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Fantasy Literature: Theories of Fantasy

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Fantasy Literature. A brief history of Fantasy literature and theories of fantasy from Tolkien and Todorov.

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Fantasy Literature: Theories of Fantasy

  1. 1. Fantasy Literature Theories of Fantastic Ahmet Mesut Ateş 249566 Supervisor: Asst. Prof. Dr. Mustafa Zeki Çıraklı January 02, 2014 KTU Department of English Language and Literature
  2. 2. Outline of the Presentation • What is «fantasy» in literature? – – – Traditional Fantasy Fantasy as a literary genre Fantasy in Modern and Postmodern literature • Fantastic Theories of Literature – J.R.R. Tolkien’s Theories of Fantasy • • • • – Theory of Sub-Creation The Cauldron of Story On Fairy Tales Elements of Fantasy Tzvetan Todorov’s Theory of Fantastic • • • Fantastic Theory of Literature Todorov’s Classification of Fantasy Elements of Fantasy • Conclusion • Works Cited Ahmet Mesut Ateş, KTU Department of English Language and Literature, Turkey
  3. 3. Considering Tolkien’s debated idea that in human art Fantasy is a thing best left to true literature, this study aims • to focus on «fantasy» as discussed in theories of Tolkien and Todorov and • to pave the way for a critical analysis of Tolkien’s the Hobbit Ahmet Mesut Ateş, KTU Department of English Language and Literature, Turkey
  4. 4. Fantasy Literature: Theories of Fantastic What is «fantasy» in literature? Fantastic derives from Latin phantasticus meaning visionary and unreal. With this definition all imaginary activity is fantastic which follows all literary works are fantasies (Jackson 14). Fantasy in literature is an enormous and seductive subject and with the utilisation of magic, mythology and other supernatural elements, it has always been regarded as a peculiar genre. Ahmet Mesut Ateş, KTU Department of English Language and Literature, Turkey
  5. 5. Fantasy Literature: Theories of Fantastic What is «fantasy» in literature? Its association with imagination and desire makes the fantasy a difficult subject to articulate (Jackson 1). Therefore fantasy as a genre has been overlooked for centuries. Fantasy, in literature, employs supernatural, unreal and imaginary elements to create a secondary world consistent both with work and within itself. Ahmet Mesut Ateş, KTU Department of English Language and Literature, Turkey
  6. 6. Fantasy Literature: Theories of Fantastic What is «fantasy» in literature? Geoffrey Chaucer, the first writer known to us who worked in a language recognizably akin to modern English, uses the word fantasye to refer to strange and bizarre notions that have no basis in every-day experience, and this is the sense in which it is usually used today when one speaks of “fantasy literature.” (Stableford, XXXVII) Ahmet Mesut Ateş, KTU Department of English Language and Literature, Turkey
  7. 7. Fantasy Literature: Theories of Fantastic Traditional Fantasy Eastern Fantasy Western Fantasy • • • • • • • • Primordial Fantasy Indian Fantasy Persian and Arabian Fantasy East Asian Fantasy Classical Fantasy Medieval Fantasy Renaissance Fantasy Fantasy of the Enlightenment Era Earlier forms of fantasy employed folklore, legends and myth intricately. Regrettably, this interwoven relationship precluded the commendation of the genre which is why still today the border between fantasy and myth is not completely clarified. Ahmet Mesut Ateş, KTU Department of English Language and Literature, Turkey
  8. 8. Fantasy Literature: Theories of Fantastic Traditional Fantasy Modern Fantasy starts in 18th century with George Mac Donald whom Tolkien was mostly influenced by. Outstanding works of early modern period: Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland; Dracula; The Wonderful Wizard of OZ and Peter Pan. Before 1969, the description “fantasy,” with respect to literary works, was usually only applied to a variety of children’s fiction. Ahmet Mesut Ateş, KTU Department of English Language and Literature, Turkey
  9. 9. Fantasy Literature: Theories of Fantastic Fantasy as a literary genre Literary criticism has been notoriously reluctant towards the fantasy genre. Before Tolkien and Todorov, fantasy literature was evaluated according to Alexander Baumgarten ideas (18th century) whose main concern was aesthetics rather than fantasy itself (Stableford, XLV). But the lack of adequate theory was not the only obstacle. Fantastic works have come to be associated with children’s tales and consequently the scope and reach of the authors were limited. Ahmet Mesut Ateş, KTU Department of English Language and Literature, Turkey
