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Writing Worlds, Reading Landscapes : An Exploration of Settings in Fantasy

Ekman, Stefan LU (2010)
Abstract (Swedish)
Popular Abstract in Swedish

Fantasygenrens många främmande och fantastiska platser ger inte bara handlingen en exotisk kuliss utan är tätt knutna till hur berättelserna är uppbyggda. I Stefan Ekmans doktorsavhandling Writing Worlds, Reading Landscapes: An Exploration of Settings in Fantasy visas hur miljön i fantasy är lika viktig som persongalleriet och intrigen. Fantasy är en genre som sätter världsbyggandet i fokus, något som vanligtvis står klart redan när man först slår upp en fantasyroman. I mellan tre och fyra fantasyböcker av tio hittar man en karta som presenterar världen för läsaren – oftare i de fantasyböcker som utspelar sig i påhittade världar, som J. R. R. Tolkiens Midgård eller C. S. Lewis Narnia. Dessa... (More)
Popular Abstract in Swedish

Fantasygenrens många främmande och fantastiska platser ger inte bara handlingen en exotisk kuliss utan är tätt knutna till hur berättelserna är uppbyggda. I Stefan Ekmans doktorsavhandling Writing Worlds, Reading Landscapes: An Exploration of Settings in Fantasy visas hur miljön i fantasy är lika viktig som persongalleriet och intrigen. Fantasy är en genre som sätter världsbyggandet i fokus, något som vanligtvis står klart redan när man först slår upp en fantasyroman. I mellan tre och fyra fantasyböcker av tio hittar man en karta som presenterar världen för läsaren – oftare i de fantasyböcker som utspelar sig i påhittade världar, som J. R. R. Tolkiens Midgård eller C. S. Lewis Narnia. Dessa kartor återspeglar över lag den ”pseudomedeltid” i vilken en stor del av genrens verk utspelar sig, men de innehåller samtidigt mycket information om vad som är viktigt i den fiktiva världen och därmed i berättelsen.

Fantasy är möjligheternas genre. En kort resa kan föra personer från de levandes värld till dödsriket eller från vardagligheten till älvalandet. Områden där det förgångna lever kvar ligger gömda i den fantastiska geografin. Korsandet av gränser mellan sådana skilda verkligheter utgör vanliga teman i fantasylitteraturen, och visar hur det möjliga och det omöjliga, det förflutna och nuet, kan fogas samman i ett och samma landskap. Andra gränser i fantasymiljön är mindre uppenbara men lika viktiga. Staden har länge utgjort en mötesplats för natur och kultur, och i fantasystäder är det bara fantasin som sätter gränser för hur detta möte kan yttra sig. Oavsett om naturinslagen i städerna är tecken på en rättfärdig härskare, en del av det förtryckta och magiska som samhället vägrar se eller ger uttryck för något helt annat så är förhållandet mellan natur och kultur nära kopplade till något centralt tema i fantasyberättelsen i fråga.

Fantasy tillåter också att gränser som vi är vana vid överbryggs. En fantasyfurstes fysiska eller moraliska tillstånd kan direkt påverka tillståndet i dennes rike. Är kungen steril eller drottningen sjuk förstörs landet. Utan härskare försvinner landets magi. En vanlig form av denna koppling är de hemska landskap som omger genrens många mörka furstar. Hur dessa landskap beskrivs faller tillbaka på en lång litterär tradition, men ger samtidigt väldigt individuella bilder av vad ondska är i de olika verken.

Avhandlingen skärskådar ett stort antal författares världar utifrån perspektiven ovan och demonstrerar hur fantasymiljöer förtjänar betydligt mer uppmärksamhet från såväl kritiker som läsare. (Less)
Abstract
In fantasy literature, the setting is as important to the story as are characters and plot; but although many fantasy scholars have pointed this out, there is very little criticism that explores the role of the setting in fantasy. The aim of this study is to use a topofocal (place-focused) perspective to examine four aspects of the fantasy setting, including the way in which settings function in terms of their respective worlds and stories.

Chapter 2 considers the division of a setting into text and image by investigating the fantasy map through a survey of a random sample of fantasy novels, as well as through a close reading of two maps from The Lord of the Rings. Fantasy maps, while generally adhering to a pseudomedieval... (More)
In fantasy literature, the setting is as important to the story as are characters and plot; but although many fantasy scholars have pointed this out, there is very little criticism that explores the role of the setting in fantasy. The aim of this study is to use a topofocal (place-focused) perspective to examine four aspects of the fantasy setting, including the way in which settings function in terms of their respective worlds and stories.

Chapter 2 considers the division of a setting into text and image by investigating the fantasy map through a survey of a random sample of fantasy novels, as well as through a close reading of two maps from The Lord of the Rings. Fantasy maps, while generally adhering to a pseudomedieval aesthetics, may reveal much about the world of their respective works.

