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Fantasy: The Literature of Subversion

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This study argues against vague interpretations of fantasy as mere escapism and seeks to define it as a distinct kind of narrative. A general theoretical section introduces recent work on fantasy, notably Tzventan Todorov's The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre (1973). Dr Jackson, however, extends Todorov's ideas to include aspects of psychoanalytical th This study argues against vague interpretations of fantasy as mere escapism and seeks to define it as a distinct kind of narrative. A general theoretical section introduces recent work on fantasy, notably Tzventan Todorov's The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre (1973). Dr Jackson, however, extends Todorov's ideas to include aspects of psychoanalytical theory. Seeing fantasy as primarily an expression of unconscious drives, she stresses the importance of the writings of Freud and subsequent theorists when analysing recurrent themes, such as doubling or multiplying selves, mirror images, metamorphosis and bodily disintegration.^l Gothic fiction, classic Victorian fantasies, the 'fantastic realism' of Dickens and Dostoevsky, tales by Mary Shelley, James Hogg, E.T.A. Hoffmann, George Eliot, Henry James, Joseph Conrad, R.L. Stevenson, Franz Kafka, Mervyn Peake and Thomas Pynchon are among the texts covered. Through a reading of thse frequently disquieting works, Dr Jackson moves towards a definition of fantasy expressing cultural unease. These issues are discussed in relation to a wide range of fantasies with varying images of desire and disenchantment.


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This study argues against vague interpretations of fantasy as mere escapism and seeks to define it as a distinct kind of narrative. A general theoretical section introduces recent work on fantasy, notably Tzventan Todorov's The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre (1973). Dr Jackson, however, extends Todorov's ideas to include aspects of psychoanalytical th This study argues against vague interpretations of fantasy as mere escapism and seeks to define it as a distinct kind of narrative. A general theoretical section introduces recent work on fantasy, notably Tzventan Todorov's The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre (1973). Dr Jackson, however, extends Todorov's ideas to include aspects of psychoanalytical theory. Seeing fantasy as primarily an expression of unconscious drives, she stresses the importance of the writings of Freud and subsequent theorists when analysing recurrent themes, such as doubling or multiplying selves, mirror images, metamorphosis and bodily disintegration.^l Gothic fiction, classic Victorian fantasies, the 'fantastic realism' of Dickens and Dostoevsky, tales by Mary Shelley, James Hogg, E.T.A. Hoffmann, George Eliot, Henry James, Joseph Conrad, R.L. Stevenson, Franz Kafka, Mervyn Peake and Thomas Pynchon are among the texts covered. Through a reading of thse frequently disquieting works, Dr Jackson moves towards a definition of fantasy expressing cultural unease. These issues are discussed in relation to a wide range of fantasies with varying images of desire and disenchantment.

30 review for Fantasy: The Literature of Subversion

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nathaniel

    first of all, psychoanalysis is fake; the best parts were the times where she veered into Marxism. second of all, like 90% of what she says about the subversive potential of “literary fantasy” (read: things academics like but not, for the most part, anything anyone who reads, you know, actual fantasy would recognize as such) would apply to the texts she dismisses as “faery” or “the marvellous” — the way she talks about Le Guin, in particular, really makes it seem like she’s...never actually read first of all, psychoanalysis is fake; the best parts were the times where she veered into Marxism. second of all, like 90% of what she says about the subversive potential of “literary fantasy” (read: things academics like but not, for the most part, anything anyone who reads, you know, actual fantasy would recognize as such) would apply to the texts she dismisses as “faery” or “the marvellous” — the way she talks about Le Guin, in particular, really makes it seem like she’s...never actually read Le Guin. she certainly doesn’t seem to have grasped any of Le Guin’s theoretical and political commitments. the whole book is just an exercise in making academics feel like they’re being politically good and transgressive for continuing to talk about a slight variation on the same corpus they’ve always been interested in, rather than (gasp), any popular literature. like to an extent I think it’s an indication that the fields of science fiction (which is apparently just a branch of “the marvellous”) and fantasy have changed since 1981, but there’s older stuff that I absolutely don’t think is as ideologically bankrupt/regressive/bourgeois as Jackson suggests. also n.b. if you’re considering reading this, only the first half is theory; the second half is exclusively (not terribly close) readings of primarily nineteenth-century “literary fantasy”. there are some okay moments, but overall this is a mess.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    Everyone with an interest in literary theory and the fantasy genre should read this book. It just brings everything together with analysis of texts ranging from the earliest forays into the genre with the gothic authors of the late 18th century, up until the then present of the 1980s. It codifies how fantasy authors have long used the fantastical to express dissenting opinions and give vent to passions considered immoral by the societies they lived in. While it would take years of reading to und Everyone with an interest in literary theory and the fantasy genre should read this book. It just brings everything together with analysis of texts ranging from the earliest forays into the genre with the gothic authors of the late 18th century, up until the then present of the 1980s. It codifies how fantasy authors have long used the fantastical to express dissenting opinions and give vent to passions considered immoral by the societies they lived in. While it would take years of reading to understand everything referenced in the text, it would be wise to have at least a passing familiarity with Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe, Franz Kafka, William Godwin, Fyodor Dostoevsky, H.P. Lovecraft, Mary Shelley, Oscar Wilde, R. L. Stevenson, Lewis Carrol, Charles Dickens, and Thomas Pynchon before attempting this book. I am sure it could be read without knowledge of these authors, but the more familiar you are with them, the better time you'll have.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mariana

    Fantástico (valga la redundancia).

