Fantastic Literature: A Critical Reader

Fantastic Literature: A Critical Reader

Fantastic Literature: A Critical Reader

Fantastic Literature: A Critical Reader


Unprecedented in range and scope, this volume serves as a record of and reference for the development of fantasy literature. Working to be inclusive, rather than exclusive, opening a dialogue wherever possible, Sandner presents the full range of debates concerning the fantastic and its relationship to the sublime, the Gothic, children's literature, romance and comedy, and the purposes of imaginative literature. Introductions to each essay, presented in full or excerpted for the most relevant commentary, situate the reader in the history of fantasy literature and the criticism it has inspired.


Is the fantastic primarily a literature of fragmentation, a subversive literature that reveals our desires in a fun-house mirror, opening an abyss of meaning, questioning the limits of self and society? Or is the fantastic primarily a literature of belatedness, unmoored from reality, innocent, the repository of exploded supernatural beliefs, expressing a yearning for a lost wholeness, promising transcendence?

The answer is yes.

Fantastic literature, to repeat the turn of phrase deployed in the present collection by both John Clute, quoting Brian Wicker, and China Miéville, is “good to think with.” But what we think the fantastic turns back on us, requires from us, one might say, demands from us. The fantastic opens spaces for interpretation. And it is the tension between its potential fullness and its surprising emptiness that propels its “sense of wonder, ” to use Samuel Taylor Coleridge's famous phrase.

Consider two of the most famous sentences in the history of fantastic literature: “For the Snark was a Boojum, you see” and “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” The former is the final line of Lewis Carroll's comic masterpiece of nonsense poetry, The Hunting of the Snark (1876), the latter the opening line of J. R. R. Tolkien's classic children's novel, The

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