Fastitocalon - Studies in Fantasticism Ancient to Modern

home | contact

Volume I (2010): Immortals and the Undead


Cover Volume 1


Issue 1


Introduction
(Fanfan Chen and Thomas Honegger)

Articles

Dirk Vanderbeke (Jena, Germany)
The Vampire Strikes Back: On the History of a Nightwalker

Eugenio Olivares Merino (Jaén, Spain)
The (Medi)Evil Dead: Revenants and Vampires in Twelfth Century English Literature 1

Siobhán Ní Chonaill (Cambridge, UK)
'What is political liberty compared with unbounded riches and immortal vigour?': The Politics of Immortality in William Godwin's St Leon

Françoise Dupeyron-Lafay (Paris, France)
Victorian Gothic Fiction as a Ghost: Immortality and the Undead in Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu's Uncle Silas (1864)

Amy Amendt-Raduege (Bellingham, USA)
Better Off Dead: The Lesson of the Ringwraiths

Notes

Douglas Anderson (Marcellus, USA)
Biographical notes on forgotten authors of fantastic literature

Issue 2


Introduction
(Fanfan Chen and Thomas Honegger)

Articles

Bruce Wyse (Waterloo, Canada)
Consuming Life: Narcissism, Liminality, and the Posthuman Condition in Bulwer-Lytton’s A Strange Story

Roger Bozzetto and Fanfan Chen (Aix, France/Hualien, Taiwan)
The Evolution of the Quest for Immortality in Science Fiction and the Fantastic: Spirituality, Corporeality, Virtuality

Anna Caiozzo (Paris, France)
Some Notes on Depictions of Immortals in Medieval Oriental Manuscripts

Thomas Scholz (Frankfurt, Germany)
The Making of a Hilarious Undead: Bisociation in the Novels of Terry Pratchett

Eugenio Olivares Merino (Jaén, Spain)
Reporting the Stubborn Undead: Revenants and Vampires in Twelfth Century English Literature (II)

Robert Eighteen-Bisang (White Rock, Canada)
Arthur Conan Doyle’s Dracula

Notes

Douglas Anderson (Marcellus, USA)
Biographical notes on forgotten authors of fantastic literature

Introduction to Volume I


The first volume of Fastitocalon (consisting of two issues) is dedicated to the exploration of the literary, poetical, cultural and historical aspects of the immortals and the undead. Albeit the two categories have, at first sight, only very little to do with each other, they can be interpreted as representing two approaches towards the larger question of death, mortality, and longevity.
Immortality has fascinated human beings probably ever since the awareness of their own mortality has dawned on them. Thus, the earliest extant epic Gilgamesh deals with the quest for immortality. Yet the category of immortals may not only include 'positive' examples such as the Taoist masters as they appear in Wu Yuantai’s novel The Eight Immortals Depart and Travel to the East (Ming Dynasty), or the successful alchemists, for example Flamel in J.K. Rowling’s The Philosopher's Stone, whose immortality is part of a greater (spiritual) achievement. It may also comprise conflicted beings such as Karl Edward Wagner's Kane or even Tolkien's elves, for whom longevity may become a curse, too. Next to Tolkien's elves, the 'classical' longaevi (nymphs, silvans, nerei etc.) may also be of interest. At the other end of the spectrum, we find figures such as the 'eternal Jew', best known as the protagonist of Maturin’s Melmoth the Wanderer (1820), and his analogues. They may not be 'immortals' in the strict sense of the word, but often participate in the 'immortality discourse' and provide a valuable complementary view.
The undead comprise the literarily prominent examples of the revenants and vampires. Ever since the publication of John Polidori's The Vampyre (1819) and Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897), the charismatic and erotically alluring vampire has become a popular character of modern fantastic fiction, of which the best-selling 'Twilight-saga' by Stephenie Meyer is a most recent example. Originally at home in 'gothic' horror novels and movies, the undead have crossed over into various other genres (fantasy, science fiction, crime, historic fiction and films etc.) and developed into a versatile element of the fantastic. Their 'human origin' (at least in the western culture) makes them simultaneously familiar and exotic, human and monstrous with a great literary potential into which writers of the fantastic have been dipping more and more deeply.

