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Fantasy and Mimesis: Responses to Reality in Western Literature

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Since Plato and Aristotle's declaration of the essence of literature as imitation, western narrative has been traditionally discussed in mimetic terms. Thus marginalized, fantasy - the deliberate departure from reality - has become the hidden face of fiction, identified by most critics as a minor genre. This book rejects generic definitions of fantasy, arguing that it is n Since Plato and Aristotle's declaration of the essence of literature as imitation, western narrative has been traditionally discussed in mimetic terms. Thus marginalized, fantasy - the deliberate departure from reality - has become the hidden face of fiction, identified by most critics as a minor genre. This book rejects generic definitions of fantasy, arguing that it is not a separate or even seperable strain in literary practice, but rather an impulse as significant as that of mimesis. Together, fantasy and mimesis are the twin impulses behind literary creation. In an analysis which ranges from the Icelandic sagas to science fiction, from Malory to pulp romance, from the Odyssey to the nouveau roman, Kathryn Hume systematically examines the various ways in which fantasy and mimesis contribute to literary representations of reality: offering forms of escape in adventure stories, pastoral, face and pornography; complementing each other in expressive presentations of "new" realities; pressuring readers to accept a didactic author's interpretation of reality; or battering the reader into agreeing that his or her interpretation is unprovable and that reality may indeed be unknowable. Only by acknowledging fantasy as a legitimate response to reality, and to our demand that reality be meaningful, can we appreciate its role in literature's power to give readers a sense of meaning and its centrality to the creative imagination.


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Since Plato and Aristotle's declaration of the essence of literature as imitation, western narrative has been traditionally discussed in mimetic terms. Thus marginalized, fantasy - the deliberate departure from reality - has become the hidden face of fiction, identified by most critics as a minor genre. This book rejects generic definitions of fantasy, arguing that it is n Since Plato and Aristotle's declaration of the essence of literature as imitation, western narrative has been traditionally discussed in mimetic terms. Thus marginalized, fantasy - the deliberate departure from reality - has become the hidden face of fiction, identified by most critics as a minor genre. This book rejects generic definitions of fantasy, arguing that it is not a separate or even seperable strain in literary practice, but rather an impulse as significant as that of mimesis. Together, fantasy and mimesis are the twin impulses behind literary creation. In an analysis which ranges from the Icelandic sagas to science fiction, from Malory to pulp romance, from the Odyssey to the nouveau roman, Kathryn Hume systematically examines the various ways in which fantasy and mimesis contribute to literary representations of reality: offering forms of escape in adventure stories, pastoral, face and pornography; complementing each other in expressive presentations of "new" realities; pressuring readers to accept a didactic author's interpretation of reality; or battering the reader into agreeing that his or her interpretation is unprovable and that reality may indeed be unknowable. Only by acknowledging fantasy as a legitimate response to reality, and to our demand that reality be meaningful, can we appreciate its role in literature's power to give readers a sense of meaning and its centrality to the creative imagination.

30 review for Fantasy and Mimesis: Responses to Reality in Western Literature

  1. 5 out of 5

    Theodora Goss

    This book has been absolutely foundational to my understanding of fantasy. I return to it again and again, as a scholar and writer . . .

  2. 4 out of 5

    Naia Pard

    It had better be good as I had spent quite a sum. And, it was good. I don`t know if it was that good, to worth its money, but at least, reasonably good to not regret them (yet). A quote, because I am being lazy: "Some of the standard assumptions about what literature is or does (aside from entertain) include the following. Literature has been seen primarily as imitation (the classical and neoclassical tradition). In a broad sense, this assumption extends to all the following approaches to litera It had better be good as I had spent quite a sum. And, it was good. I don`t know if it was that good, to worth its money, but at least, reasonably good to not regret them (yet). A quote, because I am being lazy: "Some of the standard assumptions about what literature is or does (aside from entertain) include the following. Literature has been seen primarily as imitation (the classical and neoclassical tradition). In a broad sense, this assumption extends to all the following approaches to literature. They all assume that literature refers to reality, whatever else it does. The role of literature has also been identified as expression (anthropological and psychological approaches, romantic lyricism); as manipulation of the audience through its affective power and rhetoric (Tolstoy, Sir Philip Sidney); as communication (Max Eastman, many didactic writers); as creation (Robert Scholes, Austin Warren); as expression of the author’s mind which only becomes meaningful by an act of mind by the audience (Poulet); as a dialogue between author and his predecessors (Bloom); and as an exercise of the teleological faculty by both author and audience (Albert Levi)." It was better than the most. Or, at least a good start for something (presumably, a degree on fantasy). Instagram\\my Blog\\

