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Rhetorics of Fantasy Paperback – April 30, 2008
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“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.” (M. John Harrison, winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award)
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So, this book is trying to find common ground among the various paths of fantasy so we can at least discuss the various types with some agreed upon framework. Mendleson divides fantasy up into four primary categories:
Portal-Quest Fantasy: These are two strains (well represented by Narnia and Middle Earth) that are almost parallel in how they are told, the protagonist(s) ventures into another/wider world, learning about it and ultimately setting things right. These are stories of correction, often crouched in terms of healing or restoring things to how they once were. It is an interesting section as I never thought about certain aspects of the structure of the Quest fantasy, such as how history must be uncovered and it always true . . . as is prophecy. Characters in the portal-quest fantasy often accept their role reluctantly but they accept that the role is both true and necessary.
Immersive Fantasy: Immersive fantasy is rather odd category, as it is an umbrella for the worlds in which other stories are told, such as mysteries in a fantasy world (Randall Garret's Lord Darcy series) or romances (many, but not my sub-genre) or war stories (Glen Cook's Black Company). Immersive fantasy can even hold other types of fantasy stories within them (such as the intrusion fantasy within China Mieville's Perdito Street Station). The key to immersive fantasies is how they present the world we find ourselves viewing as the only world, the techniques to do so are discussed by Mendleson and where they can fail.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Informative analysis of fantasy tropes and types of fantastic fiction.Published 4 months ago by Jerold C
Not for learning. Too many quotes. Too confusing. Didn't help me learn Fantasy writingPublished 5 months ago by Lana D
A necessary tool for anyone who's interested in producing Fantasy fiction of their own.Published 11 months ago by Brenda Thatcher