The contributions to this first issue explore some of these issues in greater depth. Dirk Vanderbeke's informed piece on vampires in literature across the centuries makes a brave beginning and outlines the transmutations of the folkloristic vampire and its aristocratic 'literary' counterpart. The paper by Eugenio Olivares Merino, then, looks into the question of early English vampires and establishes the origins of a 'British' tradition in twelfth-century accounts of 'revenants'. Leaving vampires and revenants, we progress to Siobhán Ní Chonaill discussion of William Godwin’s novel St Leon (1799). She sets this work in relation to the perfectibilist ideas in Godwin's political philosophy and demonstrates a readjustment in his thinking about immortality. Françoise Dupeyron-Lafay, in her contribution, analyses Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu's novel Uncle Silas (1864) as a revenant or a ghost resurrected from the 18th century Gothic past. She furthermore addresses the question of immortality and how plot and characterization are determined by it, and informed by Swedenborg's perspective whereby the intermediate world of spirits (itself half way between heaven and hell) exists parallel to the world of the living. Finally, Amy Amendt-Raduege's paper on Tolkien's ringwraiths draws on both folklore and Tolkien's own well-documented thoughts about the necessity of death and discusses the implications for those individuals who refuse to acknowledge the necessity of death – and the terrible recognition that, for all its awful finality, not dying destroys our humanity altogether.
Douglas Anderson's notes on forgotten authors of fantastic literature conclude the first issue. They have been selected with a view on their compatibility with the overall theme and offer – next to impulses for further exploration of the topic – the fruits of original research.

We wish our readers a stimulating and 'fantastic' time with the first issue of Fastitocalon.

Thomas Honegger & Fanfan Chen

Volume II (2011): The European Tradition of the Fantastic


Cover Volume 2


Issues 1 & 2


Thomas Honegger & Fanfan Chen
Introduction


Articles

Roger Bozzetto (Aix, France)
Perspectives on the Standard French Theory of the Fantastic

Denis Mellier (Poitiers, France)
From the Double to the Third: Poetics and Politics of the Fantastic. Towards the Commonness of the Fantastic

Michael Hemsley (Hualien, Taiwan)
Some Sort of Plank, Some Sort of Tapestry: The Arthurian Poetry and Painting of David Jones

Marie-Noëlle Biemer (Frankfurt, Germany)
William Morris: Primus Inter Fantastes?

Antje vom Lehn (Tübingen, Germany)
Harry Potter, Spiderwick and the Tradition of the Bestiary

Marcin Rusnak (Wrocław, Poland)
Playing with Death. Humorous Treatment of Death-related Issues in Terry Pratchett’s and Neil Gaiman’s Young Adult Fiction

Dimitra Fimi (Cardiff, Wales)
Between Greece and Northwestern Europe: The Fairy Tales of Penelope Delta

Kuniko Uemura (Kobe, Japan)
The Robot Fantasy – The Case of Osamu Tezuka

Introduction to Volume II


The Fantastic is a human universal and no single culture can lay a monopolistic claim to its variegated forms and contents. The cultural representations of the Fantastic, however, tend to differ and even the central question of what constitutes ‘the Fantastic’ varies from culture to culture.

The contributions by Roger Bozzetto and Denis Mellier, two of France’s foremost theoreticians of the Fantastic, address the peculiarities of the influential French critical tradition of the Fantastic with its focus on the concept of ‘hesitation’. Both contrast the theoretical communis opinio with textual realities old and new and, as a consequence, ask for a reconsideration and redefinition of the accepted current critical point of view on the Fantastic.

Europe, with the Gothic novel and epic fantasy in England, the fairy- and folk-tales of Germany, and the tales of the realistic fantastic in France, is often considered the cradle of modern fantastic literature. Authors and artists in the European tradition of the Fantastic frequently explore the myths, history, and landscape next to the religious, cultural and literary traditions of their native lands for their works, or they exploit the cultural stereotypes for artistic effect.

Michael Hemsley, in his essay on the Arthurian poetry and painting of the Anglo-Welsh poet and painter David Jones, explores the role of the Arthurian myth in the artist’s work. Jones’ narrative poetry not only uses the shared myths and the “deposits” of the British Isles as part of the root of culture and as the “materia” of poetry, but, as Hemsley argues, it also subverts Todorov’s division into prose fiction vs. poetry.

William Morris’ work and influence on later European writers of the Fantastic is at the centre of Marie-Noëlle Biemer’s essay. She not only explores the motifs and themes for which Morris’ works provide the starting point, but also argues in favour of identifying William Morris as the father of European fantasy. This is all the more likely since Morris’s direct influence on J.R.R. Tolkien, the most prominent proponent of fantasy in the 20th century, has been known for some time, though never thoroughly investigated. Biemer’s study thus offers a first informed comprehensive analysis of Morris’ importance for the genesis of an (at first) European tradition of fantasy.

Antje vom Lehn discusses the influence of one of the most popular works of the European Middle Ages, the Physiologus and its successors, on the likewise widely popular Harry Potter and Spiderwick novels and the accompanying ‘faux fiction’ school- and handbooks, Fantastic Beasts and the Field Guide respectively. She shows how these publications are inspired by and take some of their elements from the medieval European bestiary tradition and adapt them for the respective fictional universes, thus perpetuating a tradition that has its roots in late antiquity.

The prevalent attitude towards death in Western culture is the starting point for Marcin Rusnak’s contribution on the role of death in the works of two of the most prominent contemporary English author-artists of the Fantastic, namely Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. He investigates the way these authors use comedy for dealing with and circumventing the taboo that surrounds death in Western culture, thus continuing in a tradition first brought to prominence by Freud at the beginning of the 20th century.

Dimitra Fimi’s essay explores the fairy tales of Penelope Delta, a Greek author who lived in Alexandria (Egypt), Liverpool, and Frankfurt before settling down in Athens. Delta’s interest in the development of demotic Greek, the cultural heritage of her country and the role of education led her to write, among other works, literary fairy tales (‘Kunstmärchen’). They – like her own upbringing and cultural background – reflect a hybrid status between Northwestern and Eastern traditions, blending Greek elements and Northwestern European fairy-tale motifs.

The European tradition has, of course, spread, inspired and mixed with other versions of the fantastic. Kuniko Uemura discusses the work of the famous manga-artist Osamu Tezuka and his adaptation of motifs and plots from European literature. Of special importance is his life-long interest in the question of the ‘robot fantasy’, i.e. the human fascination with the possibilities of creating and developing artificial intelligence.

We wish our readers a stimulating and ‘fantastic’ time with the third issue of Fastitocalon. The topic of the third volume (issues five and six) will be on ‘Humour and the Fantastic’.

Thomas Honegger & Fanfan Chen

Volume III (2013): Humour and the Fantastic


Cover Volume 2


Issues 1 & 2


Thomas Honegger & Fanfan Chen
Introduction


Articles

Virginia Lowe (Melbourne, Australia)
“But animals can’t talk!”: Young Children, the Fantastic and Humour. (5)

Rosalie Sinopoulou (Athens, Greece)
Humour versus Fear: The Bright Side of the Unknown from Cazotte to Borges. (23)

Françoise Dupeyron-Lafay (Paris, France)
Humour, the grotesque and the fantastic in H.G. Wells’s The Invisible Man (1897) (37)

Valery Rion (Neuchâtel, Switzerland)
Théopile Gautier’s fantastical smile: humour, incongruity and reflexivity (51)

Isabelle Percebois (Paris, France)
Humorous Duplicity: Ironic Distance and Fantastic Tension in Villiers de l’Isle-Adam’s “Claire Lenoir” (69)

Mail Marques de Azevedo (São Paulo, Brazil)
Comedy, Realism and the Fantastic in Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer (87)

Alma Haltof (Kraków, Poland)
Why so Serious? On the Humour Translation Strategies of Czech and Polish Translations of Terry Pratchett’s Reaper Man (101)

Ewelina Nowacka (Wroclaw, Poland) Modernizations or Ridicule? Representations of Greek Mythology and the Sacred in Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians (113)

Introduction to Volume III


At first sight, humour does not seem to be one of the primary characteristics of the Fantastic nor does it seem to enter into easy association with it. Indeed, the contemporary prevalence and dominance of heroic fantasy often gives the impression that the primary relationship between the Fantastic and humour is akin to that of a boggart and laughter in the interpretatio Rowlingensis – the latter undoes the former. It is therefore no mean achievement by Terry Pratchett to have re-introduced humour and laughter into the fantasy genre proper – a genre that was in danger of losing its sense of humour completely. The Fantastic as a mode, however, never had a problem with humour, which may be interpreted best as yet another mode. Thus, humour is abundant in canonical works of the fantastic such as Lewis Carroll’s Alice books or Gérard de Nerval’s Le Monstre vert. Nor does humour exclude the Fantastic, as Lucian’s True History exemplifies where the fantastic elements become a prime source for the text’s humour.

It is the discrepancy between the perceived reality and the clashing claims made by the ‘fantastic’ text that is at the centre of our first contribution. Virginia Lowe argues “that humour, more than any other genre or trope, forces the child into meta-fictional thinking; into comparing the world of the text, the ontology of the fiction, with the external world, the world as the child knows it, the everyday ontology encountered on all sides.” The intended prevalent reaction to this discrepancy created by children’s books is, of course, laughter. This is not the uneasy laughter provoked by an event that has disturbed the reader’s everyday complacency, but an expression of joy at having discovered and understood the different levels of reality.