  3. 4 out of 5

    Eirin

    An excellent book of literature theory. Hume offers several compelling arguments for her stance of literature as the product of both mimesis and fantasy, in an relationship that is not easily broken. Though she sometimes only scratches the surface of some areas, the book as a whole is a brilliant starting point for the study of fantasy. Part I, about the basis for her book (a new approach to fantasy and mimesis) is all round brilliant. Part II is interesting in that it offers new categories to cl An excellent book of literature theory. Hume offers several compelling arguments for her stance of literature as the product of both mimesis and fantasy, in an relationship that is not easily broken. Though she sometimes only scratches the surface of some areas, the book as a whole is a brilliant starting point for the study of fantasy. Part I, about the basis for her book (a new approach to fantasy and mimesis) is all round brilliant. Part II is interesting in that it offers new categories to classify fiction by, and offers interesting readings of several quite diverse works of fiction, both mimetic and fantastic. Part III was in m opinion the poorest part, in that it felt somewhat outdated. Especially chapter 8 suffered (imo) under the heavy psychoanalytical approach Hume took to meaning and its implications and powers in literature. None the less, it was a brilliant read, for all the thoughts and arguments it produced - as all could theory should do.

  4. 4 out of 5

    James

    An interesting read on the classification of fantasy and creating a vocabulary to analyze it. Hume's approach is very structural, borrowing from some of the prominent literary critics such as Todorov and Frye. Sometimes it tries to be more formulaic, but the effort to get fantasy our of its ghetto and bring it back to where it belongs deserves attention. Some notes from the book: Whereas Todorov emphasizes hesitation, Tolkien joy, and Irwin game, Jackson stresses fantasy as subversion and as a me An interesting read on the classification of fantasy and creating a vocabulary to analyze it. Hume's approach is very structural, borrowing from some of the prominent literary critics such as Todorov and Frye. Sometimes it tries to be more formulaic, but the effort to get fantasy our of its ghetto and bring it back to where it belongs deserves attention. Some notes from the book: Whereas Todorov emphasizes hesitation, Tolkien joy, and Irwin game, Jackson stresses fantasy as subversion and as a means for dealing with that which has been repressed and hence is inexpressible: The fantastic is predicated on the category of the 'real, and it introduces areas which can be conceptualized only by negative terms according to the categories of nineteenth-century realism: thus, the im-possible, the un-real, the nameless, formless, shapeless, unknown, invisible. What could be termed a 'bourgeois category of the real is under attack It is this negative relationality which constitutes the meaning of the modern fantastic. She argues that there are two types of literature: One is mimesis, the urge to reflect the reality as is, and the other is fantasy, the urge to change the reality. Fantasy had always been a significant part of literature until the realist fiction pushed it to the fringes. Now it’s starting reclaim its rightful place as another “human activity” as Tolkien put it. Her definition is similar to that of W. R. Irwin: “Fantasy is any departure from consensus reality, an impulse native to literature and manifested in innumerable variations, from monster to metaphor. It includes transgressions of what one generally takes to be physical facts such as human immortality, travel faster than light, telekinesis and the like.

  5. 4 out of 5

    TK Wong

    "What is the purpose of reading fictions? Is it nothing but an escape, especially when one reads fantasy?" I have this doubt ever since I started being heavily addicted to reading. Thanks to Hume, I finally need not feel guilty when I indulge myself in books. There are two points to take away from Hume's analysis, which are helpful to readers who are in doubt like me: firstly, don't get trapped in the system of meaning-structures--there need not be meaning or purpose in everything, as brilliantl "What is the purpose of reading fictions? Is it nothing but an escape, especially when one reads fantasy?" I have this doubt ever since I started being heavily addicted to reading. Thanks to Hume, I finally need not feel guilty when I indulge myself in books. There are two points to take away from Hume's analysis, which are helpful to readers who are in doubt like me: firstly, don't get trapped in the system of meaning-structures--there need not be meaning or purpose in everything, as brilliantly illustrated in the form of a poem by Vonnegut in his novel Cat's Cradle which Hume cited, "'Man as teleological animal' Tiger got to hunt, Bird got to fly; Man got to sit and wonder, “Why, why, why?” Tiger got to sleep, Bird got to land; Man got to tell himself he understand. —Cat’s Cradle p.124" and, secondly, bear in mind that there is no universal truth or the real, thus, fantasy is not necessarily unreal but one interpretation of the world. There is no need to feel detached from reality when one reads fantasy as fantasy of disillusion, as analysed by Hume in chapter 6, can sometimes even reveal the defects in the conventional truth.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Beth Thommesen

  7. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  8. 5 out of 5

    Patrícia Marques

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lt

  10. 4 out of 5

    Erin

  11. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

  12. 4 out of 5

    Paul Williams

  13. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Ray

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ashglass

  15. 5 out of 5

    Paula

  16. 4 out of 5

    Francisca

  17. 5 out of 5

    Anette

  18. 5 out of 5

    ana

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lindsay Middleton

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kate

  21. 4 out of 5

    Emelinemimie

  22. 5 out of 5

    Leah Phillips

  23. 4 out of 5

    Shauni

  24. 4 out of 5

    Amy Martin

  25. 5 out of 5

    James

  26. 5 out of 5

    Maria

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jim

  28. 5 out of 5

    Marita Arvaniti

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lida

  30. 5 out of 5

    Chris

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