Chapter 3 explores geographical divisions which also divide different realities. Borders between, for instance, mundanity and Faerie, and between the realms of life and death, may appear to be sharp demarcations but are often gradual transitions from one reality to another. Other areas – polders – are particular realities protected from the outside world by a boundary. These polders are bubbles of the past which extend the world’s topology as well as its history. The chapter demonstrates how a fundamental function for such boundaries and borders is to join opposing realities rather than keep them apart.

Chapter 4 examines the relation between nature and culture in four fantasy cities. Each city portrays a highly dissimilar relation compared to the others: where nature is a symbol of just governance in one place, the element of opposition is used as part of a social critique in another; the two domains dissolve into each other in the third, and in the fourth city, nature is a liminal phenomenon between various cultural zones. In each story, however, the nature/culture relation displays a connection to a key theme or concern.

Finally, chapter 5 shows how the fantasy genre allows the division between ruler and realm to be bridged, discussing the direct link between them. After an overview of such links, some specific tropes are considered, including the Fisher-King figure and the Dark Lord, and the importance of a non-metaphorical reading of the ruler/realm connection is demonstrated.

The topofocal approaches in the four chapters reveal much about the works under consideration, such as their underlying attitudes and central concerns, and prove to be valuable critical strategies in demonstrating how plot, character, and setting are interwoven. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
supervisor
opponent
  • Professor Attebery, Brian, Idaho State University, USA
organization
publishing date
type
Thesis
publication status
published
subject
keywords
Robert Jordan, Steven R. Donaldson, Lisa Goldstein, Tim Powers, Patricia McKillip, China Miéville, Charles de Lint, Terry Pratchett, Robert Holdstock, Garth Nix, Charles Vess, Neil Gaiman, Steven Brust, J.R.R. Tolkien, maps in fantasy, fantasy, ecocriticism
pages
307 pages
publisher
Centre for Languages and Literature, Lund University
defense location
A129, Språk- och litteraturcentrum, Helgonabacken 12, Lund
defense date
2010-10-16 10:15
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
62b641cc-9da5-4c5c-ad57-227d3e0c75f8 (old id 1670921)
date added to LUP
2010-09-17 17:12:53
date last changed
2016-09-19 08:45:13
@misc{62b641cc-9da5-4c5c-ad57-227d3e0c75f8,
  abstract     = {In fantasy literature, the setting is as important to the story as are characters and plot; but although many fantasy scholars have pointed this out, there is very little criticism that explores the role of the setting in fantasy. The aim of this study is to use a topofocal (place-focused) perspective to examine four aspects of the fantasy setting, including the way in which settings function in terms of their respective worlds and stories.<br/><br>
 Chapter 2 considers the division of a setting into text and image by investigating the fantasy map through a survey of a random sample of fantasy novels, as well as through a close reading of two maps from The Lord of the Rings. Fantasy maps, while generally adhering to a pseudomedieval aesthetics, may reveal much about the world of their respective works.<br/><br>
 Chapter 3 explores geographical divisions which also divide different realities. Borders between, for instance, mundanity and Faerie, and between the realms of life and death, may appear to be sharp demarcations but are often gradual transitions from one reality to another. Other areas – polders – are particular realities protected from the outside world by a boundary. These polders are bubbles of the past which extend the world’s topology as well as its history. The chapter demonstrates how a fundamental function for such boundaries and borders is to join opposing realities rather than keep them apart.<br/><br>
 Chapter 4 examines the relation between nature and culture in four fantasy cities. Each city portrays a highly dissimilar relation compared to the others: where nature is a symbol of just governance in one place, the element of opposition is used as part of a social critique in another; the two domains dissolve into each other in the third, and in the fourth city, nature is a liminal phenomenon between various cultural zones. In each story, however, the nature/culture relation displays a connection to a key theme or concern.<br/><br>
 Finally, chapter 5 shows how the fantasy genre allows the division between ruler and realm to be bridged, discussing the direct link between them. After an overview of such links, some specific tropes are considered, including the Fisher-King figure and the Dark Lord, and the importance of a non-metaphorical reading of the ruler/realm connection is demonstrated.<br/><br>
 The topofocal approaches in the four chapters reveal much about the works under consideration, such as their underlying attitudes and central concerns, and prove to be valuable critical strategies in demonstrating how plot, character, and setting are interwoven.},
  author       = {Ekman, Stefan},
  keyword      = {Robert Jordan,Steven R. Donaldson,Lisa Goldstein,Tim Powers,Patricia McKillip,China Miéville,Charles de Lint,Terry Pratchett,Robert Holdstock,Garth Nix,Charles Vess,Neil Gaiman,Steven Brust,J.R.R. Tolkien,maps in fantasy,fantasy,ecocriticism},
  language     = {eng},
  pages        = {307},
  publisher    = {ARRAY(0xbdad258)},
  title        = {Writing Worlds, Reading Landscapes : An Exploration of Settings in Fantasy},
  year         = {2010},
}