  4. 4 out of 5

    Robert Wood

    Rosemary Jackson's Fantasy: The Literature of Subversion is a fairly interesting rejoinder to the structuralist approach taken by Todorov. Jackson argues that Todorov's approach both insufficiently engages with the historical horizon that produces fantastic literature as a mode rather than as a genre, and misses out on how psychoanalytical readings of the genre allow for an engagement with the material conditions of the production of fantastic texts. Through that argument, Jackson argues that fa Rosemary Jackson's Fantasy: The Literature of Subversion is a fairly interesting rejoinder to the structuralist approach taken by Todorov. Jackson argues that Todorov's approach both insufficiently engages with the historical horizon that produces fantastic literature as a mode rather than as a genre, and misses out on how psychoanalytical readings of the genre allow for an engagement with the material conditions of the production of fantastic texts. Through that argument, Jackson argues that fantastic literature becomes a way of engaging with the repressed within capitalist societies, and at best, becomes a literature of transgression, rejection the symbolic order of those societies. At the same time, she recognizes that many authors explore this space only to reestablish the former order of the society. Because of that, she celebrates the work that resists these closings of the narrative, and instead celebrates a thread within the fantastic that runs from Sade through the work of Kafka and Pynchon, rejecting the far more popular narratives of Tolkien and Leguin as conservative and nostalgic. A worthwhile read.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sofia

    This is not a bad book, in fact at times it's very interesting. But in my opinion it fails at clearly delivering its point. The line between uncanny and the fantastic that seemed so clear when explained by Tzvetan Todorov, becomes very confused in Jackson's take on the matter. After saying that they are different things, she keeps explaining the fantastic in words that are very reminiscent of Freuds essay on the uncanny, and it makes me think that Jackson herself isn't sure of the difference. Al This is not a bad book, in fact at times it's very interesting. But in my opinion it fails at clearly delivering its point. The line between uncanny and the fantastic that seemed so clear when explained by Tzvetan Todorov, becomes very confused in Jackson's take on the matter. After saying that they are different things, she keeps explaining the fantastic in words that are very reminiscent of Freuds essay on the uncanny, and it makes me think that Jackson herself isn't sure of the difference. Also, I'd like to point out that she lists a lot of themes and motives saying they are examples of themes and motives usually found in fantastic literature, but fails to note that those themes and motives are examples of gothicism (as portrayed by among others, Matthias Fyhr), even though she writes predominately about the gothic novels, or remnants thereof. No, there's a bit of logic missing, which is unfortunate, as the topic is very intriguing.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Haley

    It's necessary for my research, and there are some interesting ideas, but it's rather ponderous. I'm not a fan of her writing style (grammar errors and typos in my version... whoops), and I feel like her opaque prose is just a way of covering the fact that she's basically restating the same arguments over and over with slightly different examples. Also unhelpful is the fact that it's all intended as a response to Todorov, whom I haven't read yet. I should probably fix that.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Emily Cait

    The star rating for this is in terms of usefulness. A lot of scholarship on fantasy literature makes reference to this text, so it's good to have read this if you are thinking about fantasy literature. However, I wouldn't say that I "really liked it" (which is what Goodreads says a 4/5 star rating means) It was informative and important with what I am studying, but it's not something I would read for shits and gigs. This wasn't a "pleasurable" read (for me anyway :P).

  8. 4 out of 5

    Selene

    Quite disappointed with this, basically because its title points towards a premise that is not fulfilled. When the author refers to "Fantasy", she's actually referring just to one type of fantasy-- the fantastical. And though she tries to defend it as subversive, she critics the marvellous and rejects it.

  9. 5 out of 5

    sologdin

    thoughtful tracking through roots of speculative literature, with special attention to the gothic. useful deployment of todorov and other theorists of the uncanny. coverage does not extend to most well known mass serialized settings, though there is consideration of tolkien.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bronte

    Very intriguing read.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Noora

    Hyvin samantyylinen kuin Todorovin kirja, käsittelee samoja asioita lähes samalla tyylillä. Ei kovin mielenkiintoinen tai relevantti oman tutkimuksen kannalta.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tyas

    I learnt a lot about what we call fantasy from this book. A bit confusing at times, but worth the reading.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Fiat Knox

    A groundbreaking essay on the nature of fantasy literature and its potential impact upon the societal narrative: something sorely needed in these modern times.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Michala Escherich

    Meget større fokus på fantastisk litteratur end på fantasy, men hun har nogle meget fine pointer hist og her, som man godt kan trække med over.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lesley Mckenna

    Useful addition to the theory of fantasy literature.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tina Romanelli

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Jackson refuses to participate in any paradigmatic shifts in her writing. She sees only what she wants to see in the fantasy genre.

  17. 4 out of 5

    PenneyDreadful

    Sure to be of interest to deep readers of fantastical literature.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rowan

    Useful for defining the difference between fairytale and supernatural but the style was irritatingly dated.

  19. 4 out of 5

    E

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ellie

  21. 5 out of 5

    Paula

  22. 4 out of 5

    Brittany

  23. 5 out of 5

    Amy Martin

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sseonana

  25. 5 out of 5

    Christy

  26. 5 out of 5

    patrizia

  27. 5 out of 5

    Micol Mian

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jackie

  29. 4 out of 5

    TheAfictionado

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sarz

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