ENG239H1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 1: Worldbuilding, Defamiliarization
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•“Fantasy” as a mode/tradition vs. marketing category/commodity
• “To many thinkers, fantasy has seemed a silly self-indulgence, even a perversion” - Hume
•Childish -> turning away from being a proper, productive adult
•Nothing useful in reading fantasy/ﬁction in general -> it’s just a distraction (ties in
escapism -> coping, perspective-taking)
•Perversion of what?
•Tropes are dangerous/threatening to what some may consider to be a practical, normal
•Troubling b/c it’s not a representation of the real world, doesn’t deal w/ real world
•“[…] the notion of fantasy comes ready-tainted w/ implications of unworthiness, of a
failure of some alleged duty of the human mind to concentrate on the realities of
existence” - Stableford
•Real-world applicability comes through in close reading
•Not merely escapism -> there are lessons to be learned that are applicable in everyday
life (e.g., themes of building an identity w/ Bilbo)
•Why does fantasy have a wall of stigma?
•Success of LOTR lead to reprinting of older fantasy works -> this whole process lead to
attitude that fantasy is inferior to mimetic/realistic ﬁction
•Gaiman: reviewers/editors don’t “speak fantasy” -> they are uncomfortable w/ it, lack of
willingness to engage w/ fantastic language
•Perhaps a matter of familiarity (due to world-building?)
•Rehashing LOTR by less talented writers (imitators) -> became deﬁnitive of the genre, but
there are other forms of fantasy that don’t fall into that paradigm that are worthy of being
recognized as part of the genre (reviewers/editors don’t recognize this, according to
•Why choose this particular mode of representing the human experience as opposed to
other modes/representations of ﬁction?
•When Alice falls down the rabbit hole
•Metaphor of what happens when we read fantasy -> we have to go through the process
of understanding what
•How do we meet the fantastic & how does that affect: narrative, choice of language
•Where are we asked to stand in relation to the fantastic?
•Analysis of Alice in Wonderland -> excerpt when she sees the Rabbit
•Capitalization of the word rabbit digniﬁes it -> not just any rabbit (de-familiarization)
•Importance of she “ought to have wondered” about the Rabbit being able to speak
•Reﬂects her age/state of the mind (sunny day, feels sleepy)
•Is this Alice dreaming or her imagination?
•Not in the mindset of being able to appreciate the weirdness of an animal speaking
•Magic coming over her?
•Where is this parenthetical comment coming from (“afterword”)? When she’s an adult?
Could this be a reﬂection of imagination during childhood vs. adulthood?
•Importance of “burning w/ curiosity”
•Will lead us further into the unusual world of Wonderland -> eagerness to pursue
•W/out that curiosity, she might not experience change (maturation)
•She’s not afraid, only curious
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