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The Basic Categories of Fantastic Literature Revisited - Lodz, Poland: 21-23 October 2012
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Department of Studies in Drama and Pre-1800 English Literature; University of Lodz, Poland
The Basic Categories of Fantastic Literature Revisited
21-23 October 2012
It seems the time has come to revisit and reconsider the familiar, or perhaps not so familiar, terms and categories with the help of which such genres as fantasy, science fiction, Gothic, horror fiction, cyberpunk, and related ones, are being described. The names of those genres belong of course themselves to such problematic terms, which is also true of the very distinction between the so-called mainstream literature, and what might be called the ugly duckling of fantasy and science fiction that seems doomed to remain in this incurably immature condition and stands no chance of becoming a beautiful (and adult) swan. The categories that are meant here may include such general notions like “imagination”, “the supernatural”, “the sublime”, or “the abject”, whose validity goes far beyond the limits of fantastic literature, or they may be more directly relevant to the literature that is sometimes defined as based on ‘cognitive estrangement’, and sometimes as ‘encounter with the other’. In particular, we may mention the famous Freudian definition of the uncanny, as something that is familiar and profoundly unfamiliar at the same time, producing an uncomfortable ‘cognitive dissonance’ particularly useful when discussing the time-honoured distinction between “terror Gothic” and “horror Gothic”; or Tzvetan Todorov’s distinction between “the marvellous” and “the uncanny”, leading to his conception of “the fantastic”, which implies an unresolved, but artistically fruitful, conflict between the supernatural explanations of “the marvellous”, and the natural ones of “the uncanny”. Another striking aporia is the complex relationship between the words “science” and “fiction” which sit uncomfortably together in the term “science fiction”, whereas the fans of fantastic literature include those who are fascinated with technological gadgets and “artificial intelligence”, and those who follow J.R.R. Tolkien in his disgust with “the Robot Age”, and who are therefore often branded as “reactionary” or “escapist”. It might seem then that the “ugly duckling” of SF has spawned a number of “yet uglier ducklings”, such as the post-Tolkienian “sword and sorcery”. We would like to invite any contributions that, in one way or another, take part in a debate around the issues sketched above, and are prepared to consider the possibility that some of the above-mentioned terms and distinctions are already obsolete, or have never been particularly adequate, or need to be thoroughly revised in view of the recent developments in literature, or in the culture of which this literature is a part.
We suggest the following workshop list:
Please note that the list is open and we welcome all contributions related to the field of the fantastic.
Submissions of topics and abstracts (300-400 words) should reach the organisers no later than December 31st, 2011.
Professor Andrzej Wicher, Ph.D.
Jacek Rozga, M.A.
For submissions and enquiries please contact the organisers at:
For updated conference information please see: