Scott Cawelti

About Scott Cawelti -

Scott Cawelti was born and raised in Cedar Falls, Iowa. He taught writing, film, and literature at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) from 1968-2008, and has written regular opinion columns and reviews for the Waterloo / Cedar Falls Courier since the late 1970s.  He played for years in a folk duo with Robert James Waller and still regularly performs as a singer/guitarist/songwriter. Scott continues to teach as an adjunct instructor at UNI.



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  • Good Podcast

    • Posted on Mar 24, 2014 by Scott Cawelti
    Last night (Sunday, March 23, 2014) I was interviewed for an hour by Aaron Habel, who co-runs the "Generation Why" Podcast. He had recently read BROTHER'S BLOOD and wanted to talk at length about it.  Well worth my time, since it showed there is genuine curiosity and interest still in the Mark family murders.  

    You can hear it on the "Generation Why" Facebook page or here:

    If you listen and want to discuss it or some aspect of it, comment below.  Always enjoy hearing from readers.    

    Go comment!
    Posted in
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  • When Great Works Come from Bad People

    • Posted on Mar 16, 2014 by Scott Cawelti

     Four years ago, I taught a UNI undergraduate film course on Woody Allen’s films.  Students watched, discussed, studied, and wrote essays about Allen’s films ranging from Annie Hall to Hannah and Her Sisters to Crimes and Misdemeanors to Vicky Cristina Barcelona. 

    Allen has since made four more films, the most recent of which, Blue Jasmine, garnered an Oscar for best actress for Cate Blanchett. Allen was nominated for his screenplay, as he as been for dozens of other Oscars, winning four. 

    Allen writes, directs, and acted in his films until age took its toll.  He’s still writing and directing a film a year, and has for some forty years. They’re still winning major awards worldwide. 

    In the game of filmmaking, Woody Allen plays in the same league as Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock, Ingmar Bergman, Robert Altman, Orson Welles, among very few others.   

    Comes now the question:  Should I try to teach his films again, knowing about his

    stepdaughter Dylan’s recent accusations of childhood molestation and betrayal?  In fact, should I stop seeing and studying Allen’s films, many of which sit at the top of my all-time favorites list?  Should I urge a boycott of his films?

    Not an easy question, and it implies an even more difficult question:  Can bad people create good films, or good art of any kind?  Is there a relationship between personal decency and serious artistic creativity?   

    My answers:  Yes and no.  Yes to teaching Allen again, if possible, and no to moral goodness being related to creating great art.

    No matter what we might think about Allen and his stepdaughter’s accusations, his films won’t go away by being ignored.  They deserve attention and serious study, partly because they offer an array of engaging stories about people struggling with real issues that real people confront regularly:  Suicide, infidelity, family dysfunctions, meaningless work, finding joy in a dark world.    

    Does this mean that I condone child sexual abuse?  Of course not. 

    I have read Dylan Farrow’s angry denunciation of Allen as a hypocritical, monstrous child molester who has fooled everyone.  I’ve also read Allen’s reply, in which he cites the court’s investigation that cleared him of all the charges, saying unequivocally that there was no molestation.   

    And in fact, Dylan’s older brother, once estranged from Allen, now insists that Allen is innocent, and insists that their mother’s behavior toward Allen was inexcusable and likely led to Dylan’s accusation.  

    Then last week I watched The Hunt, a powerful Danish film about a small-town teacher who is falsely accused of molestation by a kindergartner, and how quickly his lifelong adult friends turned against him.  Hysteria lurks just around the corner when a child accuses an adult, it seems.   

    Incidentally, a shameful real life example occurred in 1983 in California.  The “McMartin Preschool Incident,” became an interminable criminal trial, ruined several lives, and led to all charges being dropped in 1990.  It’s a case study of the panic and groupthink that can overwhelm otherwise rational people.  

    So I don’t believe Allen is guilty of his stepdaughter’s accusation.  However, even if he were, I would still teach his films.  Unfortunately, great creators feel no obligation to follow the norms and rules of anything but their art. 

    Examples abound, and include terrible behavior by some of the world’s greatest artists.  The list of abhorrent behaviors is long and sordid, the names of artists familiar, and their works still beloved.  Google “bad people, great art” for the sad stories. 

    I wish only honest, morally upright artists created the novels, poems, paintings, music, and films we love and study.  Some do, of course. 

    But whether artists are good people or not seems to make no difference to their ability and desire to create lasting art.  



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