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Fantasy as a Genre: Definitions and Theories Jane Wiseman March 2018

Fantasy as a Genre: Definitions and Theories Jane Wiseman March 2018. Definitions. Fantasy n. The creative imagination. Fiction characterized by highly fanciful or supernatural elements; an example of such fiction.

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Fantasy as a Genre: Definitions and Theories Jane Wiseman March 2018

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  1. Fantasy as a Genre: Definitions and TheoriesJane WisemanMarch 2018

  2. Definitions Fantasy n. • The creative imagination. • Fiction characterized by highly fanciful or supernatural elements; an example of such fiction. • An imagined event or sequence of mental images, such as a daydream, usually fulfilling a wish or psychological need. • An unrealistic or improbable supposition. • tr.v.   fan·ta·sizeTo imagine; visualize. • Origins: Middle English fantasie, fantsy, from Old French fantasie, from Latin phantasia, from Greek phantasiā, appearance, imagination, from phantazesthai, to appear, from phantos, visible, from phainesthai, to appear. Adapted from: The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, 2009

  3. Definitions • Romance n. • Ardent emotional attachment or involvement between people; love: They kept the romance alive in their marriage for 35 years. • A strong, sometimes short-lived attachment, fascination, or enthusiasm for something: a childhood romance with the sea. • A long medieval narrative in prose or verse that tells of the adventures and heroic exploits of chivalric heroes: an Arthurian romance. • A long fictitious tale of heroes and extraordinary or mysterious events, usually set in a distant time or place. • An artistic work, such as a novel, story, or film, that deals with sexual love, especially in an idealized form.

  4. Definitions Romance (cont.): • A mysterious or fascinating quality or appeal, as of something adventurous, heroic, or strangely beautiful: "These fine old guns often have a romance clinging to them"(Richard Jeffries). • The Romance languages. • Of, relating to, or being any of the languages that developed from Latin, including Italian, French, Portuguese, Romanian, and Spanish. • Origins: Middle English, from Old French romans, romance, work written in French, from Vulgar Latin *rōmānicē (scrībere), (to write) in the vernacular, from Latin Rōmānicus, Roman, from Rōmānus Adapted from: The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, 2009

  5. Definitions SPECULATIVE FICTION “Speculative Fiction is an umbrella term I like to use because it includes all the forms of fantastic fiction or what for ages has been called science fiction and fantasy. . . [The term] Speculative Fiction eliminates the need for a separation between science fiction, fantasy, and horror because they are different forms of one thing. . . . the primary question asked by the writers of Speculative Fiction, ‘What if?’” From: “What is Speculative Fiction?” D. D. Shade http://www.lostbooks.org/speculative-fiction.html A similar category: utopian/dystopian fiction

  6. DEFINITIONS Speculative Fiction includes all stories that take place in a setting contrary to known reality: • All stories set in the future, because the future can't be known. • All stories set in the historical past that contradict known facts of history. • All stories set on other worlds, because we've never gone there. • All stories supposedly set on Earth, but before recorded history and contradicting the known archaeological record. • All stories that contradict some known or supposed law of nature, such as fantasy that uses magic. Adapted from science fiction writer Orson Scott Card’s criteria, listed in his article “Defining Science Fiction and Fantasy,” Writer’s Digest, 9/28/2010 http://www.writersdigest.com/writing-articles/by-writing-goal/get-published-sell-my-work/defining-science-fiction-and-fantasy

  7. The origins of fantasy literature • Folk tales and folklore that became literature—first orally transmitted and later written down. For instance. . . • Celtic folklore indigenous to the British Isles—examples: the Welsh Mabinogion; the Irish Cuchulain tales; later, tales of King Arthur. • Norse sagas and mythology, brought with Germanic/Scandinavian invaders who came to the British Isles in roughly 450 CE—examples from literature written down much later: the Elder Edda, the Prose Edda, Beowulf. • French folklore surrounding the tales of the mighty deeds of knights and heroes surrounding Charles I, 742-814 CE (“Charlemagne”—Charles the Great—an historical king who ruled the Holy Roman Empire, including vestiges of the Roman empire on the Continent, extending into present-day France, Italy, Germany, and parts of Eastern Europe) NOTE: There is of course a wealth of other literature from other cultures that we could consider if we only had the space!