  10. 10. Fantasy Literature: Theories of Fantastic Fantasy as a literary genre J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, H.P. Lovecraft and T.H. White popularized the genre and pushed literary critics to acknowledge the genre. Aftermath of World Wars brought attention on escapist literature and fantasy genre was one of the first to reclaim superiority. Hereafter, critics started to take the fantastic works more seriously and Fantasy attained its status as a literary genre. Characteristics of the fantasy genre are still under investigation. Ahmet Mesut Ateş, KTU Department of English Language and Literature, Turkey
  11. 11. Fantasy Literature: Theories of Fantastic Fantasy in Modern and Postmodern literature Modern definition: fantasy is the narrative that results from our construction of a world alternate to this one, a "secondary world" which is composed of elements of the "primary world" (Aichele 323, Tolkien 60). Postmodern definition: fantasy expresses a fragmentation of self-identical referent offering a power of transformation and the ability to conquer the primary world, through secondary world, and to explore and affect the possible aspects of human life (Aichele 324-25). Ahmet Mesut Ateş, KTU Department of English Language and Literature, Turkey
  12. 12. Fantasy Literature: Theories of Fantastic Fantastic Theories of Literature Two chief theoreticians of modern fantasy: • J.R.R. Tolkien (1939) • Tzvetan Todorov (1970) J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973) He was a graduate of and a professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford. He translated Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and many other Medieval texts. His main interest was Nordic mythology and languages. He published his theories of Cauldron of Story and Sub-creation in his essay On Fairy Tales in 1939. Tzvetan Todorov (1939-) He had his university education in Bulgaria. Later he went to Paris and met his mentor Roland Barthes. Todorov defines himself: a historian and essayist. He published his theory on fantasy in Introduction à la littérature fantastique (1970) in French – it was translated into English in 1973 by Richard Howard. Ahmet Mesut Ateş, KTU Department of English Language and Literature, Turkey
  13. 13. Fantasy Literature: Theories of Fantastic J.R.R. Tolkien’s Theories of Fantasy There are a few men who are privileged to travel abroad a little; others must be content with traveler’s tales. J.R.R. Tolkien, On Fairy Tales Ahmet Mesut Ateş, KTU Department of English Language and Literature, Turkey
  14. 14. Fantasy Literature: Theories of Fantastic J.R.R. Tolkien’s Theories of Fantasy On Fairy Tales The essay was firstly delivered as a lecture in University of St. Andrews in 1938 and later published in 1947 by Oxford University Press. The realm of fairy-story is wide and deep and high and filled with many things: all manner of beasts and birds are found there; shoreless seas and stars un-counted; beauty that is an enchantment, and an ever-present peril; both joy and sorrow as sharp as swords.(Tolkien, 3) For Tolkien, definitions attributed to fairy stories hitherto fall short with their insistence on a childish notion and judgement of the literary value of the genre. Ahmet Mesut Ateş, KTU Department of English Language and Literature, Turkey
  15. 15. Fantasy Literature: Theories of Fantastic J.R.R. Tolkien’s Theories of Fantasy On Fairy Tales Tolkien tries to define terms such as Fairy, Faërie, Fantasy and repudiates stereotype attitudes towards fantastic characters such as Elves, Dwarves and his own creations. I will not attempt to define that [Faerie], nor to describe it directly. It cannot be done. Faerie cannot be caught in a net of words; for it is one of its qualities to be indescribable, though not imperceptible (...) I will say only this: a "fairy-story" is one which touches on or uses Faerie, whatever its own main purpose may be: satire, adventure, morality, fantasy. (Tolkien 10) Dream “cheats deliberately the primal desire at the heart of Faerie: the realization, independent of the conceiving mind, of imagined wonder” (Tolkien 11) and he excludes dreams from the realm of Faerie and fantasy. Ahmet Mesut Ateş, KTU Department of English Language and Literature, Turkey
  16. 16. Fantasy Literature: Theories of Fantastic J.R.R. Tolkien’s Theories of Fantasy On Fairy Tales Tolkien states that: the primal "desires" that lie near the heart of Faerie : the desire of men to hold communion with other living things. But the speech of beasts in a beast-fable, as developed into a separate branch, has little reference to that desire, and often wholly forgets it. Themagical understanding by men of the proper languages of birds and beasts and trees, that is much nearer to the true purposes of Faerie. (Tolkien 15) Tolkien alludes to the origins of the faerie stories and concludes that: Fairy-stories ( in wider or in narrower sense) are very ancient indeed. Related things appear in very early records; and they are found universally, wherever there is language (...) The history of fairy-stories is probably more complex than the physical history of the human race, and as complex as the history of human language. (Tolkien 20) Ahmet Mesut Ateş, KTU Department of English Language and Literature, Turkey
  17. 17. Fantasy Literature: Theories of Fantastic J.R.R. Tolkien’s Theories of Fantasy Theory of Sub-Creation Tolkien had an acute belief in the “generalization and the abstraction” power of the language. He suggests that the most enabling feature of both Faerie and fantasy is the adjectives: The mind that thought of light, heavy, grey, yellow, still, swift, also conceived of magic that would make heavy things light and able to fly... (Tolkien 22) An author becomes a sub-creator: We may cause woods to spring with silver leaves and rams to wear fleeces of gold, and put hot fire into the belly of the cold worm. But in such "fantasy," as it is called, new form is made; Faerie begins; Man becomes a sub-creator. (...) An essential power of Faerie is thus the power of making immediately effective by the will the visions of "fantasy." (Tolkien 22) Ahmet Mesut Ateş, KTU Department of English Language and Literature, Turkey
  18. 18. Fantasy Literature: Theories of Fantastic J.R.R. Tolkien’s Theories of Fantasy Theory of Sub-Creation Tolkien argues that creative aspect of humanity and language prompts us to create. He argues earlier forms of fantasy are considered as myth whereas it should be the exact opposite. Because mythological gods could have derived their likeness from the elements of nature “but it was Man who obtained these for them, (...) their personality they get direct from him; (...) they receive through him from the invisible world, the Supernatural ” (Tolkien 24). Tolkien accounts fantasy to much earlier dates from the earlier myths. Because “fantasy, the making or glimpsing of Other-worlds, was the heart of the desire of Faerie” (Tolkien 42). Ahmet Mesut Ateş, KTU Department of English Language and Literature, Turkey
  19. 19. Fantasy Literature: Theories of Fantastic J.R.R. Tolkien’s Theories of Fantasy Theory of Sub-Creation For Tolkien all authors are sub-creators. They construct a primary world which should effectuate a secondary belief in the reader. The moment the reader’s faith starts to fade fantasy dissolves. Tolkien accepts that this creation is a complex process and he agrees at that point with those critics who claim that there is no fantasy genre but moments of fantastic in literary works. Nevertheless, he claims his belief in the power of language and human creation and adds that: Fantasy remains a human right: we make in our measure and in our derivative mode, because we are made: and not only made, but made in the image and likeness of a Maker. (Tolkien 55) Ahmet Mesut Ateş, KTU Department of English Language and Literature, Turkey
  20. 20. Fantasy Literature: Theories of Fantastic J.R.R. Tolkien’s Theories of Fantasy The Cauldron of Story Tolkien asserts that Myth, legends, folklore and the characters of these stories have all become entangled with each other – how much they are related and which will dominate the tale this only the storyteller can decide (Tolkien, 26). Tolkien believed that all the literary devices and other means of a story exist in the Cauldron of Story. A storyteller thus chooses his ingredients from this cauldron which in return he adds new patterns, events, and characters. Tolkien’s approach corresponds to Henry Fielding’s ideas who claimed that his characters are “universally familiar characters” rather than being alive. Ahmet Mesut Ateş, KTU Department of English Language and Literature, Turkey
  21. 21. Fantasy Literature: Theories of Fantastic J.R.R. Tolkien’s Theories of Fantasy The Cauldron of Story But if we speak of a Cauldron, we must not wholly forget the Cooks. There are many things in the Cauldron, but the Cooks do not dip in the ladle quite blindly (Tolkien 30). Tolkien implies that before an event or character is taken from the Cauldron, it should boill “a long time” with other elements. Only after then they can be utilised afresh in a story. Tolkien also reminds the eminent care an author should take when he picks from the Cauldron. Ahmet Mesut Ateş, KTU Department of English Language and Literature, Turkey
  22. 22. Fantasy Literature: Theories of Fantastic J.R.R. Tolkien’s Theories of Fantasy Elements of Fantasy Tolkien follows elements of fairy stories as follows: • Fantasy • Recovery • Escape • Consolation Fantasy: derived notions of unreality, images of things that are not actually present or believed to be not to be present in primary world. Fantasy is “a higher form of Art, indeed the most nearly pure form, and so (when achieved) the most potent” (Tolkien 47). Tolkien defines fantasy as the “Sub-creative art” but while doing this it does not contradict with Reason because it is natural human activity (Tolkien 48). Tolkien agrees that few attempts to fantasy because it is a kid of elvish craft. Ahmet Mesut Ateş, KTU Department of English Language and Literature, Turkey
  23. 23. Fantasy Literature: Theories of Fantastic J.R.R. Tolkien’s Theories of Fantasy Elements of Fantasy Recovery: seeing the things we are used to in a way that we can not only appreciate the thing but also its parts, things that make it a whole. Tolkien defines recovery as “seeing things as we are ( or were ) meant to see them” (Tolkien 57). Escape: one of the main functions of fairy stories. Escape is not from the reality or the primary world but rather more serious things such as “hunger, thirst, poverty, pain, sorrow, injustice, death” and the reader reaches profound desires – flying or conversing with the beasts and understanding their speech. The greatest escape of the fairy stories is the escape from the Death – a search for the immortality (Tolkien 667). Ahmet Mesut Ateş, KTU Department of English Language and Literature, Turkey
  24. 24. Fantasy Literature: Theories of Fantastic J.R.R. Tolkien’s Theories of Fantasy Elements of Fantasy Consolation: a sudden and unpredictable turn of events. It is the joyous turn of events at the end of the tale. All fairy stories should have consolation. It can give to child or man that hears it, when the "turn" comes, a catch of the breath, a beat and lifting of the heart, near to (or indeed accompanied by) tears, as keen as that given by any form of literary art, and having a peculiar quality. (Tolkien 68-9) If tragedy is the true form of the drama, the true form or the highest form of the fairy story is Eucatastrophe. Ahmet Mesut Ateş, KTU Department of English Language and Literature, Turkey
  25. 25. Fantasy Literature: Theories of Fantastic Tzvetan Todorov’s Theory of Fantastic The literature of fantastic leaves us with two notions – reality and literature – each one as unsatisfactory as the other. Tzvetan Todorov, The Fantastic Ahmet Mesut Ateş, KTU Department of English Language and Literature, Turkey
  26. 26. Fantasy Literature: Theories of Fantastic Tzvetan Todorov’s Theory of Fantastic Fantastic Theory of Literature The Fantastic is mostly concerned with the interrelationship between the elements of the fantasy rather than the genre itself. Todorov excludes drama from the discussion. He defines fantastic as: those works in which events occur that cannot be explained by rational laws, and in which the reader hesitates to the very end as to whether these events have rational explanations or are the product of rational forces operating in everyday reality. (Reeder 187) According to Todorov: psychoanalysis has replaced the literature of the fantastic, for it deals with the same themes in undisguised term. (Reeder 188) Ahmet Mesut Ateş, KTU Department of English Language and Literature, Turkey
  27. 27. Fantasy Literature: Theories of Fantastic Tzvetan Todorov’s Theory of Fantastic Fantastic Theory of Literature Todorov and Tolkien agree on the idea of a “secondary world.” However Todorov differentiates in two aspects: Tolkien perceives secondary belief as an essential for the fantasy but Todorov claims that “fantasy lies in the indecision between the uncanny and the marvellous, (...) it requires "near belief," which is either belief nor disbelief” (Aichele 326). Tolkien rejects the concept of “truth” in the fantasy literature while Todorov states “the fantastic remains bound to the metaphysical binarism of real and unreal, and thus he keeps one foot on modernist ground” (Aichele 326). Ahmet Mesut Ateş, KTU Department of English Language and Literature, Turkey
  28. 28. Fantasy Literature: Theories of Fantastic Tzvetan Todorov’s Theory of Fantastic Classification of Fantasy Todorov observes fantastic in two categories: • The Marvellous • The Uncanny The Marvellous: reader is aware that there are no rational explanations to the events taking place in the work. Todorov include fairy tales and science fiction to this category. The Uncanny: bizarre and weird occurrences, but a natural explanation such as dream, intoxication or madness can be given. Gogol’s Diary of a Madman and Dostoevskij's The Double fall into this category because the explanation is madness Ahmet Mesut Ateş, KTU Department of English Language and Literature, Turkey
