Literary Fantasy and its Discontents

deadline for submissions: 
August 31, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Taipei Tech (National Taipei University of Technology)
contact email: 

In her still influential Fantasy and Mimesis: Responses to Reality in Western Literature (1984), Kathryn Hume defines the literary fantastic as any departure from consensus reality, believing that it holds an equally significant position in literary history as mimesis. Rather than being a recent and sometimes academically marginalized genre, fantasy, for Hume, is integral to almost all literature.

The dialectics between literary fantasies and consensus reality have recently become more relevant than ever: current events remind us of how elusive consensus reality can be. This conference takes this concern over (un)reality as a jumping-off point for our theme: Literary Fantasy and Its Discontents. We hope to have a broad cross-section of papers that consider fantasy in its many forms: both as a (frequently politicized) literary genre or mode and in the word fantasy’s broader meanings of delusion, unconscious wish, or falsehood. How do fantasies assist in the formation of national identities? How do they impact the narratives––be they harmful or beneficial––that nations and people groups tell themselves about their origins, their capabilities, and their future? How do reader responses to the fantastic in literature differ from responses to texts that are predominantly mimetic, and how do these differences condition reception history? How has the fantastic been used in reform movements and the rhetoric of reaction? What are the ethics of literary fantasies (or the fantastic mode), and how have they been applied?

We welcome papers on any topic related to our theme. We hope to have several panels on texts from the medieval, early modern, eighteenth-century, Romantic, Victorian, and twentieth- and twenty-first century periods. While most papers given at this conference will address Anglophone literatures, we also welcome papers (in English) that address non-English or non-literary texts from other regions. As our conference is in Taipei, Taiwan, we particularly hope to organize several panels that address how literary fantasies have been celebrated, used, criticized, or abused in Asia. We are also interested in explorations of the reception history of Western fantasies in the East and Eastern fantasies in the West.

Our keynote speakers are Marysa Demoor (Ghent University) and Ackbar Abbas (University of California, Irvine). Marysa Demoor is author or editor of nearly twenty books, predominately on British and European literature, including the Dictionary of Nineteenth-century Journalism. Her early publications were on folklorist, fairy-tale collector, and journalist, Andrew Lang, and her current research interests include identity, nationhood and histoire croisée. Ackbar Abbas (Hong Kong: Culture and the Politics of Disappearance) is currently working on several projects: a book on ‘Posthumous Socialism’ about China and Hong Kong; a collaborative volume on ‘Volatility’ in contemporary culture and finance; and another volume which he will be co-editing on ‘Poor Theory’.  Abbas's keynote speech is entitled “Documentary As Fantasy; or, Documentary in the Era of Its Impossibility.”

Paper topics include but are not limited to:

    • National Epics (The Epic of Gilgamesh, The IliadBeowulfOssianLe Morte D’Arthur, the KalevalaIcelandic Sagas and the Poetic and Prose Eddas, etc.)
    • Classical Chinese Novels and Nationalism or Politics: Romance of the Three KingdomsWater MarginJourney to the WestDream of the Red Chamber
    • The politics of or within best-selling literary fantasies such as The Lord of the Rings, the Gormenghast trilogyThe Master and Margarita, The Books of Earthsea, Harry PotterHis Dark Materials, Game of Thrones and others
    • Nineteenth-century Fairy Tale Collectors such as the Brothers Grimm, Andrew Lang, and the members of the Folk-Lore Society, and their collections
    • Racial Theories and Nationalism, Politics, or (fantastic) Literature, (Matthew Arnold, Ernest Renan, Robert Knox, etc.)
    • German philology, folklore, and twentieth-century Nazism
    • White nationalism and pseudo-history (Vikings, Anglo-Saxons, etc.)
    • Magical Realism and National Identities
    • Fantasy and Orientalism
    • Fantasy and Taiwanese Identity
    • Fantasy and Chinese identity
    • Taiwanese or Chinese nationalisms
    • Japanese fantasy and Taiwanese identity (from the Japanese colonial period to the present)
    • Fantasy and nationalism in Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Catalonia, etc.
    • Colonial and Post-colonial nationalisms and literary fantasies
    • Political satires written in the fantastic genre such as Gulliver’s Travels
    • Utopias and/or Dystopias
    • Sexual Politics and Fantasy (“The Wife of Bath’s Tale,” the Arabian NightsGame of Thrones, etc.)
    • Early Modern writers, fantasy, politics, and nationalism (Shakespeare, Marlowe, Spenser, Milton, etc.)
    • Medievalism (in art, literature, TV and film, gaming, etc.)
    • Victorian fantasists and politics: William Morris, Charles Kingsley, George MacDonald, Lewis Carroll, Christina Rossetti, Dinah Mulock, Margaret Oliphant, Tennyson, etc.
    • Travelers’ Tales and Nationalism
    • Politics and nationalism in children’s literary fantasies
    • Fantasy and environmentalism or fantasy and climate change
    • Fantasy and revolutions (The French Revolution, the Godwinian school, the work of particular Romantic poets, fantasy and European revolutions, etc.)
    • Fantasy and national or ethnic identities
    • Politicized fantasies
    • Politicized Reception histories of fantasy
    • Mao Zedong’s theory of literature and art, later Communist theories of art
    • Marxism and fantasies
    • Oral Histories and/or Folktales and Cultural Identity
    • Fantasy and the Cultural Industry
    • Literary fantasy and its publishers
    • The international diffusion and reception history of national fantasies across borders
    • Repressive governments such as ISIS and North Korea, and their national fantasies
    • Politics, Literature, and “Alternative Facts”
    • Escapism
    • Literary Fantasy and Radical Technologies

Please  submit a 250–300 word abstract and the requested presenter information in one Word or PDF file to the conference e-mail address,, by Friday, August 31, 2018.

We also have an early-consideration deadline, Monday, June 4, 2018because we will have a significant number of papers from international scholars, who work on a different academic calendar and who may need more time to make long-distance travel plans. Anyone may choose to apply by the June 4 early deadline, and we will respond within two weeks of that date. Abstracts received after June 4 and before August 31 will be considered in early September with results sent by September 15. Papers will be limited to 20 minutes.

The conference will be held on November 23–24, 2018, in Taipei, with companion cultural events on November 22. Detailed information about the conference can be found on our conference website,