  8. The origins of fantasy literature (cont.) • In the English tradition: medieval writers in Middle English transmute these legends and tales, especially tales about Arthur, into literature. Examples: some of the tales of Geoffrey Chaucer (The Wife of Bath’s Tale, the Knight’s Tale); Sir Gawain and the Green Knight; Sir Orfeo; etc. • Very early modern English writers communicate the material to new audiences. Example: Sir Thomas Malory’s MorteDarthur.

  9. The origins of fantasy literature (cont.) • Renaissance English writers use this material in the service of new types of literature and for new purposes, especially to celebrate the emergence of England as a nation state and a geopolitical power. Examples: Shakespeare’s late romances, Sidney’s Arcadia, Spenser’s Faerie Queene. • On the Continent, similar transformations are happening: In Renaissance Italy, Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso (“Orlando Goes Crazy”) and Boiardo’s Orlando Innamorato (“Orlando Falls in Love”) both enlarge on the Roland legend; Torquato Tasso’s long epic, La Gerusalemmeliberata (“Jerusalem Delivered ”) deals with the ever-popular Christians vs. Saracens theme. Meanwhile, in Spain, Miguel de Cervantes parodied the theme of the chivalric knight in the great piece of fiction frequently referred to as “the first novel,” Don Quixote.

  10. English literature and fantasy subjects • English writers from the seventeenth century into the twentieth century persistently use the fantasy topics of the medieval and Renaissance writers for their own purposes. • A few of the many, many examples: Oroonoko, by the Restoration writer AphraBehn; the 18th century piece of speculative fiction by Samuel Johnson, Rasselas; poetry inspired by fantasy elements in the 19th century, such as La belle dame sans merci, bythe Romantic poet John Keats and the vampiricChristabel, by the Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge; the Victorian poet Alfred Lord Tennyson’s The Idylls of the King; Sir Walter Scott’s historical Waverly novels such as Ivanhoe and Rob Roy; numerous poems and plays using Irish folkloric material by the 20th century poet William Butler Yeats and his colleagues, such as Lady Augusta Gregory.

  11. 19th/ early 20th century: fantasy as a literary genre is born • John Ruskin, The King of the Golden River (1841) http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/701 • George Macdonald, Phantastes(1858) http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/MacPhan.html • The Pre-Raphaelites, including William Morris (The Well At the World’s End—1896) http://www.gutenberg.org/files/169/169-h/169-h.htm • Lord Dunsany (Edward Plunkett, 17th Baron of Dunsany—Irish lord involved in the Irish Literary Revival of the early 20th century), The Book of Wonder and other collections of fantasy tales. http://www.sff.net/people/doylemacdonald/l_wonder.htm

  12. AVictorian Fantasy Craze: The Pre-Raphaelites The Pre-Raphaelites were a mid-19th century group of English writers and artists who rejected the prevailing realism of their times and wanted to return art to what they imagined the Renaissance art of the Italian painter Raphael to be. However, they were especially enthralled by medieval themes and directed a decidedly Romantic and nostalgic attitude toward them. Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Christina Rossetti, William Morris, John Ruskin, Edward Burne-Jones, and Algernon Charles Swinburne were all associated with the movement. The Pre-Raphaelite painter John William Waterhouse imagines a mermaid. A Mermaid Image in the public domain https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AJohn_William_Waterhouse_A_Mermaid.jpg

  13. Sidney Sime, illustrator of Lord Dunsany’s tales (1867-1941) Romance Comes Down Out of Hilly Woodlands Illustration for Lord Dunsany’s A Dreamer’s Tales, 1910 By Sidney Sime (1867–1941) - cavetocanvas.com, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17866850

  14. More 19th/ early 20th century: fantasy • Rudyard Kipling, Puck of Pook’s Hill (1906) and various other tales involving fantasy. http://www.online-literature.com/kipling/puck-of-pooks-hill/ • Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan of the Apes (1912) http://www.literature.org/authors/burroughs-edgar-rice/tarzan-of-the-apes/ • H. Ryder Haggard, She (1886-87) http://www.bibliomania.com/0/0/40/79/frameset.html • Great classic children’s literature (Oz, Alice, Pooh, Pan)

  15. The 20th Century Fantasy Explosion • The Inklings and “high fantasy” • J. R. R. Tolkien • C. S. Lewis • Charles Williams • Pulp fantasy • Magazine fiction (example: Science Fiction and Fantasy) • Male-oriented action-adventure: Robert Howard, Conan the Barbarian; H. P. Lovecraft • Soft popular romance: William Henry Hudson, Green Mansions • Other prominent figures: Ursula K. LeGuin, Madeline L’Engle, T. H. White

