaming, John Carroll identifies and explores nine key stories or archetypes which he believes are at the source of western culture. They include the hero, soul-mate love, the tragic mother, vocation, fate, the genesis of evil, and the nature of charged being. The Western Dreaming is peppered with examples of how the story of popular culture acts out of these key archetypes. The story of Mary Magdalene is one example: In the 1990s, this story was enacted in the story of Diana, Princess of Wales: '...hers is the cardinal story of the second half of the twentieth century. While the modern Diana myth is deep the primal force driving through it is Magdalene.' John Carroll argues that the spirit of the western world cannot survive without these archetypal stories: they form a key part of our search for understanding. This is a provocative work, urging readers to consider the role of story in western culture in a refreshingly new light.
Dr John Carroll is a professor of Sociology at La Trobe University in Melbourne. He has previously published Humanism (1994) and Ego and Soul (1998) with HCP.