The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre  

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Tzvetan Todorov holds that [[fantastic literature]] involves an [[unresolved]] [[hesitation]] between a supernatural (or otherwise paranormal or impossible) solution and a psychological (or realistic) one. His term ''hesitation'' is reminiscent of the terms ''[[ambiguity]]'' and ''[[ambivalence]]'' used in the definition of the [[grotesque]]. Tzvetan Todorov holds that [[fantastic literature]] involves an [[unresolved]] [[hesitation]] between a supernatural (or otherwise paranormal or impossible) solution and a psychological (or realistic) one. His term ''hesitation'' is reminiscent of the terms ''[[ambiguity]]'' and ''[[ambivalence]]'' used in the definition of the [[grotesque]].
 +
 +== Genre-theoretical aspects ==
 +Aside from dealing with the question of 'what is fantastic literature,' Tzvetan Todorov's ''[[The Fantastic]]'' also has a very thorough chapter on the nature of genre and [[genre theory]] in general. Todorov starts with a critique of [[Northrop Frye]]'s concept of genre as elaborated in ''[[Anatomy of Criticism]]''.
 +
 +According to Todorov, the first question in genre theory is:
 +:
 +“Are we entitled to discuss a genre without having studied (or at least read) all the works wich constitute it [the corpus]?”
 +
 +He answers the question with yes:
 +
 +:“Scientific method allows does not require us to observe every instance of a phenomenon in order to describe it; scientific method proceeds rather by deduction.”
 +
 +But he also warns that:
 +
 +:“Whatever the number of phenomena (of literary works, in this case) studied, we are never justified in extrapolating universal laws from them.”
 +
 +After which he goes on to quote Karl Popper and the famous [[black swan]] example of inductive vs deductive reasoning:
 +
 +:“no matter how many instances of white swans we have observed, this does not justify the conclusion that swans are white.”
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Introduction à la littérature fantastique, first published in French in 1970 and translated as The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre is a literary history book by Tzvetan Todorov in which he explores the notion of the French fantastique.

Tzvetan Todorov holds that fantastic literature involves an unresolved hesitation between a supernatural (or otherwise paranormal or impossible) solution and a psychological (or realistic) one. His term hesitation is reminiscent of the terms ambiguity and ambivalence used in the definition of the grotesque.

Contents

Genre-theoretical aspects

Aside from dealing with the question of 'what is fantastic literature,' Tzvetan Todorov's The Fantastic also has a very thorough chapter on the nature of genre and genre theory in general. Todorov starts with a critique of Northrop Frye's concept of genre as elaborated in Anatomy of Criticism.

According to Todorov, the first question in genre theory is:

“Are we entitled to discuss a genre without having studied (or at least read) all the works wich constitute it [the corpus]?”

He answers the question with yes:

“Scientific method allows does not require us to observe every instance of a phenomenon in order to describe it; scientific method proceeds rather by deduction.”

But he also warns that:

“Whatever the number of phenomena (of literary works, in this case) studied, we are never justified in extrapolating universal laws from them.”

After which he goes on to quote Karl Popper and the famous black swan example of inductive vs deductive reasoning:

“no matter how many instances of white swans we have observed, this does not justify the conclusion that swans are white.”

SIPs

fantastic - fantastique - fantastic literature - genre theory - gothic novel - the uncanny - Tzvetan Todorov - the marvelous - literary theory - structuralism


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