China Mieville and Mark Bould, Eds. "Symposium: Marxism and Fantasy." Historical Materialism: Research in Critical Marxist Theory

By Fitting, Peter | Utopian Studies, Spring 2003 | Go to article overview

China Mieville and Mark Bould, Eds. "Symposium: Marxism and Fantasy." Historical Materialism: Research in Critical Marxist Theory


Fitting, Peter, Utopian Studies


10.4 (2002): 39-316. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers. Single issue $17.50.

THE BRITISH JOURNAL Historical Materialism "sees its primary goal as the 'revitalisation and extension' of the theoretical scope of classical Marxism ..." As part of that project, two of the editors--Mark Bould and the British SF/fantasy writer China Mieville (author of the award winning novel Perdido Street Station [2000])--have put together a symposium on "Marxism and Fantasy." The Symposium is an important reopening of the question of fantasy's dishonored status. In so doing, they challenge Darko Suvin's influential dismissal of fantasy as mystification when juxtaposed to the "cognitive estrangement" of science fiction. Reversing Suvin's priorities, Mieville argues that instead, "sf must be considered a subset of a broader fantastic mode" (43).

This overdue reconsideration of fantasy literature is now underway. As Istvan Csicsery-Ronay Jr. points out in his review of the Symposium, the editors of Science Fiction Studies recently dropped the barring of discussions of fantasy, changing the Statement of Purpose of the journal from: SFS publishes articles on "all forms of science fiction, including utopian fiction, but not, except for purposes of comparison and contrast, mythological or supernatural fantasy," to what Csicsery-Ronay (an editor of SFS) admits is a "more weasley" position: the editors now solicit articles and reviews "on science fiction broadly defined" (my italics, 289). In any case, as Csicsery-Ronay points out, it has become harder and harder to maintain the earlier distinctions between fantasy and SF. In the Symposium, for instance, Carl Freedman reluctantly (and briefly) reconsiders his own "dismissal" of fantasy (in his Critical Theory and Science Fiction [2000]), in light of the importance of works like the Neveryon series of Samuel Delany. (1)

In this sense, the decisive part of this Symposium lies in China Mieville's "Editorial Introduction" and in Mark Bould's "The Dreadful Credibility of Absurd Things: A Tendency in Fantasy Theory," in which the two editors lay out the rudiments of a new Marxist theory of fantasy, one which reverses the long-standing critical prejudice against it. Bould begins his essay with the observation that although there has been an outpouring of fantastic literature and film, and of studies of the fantastic, over the past thirty years, Marxist considerations of the fantastic have tended to follow (and to be limited to) Suvin's dismissal of fantasy as a "subliterature of mystification." Bould's essay, and the Symposium more generally, are attempts to redress this imbalance. He begins by reviewing the study and criticism of the fantastic since the appearance of Tzvetan Todorov's authoritative structuralist analysis, The Fantastic, in 1975. Bould carefully critiques and lays out the by-now familiar inadequacies of Todorov's theory, before going on to the definitions of Rosemary Jackson (Fantasy: The Literature of Subversion, 1981), and Jose Monleon (A Specter is Haunting Europe: A Sociohistorical Approach to the Fantastic, 1990).

But the real meat in Bould's essay is his own attempt to "jerry rig" a theory of the fantastic which could rectify the errors and absences of these earlier theories, by focusing on a theory of the subject. Using Althusser's concept of interpellation and Freud's description of paranoia, Bould suggests that a theory of the fantastic might be constructed in these terms:

   [P]aranoia can be used to describe the force which holds the
   fuzzily-determined subject together, the shuttling between
   the vast array of subject positions on offer, which must in
   some way be reconciled with each other if the subject is ever
   to feel unified or whole. This is the role of fantasizing.
   This is how we construct ontologies.

      Fantasy fiction, in both its broad and narrow senses, draws
   upon this force, this continual location and dislocation. … 

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

China Mieville and Mark Bould, Eds. "Symposium: Marxism and Fantasy." Historical Materialism: Research in Critical Marxist Theory
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.