  29. 29. Fantasy Literature: Theories of Fantastic Tzvetan Todorov’s Theory of Fantastic Classification of Fantasy • • • • Pure Marvellous Fantastic Marvellous Pure Uncanny Fantastic Uncanny Pure Marvelolus: Events are supernatural, superhuman and magical. There is no rational explanation. Fantastic Marvellous: Supernatural event are eventually to be accepted as supernatural. Fear is turned to wonder. Pure Uncanny: Events are strange, horrific or incredible because of the deceiving mind of the pratogonist, but not supernatural. Fantastic Uncanny: Supernatural events are eventually given a natural explanation. Reader’s hesitation is resolved that there really is no explanation. Ahmet Mesut Ateş, KTU Department of English Language and Literature, Turkey
  30. 30. Fantasy Literature: Theories of Fantastic Tzvetan Todorov’s Theory of Fantastic Elements of Fantasy Todorov postulates three requirements for Pure fantastic: 1) The work should sustain the reader’s hesitation between natural and supernatural to the end. 2) The characters should share the hesitation and enable the reader to identify himself with the character 3) The reader should be aware that the work is a fantastic one and should not attempt to read it as an allegory. Todorov suggests the first and the third rule constitute the genre but the second rule, as well, is mostly fulfilled. Both the second and the third rule depend on the first rule: reader’s hesitation. Ahmet Mesut Ateş, KTU Department of English Language and Literature, Turkey
  31. 31. To conclude, Tolkien’s idea that in human art Fantasy is a thing best left to true literature is of consideration. This study therefore will apply Tolkien and Todorov’s terminologies to Tolkien’s the Hobbit and reveal the significance of fantasy in literature. Ahmet Mesut Ateş, KTU Department of English Language and Literature, Turkey
  32. 32. Fantasy Literature: Theories of Fantastic Works Cited Aichele, G. "Literary Fantasy And Postmodern Theology." Journal Of The American Academy Of Religion 59.2 (1991): 323-337. Scopus®. Web. 27 Dec. 2013. Brooke-Rose, Christine. "Historical Genres/Theoretical Genres: A Discussion Of Todorov On The Fantastic." New Literary History 1 (1976): 145. JSTOR Arts & Sciences III. Web. 27 Dec. 2013. Jackson, Rosemary. Fantasy: the literature of subversion. Routledge, 2002.PDF. Lem, Stainslaw. "Todorov's Fantastic Theory Of Literature." Science Fiction Studies 1.4 (1974): 227-237. Literary Reference Center Plus. Web. 27 Dec. 2013. Perkins, J. "Finding Todorov In Russian Literary Criticism: The Struggle To Define The Fantastic." Forum For Modern Language Studies 44.4 (2008): 363-378. British Library Document Supply Centre Inside Serials & Conference Proceedings. Web. 27 Dec. 2013. Reeder , Roberta . “The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genreby Tzvetan Todorov; Richard Howard.” The Slavic and East European Journal, Vol. 20, No. 2 (Summer, 1976), pp. 186-189.Jstor.Web. 27 Dec. 2013. Ahmet Mesut Ateş, KTU Department of English Language and Literature, Turkey
  33. 33. Fantasy Literature: Theories of Fantastic Works Cited Ross, Smith. "Tolkien The Storyteller." English Today 22.1 (2006): 45-50. Education Research Complete. Web. 27 Dec. 2013. Stableford, Brian. The A to Z of fantasy literature. Vol. 46. Scarecrow Press, 2009.PDF. Todorov, Tzvetan, and John Lyons. "What Is Literature For?." New Literary History 1 (2007): 13. JSTOR Arts & Sciences III. Web. 27 Dec. 2013. Todorov, Tzvetan. The fantastic: A structural approach to a literary genre. Cornell University Press, 1975.PDF. Tolkien, John Ronald Reuel. "On fairy-stories." Tree and leaf (1964): 11-70.PDF. Wood, Ralph C. "Following The Many Roads Of Recent Tolkien Scholarship." Christianity & Literature 54.4 (2005): 587-608. Religion and Philosophy Collection. Web. 27 Dec. 2013. Yaggi, Miranda Maney. "Harry Potter's Heritage: Tolkien As Rowling's Patronus Against The Critics." Topic: The Washington & Jefferson College Review 54.(2004): 33-45. Humanities International Complete. Web. 27 Dec. 2013. Ahmet Mesut Ateş, KTU Department of English Language and Literature, Turkey
  34. 34. Fantasy Literature: Theories of Fantastic Works Cited Web Sources “History_of_Fantasy” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopaedia. 29 October 2006. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 22 Nov. 2013. http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=History_of_fantasy&oldid=131554146 Luminarium: Anthology of English Literature. November 13, 2001. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Created by Anniina Jokinen on. November 22, 2013. http://luminarium.org/medlit/gawain.htm Okyay, Sevin. J.R.R. Tolkien’in Fantastik Dünyası. Virgül Aylık Kitap ve Eleştiri Dergisi. 12-13 Aralık 1997. http://www.virguldergisi.com Ahmet Mesut Ateş, KTU Department of English Language and Literature, Turkey

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