The greater part of the ensuing contributions discusses the place of humour in relation to the “serious” side of the Fantastic. Rosalie Sinopoulou, for instance, analyses instances of the unknown invading the world of everyday reality – an event that is likely to inspire fear. And yet, as she argues, the effect on the reader depends on the way things are presented by the narrator. Thus Cazotte’s Le diable amoureux, Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto or even Kafka’s Metamorphosis all deal with uncanny events invading and threatening the very structure of the ‘normal’ world, but the overall effect is not automatically fear or repulsion – it may be (also) laughter or at least amusement, which is mainly due to how the narrator presents the events in his narrative.

The conflicted relationship between the frightening and the funny also stands at the centre of Françoise Dupeyron-Lafay’s close reading of H.G. Wells’ novella The Invisible Man. The author investigates the various narrative strategies such as point-of-view, choice of metaphors or similes, tone etc. that render funny and comical events normally expected to evoke fear or even terror. The overall effect is that of the grotesque, i.e. a genre-transgressing effect beyond humour and fear.

Valery Rion discusses, on the one hand, the function(s) of humour and laughter in the fantastic (and often rather frightening) short stories by Théophile Gautier, basing his theoretical framework on Freud’s and other scholars’ observations on the connection(s) between the uncanny and laughter. On the other, he analyses an instance of conscious parody in “Omphale” where Gautier re-writes a comparable description from one of Vivant Denon’s texts. In both cases close attention is paid to the actual linguistic basis of the text since much of the humour has its origin in plays of words, puns and the exploitation of different levels of meaning of an expression.

Villiers de l’Isle-Adam’s “Claire Lenoir” is the subject of Isabelle Percebois’ paper. “Claire Lenoir” is a story where black humour mixes with the fantastic and serves a critical function by de-sacralising beliefs and institutions. However, laughter also threatens to break the fantastic tension and the literary illusion: by multiplying the humorous asides and by addressing the reader directly to show his duplicity and his hypocrisy towards the Lenoirs, the narrator (Tribulat Bonhomet) displays the genesis of writing. Villiers manages to retain the fantastic dimension of the narrative only because he makes the readers his accomplices and invites them to laugh at this duplicitous doctor-narrator, who is an embodiment of the scientific spirit of the nineteenth century. In doing so, Villiers explores the full range of feelings and moves us from laughter to fear.

The relationship between the magic realistic elements and humour in Jonathan Safran Foer’s 2002 novel Everything Is Illuminated is the subject of Mail Marques de Azevedo’s essay. She analyzes the novel’s fragmentary structure and its ingenious postmodernist manipulation of literary genres and modes – realism, fantasy, satire, parody, memoir – as well as its meta-fictional character, starting from the premises that both the comic and the fantastic attempt to subvert accepted visions. Foer’s humorous style, besides or because of its sombre quality, is essentially postmodern in nature, as it deconstructs hierarchies. The novel is simultaneously humorous and moving in its attempt to use comedy and elements of the fantastic to frustrate the bitterness of painful memories and to redeem past sins through laughter.

So far approaches have focused on fear and the uncanny that have been identified as central modes in the texts discussed, and humour has been seen as a strategy to deal with them. The last two essays take different approaches. Thus Alma Haltof, in a close analysis of the opening paragraphs of Terry Pratchett’s novel Reaper Man, discusses the problems and challenges encountered in the attempt to render the humorous elements rooted in English culture and folklore into another language. She compares the Polish and the Czech translations of these elements and the effects of the divergent translation strategies, which could be characterized as “familiarization” versus “de-familiarization” respectively.

Lastly, the paper by Ewelina Nowacka looks at interference of the profane and the sacred in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, using a theoretical framework based on ideas found in Mircea Eliade and Emile Durkheim. Riordan’s depiction of the Greek gods reflects the complex relationship between the sacred and the profane and presents them as familiar yet other. Thus the initial laughter arising from the encounter with primordial powers (gods) represented in the (not always flattering) form of everyday people gives way to a deeper understanding of the role of the sacred, which establishes points of reference for humans and provides the foundations of the profane reality.

The papers united in this volume cannot, of course, cover all possible topics and themes but we think that the selection reflects some of the currently dominant trends in the field and hope that our readers will find inspiration for their own explorative reading in the humorous Fantastic.

Thomas Honegger & Fanfan Chen