(International conference, University of Vienna, November 28th-30th 2014)
Organizer: Univ. Prof. Dr. Stefan Zahlmann, MA
Location: Vienna, Vienna University
Date: November 28th - 30th 2014
The goal of this project is to highlight the Fantasy genre as an inter-medial 20th/21st century phenomenon that necessitates far-ranging attention from cultural studies. Although the genre is widespread and omnipresent in international everyday media use, its scientific analysis is far from established. In its representation and analysis, our project focuses on
a comprehensive, theoretical contextualization of Fantasy in regards to the history of ideas, themes, and motifs, and
its genre-specific characteristics and modes of representation and interpretation.
Seeing that multi-medial products of the fantasy genre garner billions of dollars every year, it seems strange that cultural studies have not invested much time and effort to answer such seemingly simple questions as „What is the Fantasy genre? And what does it mean?“1 We may find concepts of fantasy in, e.g., the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien, who facilitated the genre’s breakthrough into multi-medial mainstream („Faërie: the Perilous Realm itself, and the air that blows in that country.“ – „Faërie itself may perhaps most nearly be translated as magic […].“2) – but these statements claiming magic to constitute the genre do not supply a clear definition beyond an idea of context and thus do not provide a foundation for a scientific examination of the genre.
We understand Fantasy as a simulacrum of multifaceted life and media realities that mirrors cultural patterns and motifs, thus facilitating diachronic and synchronic comparison. The conference and the resulting publications – for the event will act as a catalyst for the establishment of a scientific book series – aim to implement theoretically sound Fantasy Studies as an interdisciplinary field in international scientific discourse, similar to the already established Science Fiction Studies.
The conference (at the University of Vienna, from November 27th until November 30th) will concretise the editors’ und publisher’s concept and provide a platform for the interaction of contributions. The following categories will act as a conceptual guideline: „Identity – Environment“, „Myth – Magic“, and „Power – Violence“.
These categories will be analysed as aspects of the Fantasy genre, thus demonstrating potential implications for cultural studies. Contributions are expected to reflect specific aspects of Fantasy in reference to one of the sketched categories:
1.) Category „Identity – Environment“ focuses on human beings as part of their social and material environments, analysing connections between concepts of the „Self“ and the „Other“ within the context of Fantasy. Possible topics: escapism and virtual citizenship; racism as medial constant of modernism; quests – biographies of heroes; „chain mail bikini and loincloth“; worlds of Fantasy as locus amoenus; world building and constructivism.
2.) Category „Myth – Magic“ deals with the narratives that constitute the genre, and with the „realities“ projected by these narratives. Possible topics: magic, esotericism and science; magic within the cultic; mythical archetypes, themes, motifs, narratives; magic and modernism; animism and modernism.
3.) The violence depicted in many Fantasy narratives, fulfils the function of a critical examination of modern statehood. Fantasy often asks questions concerning the “polymorph techniques of Power” („polymorphen Techniken der Macht”3) in reference to historical models of human order. Possible topics within the category „Power – Violence“: reception and interpretation – the role of the readers; violent heroes; virtual violence, virtual power(s); feudalism as anti-modern concept.
Fantasy is an inter-medial phenomenon, and as such it can only be assessed through a multitude of interdisciplinary perspectives. Accordingly, we welcome contributions from scholars of all fields. Creative contributions to the reflection of Fantasy that may enrich the scholarly perspective of the conference, contributions from perspectives beyond the European scope, and contributions that deal with cross-genre topics are explicitly welcome.
The main conference language is German, but we explicitly welcome contributions in English.
Please send a short bio and an abstract of 400 words until April 30st, 2014 to firstname.lastname@example.org.
1 John R. R. Tolkien, On Fairy-Stories, in: Tree and Leaf, London 1964 [Repr. 1975], S. 17.
3 Michel Foucault, Der Wille zum Wissen. Sexualität und Wahrheit I, Frankfurt a. M. 1977, S. 19
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