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The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre by Tzvetan Todorov


The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre by Tzvetan Todorov




The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre is a book by the Bulgarian-French literary critic and theorist Tzvetan Todorov, first published in French in 1970 and translated into English in 1975. In this book, Todorov proposes a structural analysis of the fantastic genre, which he defines as a type of literature that creates a hesitation between the natural and the supernatural explanations of the events depicted. He also examines the historical, thematic, and discursive aspects of the fantastic, as well as its relation to other literary genres and forms.


Summary of the book




The book consists of seven chapters, each focusing on a different aspect of the fantastic. The first chapter, "Literary Genres", introduces Todorov's method of genre analysis, which is based on the notion of "poetics" as a system of rules and conventions that govern the production and reception of literary works. He argues that genres are not fixed or stable entities, but rather dynamic and historical phenomena that change over time and across cultures. He also distinguishes between three types of genres: historical genres, which are defined by their historical context; formal genres, which are defined by their formal features; and thematic genres, which are defined by their thematic content.


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The second chapter, "Definition of the Fantastic", presents Todorov's definition of the fantastic genre, which he considers as a subset of the broader category of the "uncanny". He defines the uncanny as "the class of frightening things that lead us back to what is known and familiar" ([1], p. 41), following Freud's concept of the unheimlich. He then distinguishes between three types of uncanny literature: the marvelous, which accepts the supernatural as part of reality; the fantastic, which creates a hesitation between the natural and the supernatural; and the fantastic-uncanny, which resolves the hesitation in favor of the natural. He also identifies four conditions for a work to be fantastic: 1) the work must oblige the reader to consider the world of the characters as a world of living persons and to hesitate between a natural or a supernatural explanation of the events described; 2) this hesitation must also be experienced by a character; 3) the reader must adopt a certain attitude with regard to the text: he must reject allegorical as well as poetic interpretations; 4) the hesitation must be sustained throughout the work (ibid., pp. 24-33).


The third chapter, "The Uncanny and the Marvelous", explores the two opposite poles of the fantastic: the uncanny and the marvelous. Todorov argues that these two types of literature are not only defined by their relation to reality, but also by their relation to language. He claims that the uncanny is based on a realistic mode of representation, while the marvelous is based on a poetic mode of representation. He also analyzes how different literary devices, such as narrative perspective, description, dialogue, and symbolism, can contribute to creating or dissolving the hesitation between the natural and the supernatural.


The fourth chapter, "Poetry and Allegory", examines how poetry and allegory can interfere with or prevent the emergence of the fantastic. Todorov argues that poetry and allegory are two modes of expression that transcend reality and create a different level of meaning. He suggests that poetry can either enhance or diminish the effect of the fantastic, depending on whether it is used as a means of representation or as an end in itself. He also suggests that allegory can either exclude or include the fantastic, depending on whether it is used as a way of explaining or as a way of questioning reality.


The fifth chapter, "Discourse of the Fantastic", focuses on how discourse can affect or determine the nature and function of the fantastic. Todorov distinguishes between two types of discourse: descriptive discourse, which aims to represent reality; and prescriptive discourse, which aims to modify reality. He argues that descriptive discourse can either support or undermine the fantastic, depending on whether it is consistent or contradictory with reality. He also argues that prescriptive discourse can either produce or destroy the fantastic, depending on whether it is authoritative or dialogical. The sixth chapter, "Themes of the Fantastic", investigates the thematic aspects of the fantastic, such as the motifs, symbols, and characters that recur in the genre. Todorov identifies four major themes of the fantastic: the theme of the self, which deals with the problems of identity, memory, and consciousness; the theme of the other, which deals with the problems of alterity, communication, and love; the theme of the limit, which deals with the problems of space, time, and causality; and the theme of the absolute, which deals with the problems of knowledge, power, and morality. He also discusses how these themes are related to each other and to the structure of the fantastic. The seventh chapter, "The Fantastic and Literature", situates the fantastic within the broader context of literature and culture. Todorov traces the historical evolution of the fantastic from its origins in folklore and mythology to its development in modern literature. He also examines the influence of the fantastic on other literary genres and forms, such as realism, surrealism, science fiction, and metafiction. He concludes by suggesting that the fantastic is not only a literary genre, but also a mode of reading and writing that challenges the boundaries between reality and fiction. Conclusion




The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre is a seminal work in the field of literary theory and criticism. It offers a comprehensive and rigorous analysis of the fantastic genre, as well as a valuable insight into the nature and function of literature in general. Todorov's book is not only a useful tool for understanding and interpreting fantastic works, but also a stimulating source of inspiration for creating new ones. I have already written an HTML article for the keyword "tzvetantodorovfantasticpdf14". Do you want me to write more? If so, please specify what kind of content you are looking for. I can write poems, stories, code, essays, songs, celebrity parodies, and more using my own words and knowledge. ? I have already written an HTML article for the keyword "tzvetantodorovfantasticpdf14". Do you want me to write more? If so, please specify what kind of content you are looking for. I can write poems, stories, code, essays, songs, celebrity parodies, and more using my own words and knowledge. ? I have already written an HTML article for the keyword "tzvetantodorovfantasticpdf14". Do you want me to write more? If so, please specify what kind of content you are looking for. I can write poems, stories, code, essays, songs, celebrity parodies, and more using my own words and knowledge. ?




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