• Hobgoblins of Fantasy: American Fantasy Fiction in Theory

    James Gifford (see profile) , Orion Ussner Kidder
    American Literature, CLCS 20th- and 21st-Century, Cultural Studies, GS Speculative Fiction, Theory and Modernism
    Fantasy, Critical theory, American literature, Culture--Study and teaching, Popular culture
    Item Type:
    Fantasy fiction, fantastic, Cultural studies, Theory
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    "A frightful hobgoblin stalks through Europe. We are haunted by a ghost, the ghost of Communism." This epigraph comes from the 1850 translation of The Communist Manifesto by Helen Macfarlane, and this special feature in The New Americanist assumes that a similarly frightful hobgoblin stalks through genre fiction, too. Fantasy as a genre is haunted by that same ghost: the ghost of critical cultural theory, the ghost of the literary criticism borne of Marx and Engels's work. The fantastic, the hobgoblin, and fantasy literature as we know it were "always already" present in the early articulations of critical theory. Fantasy, though, does not merely echo. It presents unique challenges to critical theory, both to readers and to literary critics, not least because of its seeming opposition to realism, materialism, and history itself. What then are readers to do? Must the hobgoblin be exorcised, or do we find a medium through which to communicate with it? The hobgoblin stalks, not strides, and by remaining hidden and hunting, it protects itself behind a veil of ideology and cultural hegemony. The invisible hand of the interests of a ruling class remain hidden and invisible as normative values, all the more powerful for being unseen, but so too are many of our theoretical assumptions for how to read fantasy as genre. These questions and concerns fueled this special feature in The New Americanist. The answers in seven articles and a critical Introduction are varied and point to as many traditions in theory as they do traditions in fantasy.
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    4 years ago
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