  16. And into the 21st. . . • Movies and television: Game of Thrones, Avatar, Firefly, Buffy, True Blood. . . . • Popular fantasy book series, including children’s literature. Example: Harry Potter • Tabletop games such as Dungeons & Dragons, invented by Gary Gygax • Computer gaming including stand-alone, single-player games as well as multiplayer games starting with MUDs, continuing into PC gaming with MMORPGs • LARP—real people enacting fantasy, such as Renaissance Fairs, the Society for Creative Anachronism, and the like • Fantasy miniatures • Anime and manga • Fan fiction

  17. Theorists of Fantasy: Tzvetan Todorov (1939-2017) • Bulgarian-French literary and cultural theorist • Published The Fantastic: A Structuralist Approach to a Literary Genre, in 1975 • Theorizes that “the fantastic” is a genre created from the tension and uncertainty when a reader hesitates between interpreting a narrative as “the uncanny” (narration of unusual but natural events) or “the marvelous” (narration of unusual events of supernatural origin). Source: Review of Todorov’s The Fantastic by LubomírDolezěl, University of Toronto https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/slavic-review/article/fantastic-a-structural-approach-to-a-literary-genre-by-todorov-tsvetan-translated-from-the-french-by-howard-richard-foreword-by-scholes-robert-ithaca-cornell-university-press-1975-xii-180-pp-395-paper/FBBCB3B4745DBC9FD7BDDEC5F3C0768 • Todorov’s obituary in the New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/07/world/europe/tzvetan-todorov-dead.html

  18. Types of Fantasy Farah Mendlesohn, Rhetorics of Fantasy, 2008 Useful classification of types of fantasy, including: • The portal fantasy • The quest fantasy • The immersive fantasy • The intrusion fantasy • The liminal fantasy • Hybrids

  19. Mendlesohn’s Fantasy Types • The Portal-quest fantasy (note: I like to consider these two separately): • Portal fantasy—a character or characters leaves familiar and realistic surroundings to pass through a portal or door or gateway into an unknown place of magic or the marvelous. • Quest fantasy—a character or characters receives an important task involving danger and often a difficult journey. The position of the reader: Usually, the reader closely identifies with or follows the protagonist and is dependent on the protagonist for explanations (“decoding”).

  20. Mendlesohn’s Fantasy Types • Immersive Fantasy: • The setting is a complete world, different from the world that the reader knows in reality, but behaving as if its rules and conditions and situations ARE reality. Others call this type of fantasy “second-world fantasy,” a term derived from J. R. R. Tolkien’s discussion of fantasy in his essay On Fairy Stories, p. 16, the published version of his Andrew Lang lecture delivered at Scotland’s University of St. Andrews in 1939.--http://brainstorm-services.com/wcu-2004/fairystories-tolkien.pdf The position of the reader: the characters never explain anything to the reader—conditions the reader encounters are presented straightforwardly, as if reader and characters alike agree, “This is just how things ARE.”

  21. Mendlesohn’s Fantasy Types • Intrusion Fantasy • The world as we know it, the realistic world, is invaded by intruders from a world that is OTHER, a world of magic or the marvelous. The task of the characters in the normal world is to negotiate with these intruders, or to defeat them, or to send them back, or somehow to control them. The position of the reader: The reader must move from disbelief and skepticism to belief. Frequently these stories are mediated by a narrator who has “been there” and is trying to convince the skeptical reader that these things really happened. Sometimes the skeptical reader has a counterpart character in the story who must be convinced. Many of these intrusion fantasies are “club stories”—a person is retelling a presumably impossible adventure to a skeptical circle of friends or other listeners.

  22. Mendlesohn’s Fantasy Types • Liminal Fantasy • This is an odd type of fantasy that raises the question, “Is what you see here normal, or is it fantasy?” The position of the reader: The reader is put into the position of judge—which is it?

  23. Mendlesohn’s Fantasy Types • Hybrid Fantasy • Many fantasy novels contain more than one of these four elements. As Mendlesohn points out, most portal fantasies are also quest fantasies, and other combinations can exist.

  24. Other Terms Used to Classify Fantasy The Wikipedia article “Fantasy” has a very useful list subdivided into types by theme and by function (including a discussion of Mendlesohn). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fantasy Wikipedia’s editors take issue with the way this article is presented, however.

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