Rhetorics of Fantasy

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Overview

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

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What People Are Saying

Brian Attebery
“Mendlesohn goes well beyond a survey to offer new and often surprising readings of works both familiar and obscure. A fine critical work that offers fresh insights on almost every page.”
M. John Harrison
“A useful and deliberately flexible taxonomy, and an intense engagement with the arms race of rhetoric between makers and users of fantasy. For authors and readers as well as academics and commentators.”
Brian Attebery
"Mendlesohn goes well beyond a survey to offer new and often surprising readings of works both familiar and obscure. A fine critical work that offers fresh insights on almost every page."
Brian Attebery, editor, Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780819568687
  • Publisher: Wesleyan University Press
  • Publication date: 4/30/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 409,743
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

FARAH MENDLESOHN teaches at Middlesex University, London. She was editor of Foundation: The International Review of Science Fiction for six years, and is the author of Diana Wynne Jones and the Children's Fantastical Tradition (2005) and co-editor of The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction (2006), winner of a Hugo Award. She is the program director for the World Science Fiction Convention in Montreal in 2009.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements
Introduction
Chapter One: The Portal-Quest Fantasy
Chapter Two: The Immersive Fantasy
Chapter Three: The Intrusion Fantasy
Chapter Four: The Liminal Fantasy
Chapter Five: “The Irregulars”: Subverting the Taxonomy

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  • Posted January 22, 2009

    techniques of different types of fantasy literature

    Mendlesohn has read widely in the field of fantasy literature 'for an understanding of the construction [word in italics in original] of the genre...in order to provide critic tools for further analysis.' Teaching at London's Middlesex U., she is coauthor of The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction and other works. Believing 'that the fantastic is an area of literature that is heavily dependent on the dialectic between author and reader for the construction of a sense of wonder,' the author sought to gain an understanding of how this sense of wonder which is the literature's main appeal for its readers is aroused. Mendlesohn identified four basic 'constructions'--the portal-quest fantasy, the immersive fantasy, and intrusion fantasy, and the liminal fantasy. Each is somewhat self-explanatory from the author's name for it. Each creates a respective sense of wonder by its author's skilled, experienced employment of techniques proper to it. Liminal fantasy is 'that form of fantasy which estranges the reader from the fantastic as seen and described by the protagonist.' Joan Aiken's story 'Yes, But Today Is Tuesday' is analyzed as a prime example of the liminal fantasy. C. S. Lewis's 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe' represents the portal-quest fantasy. 'The Lord of the Rings' is a classic quest fantasy. With each type of fantasy, Mendlesohn uses both familiar and obscure, often older works to impart her multipart perspective on the field. As the author recognizes, fantasy works often have aspects of other types besides the type they fundamentally belong to. 'Lord of the Rings,' for instance, has aspects of immersive fantasy this is found mostly in the scenes of the Shire. Though readers and critics may debate which type some fantasy works belong to, consideration of Mendlesohn's four major types--or categories--offer increased understanding of the field for critics, singular instruction for writers, and greater appreciation for the field's legions of readers.

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