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The first comprehensive study of fantasy's uses of myth, this book offers insights into the genre's popularity and cultural importance. Combining history, folklore, and narrative theory, Attebery's study explores familiar and forgotten fantasies and shows how the genre is also an arena for negotiating new relationships with traditional tales.
Brian Attebery's "strategies of fantasy" include not only the writer's strategies for inventing believable impossibilities, but also the reader's strategies for enjoying, challenging, and conspiring with the text. Drawing on a number of current literary theories (but avoiding most of their jargon), Attebery makes a case for fantasy as a significant movement within postmodern literature rather than as a simple exercise of nostalgia. Attebery examines recent and classic fantasies by Ursula K. Le Guin, John Crowley, J. R. R. Tolkien, Diana Wynne Jones, and Gene Wolfe, among others. In both its popular and postmodern incarnations, fantastic fiction exhibits a remarkable capacity for reinventing narrative conventions. Attebery shows how plots, characters, settings, storytelling frameworks, gender divisions, and references to cultural texts such as history and science are all called into question the moment the marvelous is admitted into a story. In the early chapters, the author sorts out some of the confusion about the term fantasy, distinguishing the fantastic as a technique from fantasy as a popular formula and a literary genre. Looking back to the early reception of Tolkien's trend-setting epic fantasy, he points out how critical theory at the time was simply unable to account for either the strengths or the weaknesses of The Lord of the Rings. By contrast, critical methods developed for coping with postmodernist metafictions are shown to apply equally well to the genre of fantasy. Having worked primarily with older fantasies in his study of The Fantasy Tradition in American Literature, Attebery focuses here on important recent examples such as Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun, Suzette Haden Elgin's Ozark Trilogy, and John Crowley's Little, Big. Analysis of these texts shows not only that fantasy scholarship can learn from contemporary theory, but also that a close look at fantasy can overturn common assumptions about the nature of narrative. Rather than drawing definitive boundaries for the genre, Attebery proposes a description of fantasy as a "fuzzy set": a grouping based on perceived resemblance to one or more central examples rather than on any particular features shared by the whole set. For many readers and writers, the central example has long been Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, although Attebery points out that newer forms such as women's coming-of-age stories, postmodernist metafiction, science fantasy, and "real world" fantasy may indicate a shift or expansion of the popular conception of the genre.
Transcending arguments over the definition of fantasy literature, Rhetorics of Fantasy introduces a provocative new system of classification for the genre. Utilizing nearly two hundred examples of modern fantasy, author Farah Mendlesohn uses this system to explore how fiction writers construct their fantastic worlds. Mendlesohn posits four categories of fantasy—portal-quest, immersive, intrusion, and liminal—that arise out of the relationship of the protagonist to the fantasy world. Using these sets, Mendlesohn argues that the author’s stylistic decisions are then shaped by the inescapably political demands of the category in which they choose to write. Each chapter covers at least twenty books in detail, ranging from nineteenth-century fantasy and horror to extensive coverage of some of the best books in the contemporary field. Offering a wide-ranging discussion and penetrating comparative analysis, Rhetorics of Fantasy will excite fans and provide a wealth of material for scholarly and classroom discussion. Includes discussion of works by over 100 authors, including Lloyd Alexander, Peter Beagle, Marion Zimmer Bradley, John Crowley, Stephen R. Donaldson, Stephen King, C. S. Lewis, Gregory Maguire, Robin McKinley, China Miéville, Suniti Namjoshi, Philip Pullman, J. K. Rowling, Sheri S. Tepper, J. R. R. Tolkien, Tad Williams
First Published in 2002. Routledge is an imprint of Taylor & Francis, an informa company.
This book examines the creative uses of “Celtic” myth in contemporary fantasy written for children or young adults from the 1960s to the 2000s. Its scope ranges from classic children’s fantasies such as Lloyd Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydain and Alan Garner’s The Owl Service, to some of the most recent, award-winning fantasy authors of the last decade, such as Kate Thompson (The New Policeman) and Catherine Fisher (Darkhenge). The book focuses on the ways these fantasy works have appropriated and adapted Irish and Welsh medieval literature in order to highlight different perceptions of “Celticity.” The term “Celtic” itself is interrogated in light of recent debates in Celtic studies, in order to explore a fictional representation of a national past that is often romanticized and political.
Faced with a dull summer in the city, Jane, Mark, Katharine, and Martha suddenly find themselves involved in a series of extraordinary adventures after Jane discovers an ordinary-looking coin that seems to grant wishes.
Spiritus flat ubi vult academicus. It seems evident that the study of antiquity and the study of antiquity’s persistence will continue to be distributed ubique terrarum. This pleasing circumstance was exemplified in January 2014, at the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, an institution named after Poland’s influential nineteenth-century epic and lyric poet. As part of an ongoing series of such academic meetings, the university hosted the Seventh International Conference on Fantasy and Wonder. Its topic was Antiquity in Popular Literature and Culture. Several of the papers given in Poznań appear in this volume in revised form. They demonstrate the continuing presence of the past, or, to put it slightly differently, the importance of the past in the present and, by extension, for the future.

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