A Historical Survey of the Fantastic in British Literature (2012-13)

Course title: A Historical Survey of the Fantastic in British Literature
: Asst. Prof. Iva Polak
ECTS credits: 6
Status: elective
Semester: 7th and 9th  semester
Enrollment requirements: enrollment in the 7th and/or 9th semester
Course description: The course offers a historical survey of fantasy in British literature and includes discussion on the most seminal theoretical works on fantasy and the fantastic. Texts belonging to the earlier periods will be discussed in the framework of fantasy as a specific historical mode o whereas texts appearing alongside the rise of the novel, i.e. from Romanticism onwards, will be analyzed against the theory of the fantastic as a prose genre. Some literary works are analyzed alongside their cinematic adaptations. Treatment of fantasy and the fantastic will raise issues such as mimesis, rhetoric of the real and unreal, reasons for early appearance of fantasy in literature  and its parallel existence with works written into literary realism.  Analysis of selected text will be based on the introduction of terminology relevant for this field, such as fantasy, fantastic, the fantastic and its neighbouring (sub)genres.
Objectives: Strengthening students’ awareness of the existence of fantasy from the very beginnings of English literature; detection of shifts in the meaning and importance of the fantastic in literature; a clearer understanding of the postulates of the fantastic.
Course requirements: The final grade is based on continuous assessment which includes regular attendance, preparation for and participation in class, writing small assignments, and timely submission of the final paper. The paper is worth 70% and other elements of continuous assessment are worth 30% of the final grade. Students must meet all requirements of continuous assessment.

Week by week schedule:
Mimesis and literary canon
Short film: A Trip to the Moon (Le voyage dans la lune), Georges Méliès (1902)
What is fantastic in fantasy. Genre theory (Todorov/Chanady/Brooke-Rose)
The problem of the fantastic in the Anglo-Saxon (OE) literature
Beowulf , c. 8th c. (excerpts) – historical context, implicit/encoded reader; heroic or fantastic epic
The problem of the fantastic in the Middle-English Period
Geoffrey Chaucer, ‘The Nun’s Priest’s Tale’ (The Canterbury Tales) c. 1380-1400 – historical context, fable, fantasy of the so-called “simple forms” (Einfache Formen)
Appropriation of fantasy in the Early Modern Period
William Shakespeare, The Tempest, 1610-1 – romance; construction of the supernatural; additional cinematic adaptations (fantasy, SF)
William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 1595 – application of Todorov and Chanady; N. Frye’s “Green World”
Appropriation of fantasy in the Neoclassical Period
Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels (1726) (excerpts) – 18th c. novel, Menippean satire, fantasy and allegory, location of the 4th journey; the problem of utopia (Plato, More)
Fantasy and the Victorian Period
Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland  (1865) – ‘amoral’ Victorian fantasy literature; construction of meaning (Jabberwocky); source of the supernatural
Constitution of SF as a genre
H. G. Wells, The Time Machine (1895) – ‘impure’ SF, novum (D. Suvin)
[Film: The Time Machine (1960), dir. George Pal]
Rise of SF in the UK and USA
Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 (1953)– dystopia, SF
[Film: Fahrenheit 451 (1966), dir. François Truffaut]
J.R.R. Tolkien – epic fantasy, high fantasy; Tolkien on fantasy
Tolkien cont.
Alasdair Gray, Lanark (1981) – fantasy and realism; metafiction, intertextuality, postmodernism
Alasdair Gray, Lanark (1981) – cont.

Reading list:
Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels, IV voyage
Lewis Carroll, Alice‘s Adventures in Wonderland
H. G. Wells, The Time Machine
Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
Alasdair Gray, Lanark
Note: Analysis of literary texts covering the period until the rise of the novel is based on selected excerpts.  It is presumed that English lit. graduate students read A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest by W. Shakespeare during their undergrad. studies.

– Sandner, David (ed). Fantastic Literature. A Critical Reader, Praeger, 2004. (selection)

– Todorov, Tzvetan. The Fantastic. A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre, Cornell UP,1975.
– Chanady, Amaryll Beatrice. Magical Realism and the Fantastic: Resolved Versus Unresolved Antinomy, Garland Publishing Inc, 1985.
– Brooke-Rose, Christine. A Rhetoric of the Unreal. Studies in Narrative and Structure, Especially of the Fantastic, CUP, 1981. (excerpts)

– Jackson, Rosemary. Fantasy. The Literature of Subversion, Routledge, 1981.
– Tolkien, J.R.R. The Monster and the Critics and Other Essays, HarperCollins, 2006. (selection)
– Čapek, Karel. In Praise of Newspapers and Other Essays on the Margin of Literature, Allen&Uwin, 1951. (selection)

Additional materials are received in the class.