1. thalorin19
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    thalorin19 Member

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    Do you consider Fantasy as literature?

    Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by thalorin19, Apr 3, 2011.

    This is a question I have been wanting to ask the forums for awhile, but I either don't have time or I forget due to busywork. But it's a subject thats been coming up with my friends and I, and writing classes lately for me. And I was curious to the opinion of those on this forum.

    Basically, do you consider writings that are put in the genre of Fantasy as literature? And by literature, I mean books that are regarded as pieces of art basically. To name a few that come off the top of my head for example - The Great Gatsby, Frankenstein, The Road. These books are considered pieces of 'literature'.

    And with Fantasy, I speak of you know - swords and magic, wizards and witches, that kind of stuff. Any kind of fantasy, from high to dark, could you ever consider literature? Acclaimed pieces of fantasy work are Lord of the Rings - which has seemed to be gaining respect over the past decades, and another in my opinion, A Song of Ice and Fire series.

    Alot of people argue that Fantasy isn't literature, as people in Fantasy have it easy compared to other genres when writing, such as elements, creating drama and such, as compared to other genres. While some say this just shows the capability of a writer even more.

    So what are your thoughts? Can works of Fantasy be considered literature, and worthy enough to stand along with the classics? Or no. Give your reasons and such.
     
  2. Depressing Jester
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    Depressing Jester Member

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    Yes and No.

    While a lot are indeed cheesy and unoriginal. "The Lord of the Rings" and "Wheel of Time" are two beautiful pieces of work that could easily be classified as art.

    When it comes to fantasy, you have to dig through the rubble to find the gem.
     
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  3. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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    I consider the bane of the earth I voted no
     
  4. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Of course. A book that is "good" definitely has a chance of becoming a classic, regardless of what genre it's characterized under. What constitutes "good" is subjective and isn't really important for the purpose of this thread. Like I said, any book, regardless of genre, can potentially become a classic.
     
  5. Dante Dases
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    Dante Dases Contributing Member Contributor

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    With respect, what kind of answer is that?

    Going back to the original question, it depends on your definition of literature. Are we talking literature that the columnists at the Sunday Telegraph are going to gush over as highlighting various bits of the minutiae of the human condition, or are we talking a damn good read?

    Just because it's fantasy doesn't preclude it from being either of those things. More often than not fantasy will fall into the latter category of literature, but every now and then something will be written that makes itself the darling of the critics (even though they'll determinedly avoid calling it fantasy - or they'll just ignore it if it's so clearly fantasy that they can't get away with describing it through convoluted metaphors). What fantasy can be said to be literature? Some will argue Lord of the Rings, with its old world versus new world themes. In a more modern setting, I could make an argument for certain of Terry Pratchett's works to be described as literature, as they tackle important themes. (Pratchett also has the advantage over so-called literary novelists by the fact he's the living embodiment of awesome).

    Unfortunately, the critics who decide what's literature in the strictest sense won't recognise fantasy as being literature per se. In fairness, that's because a lot of fantasy is derivative and goes through the same motions time and again. But there is some fantasy with real literary merit to it, even if the critics refuse to see it.
     
  6. Siberith
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    Siberith Member

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    I find it literature. Although its some of the hardest pieces to write due to the orginality. But if you do get a good piece of fantasy work it usally turns out big.
     
  7. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    When you ask if it can be "literature," I'm assuming you mean the traditionally-used sense of the word. You know, the books deemed classics, like LOTR/Grapes of Wrath/Huck Finn/The Color Purple/Narnia/etc (okay, not all of those are fantasy but you know what I mean).

    Technically speaking, anything written is literature from those novels, to easier-to-read and fluffier novels, to the brochures you get at rallies. That's besides the point, though.

    In short, I'd say it all depends on whether it's good or not. Some fantasy -- like LOTR, Narnia and Harry Potter -- will be around for centuries to come, while others aren't taken seriously. Fantasy has its gems, but for some reason, it has a bad rep.

    I think this bad rep mainly comes because people who write fantasy sometimes rip off a lot. You know, re-using Tolkein's stuff over and over and over. I think fantasy stories are brilliant when done originally.
     
  8. aimi_aiko
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    aimi_aiko Contributing Member

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    In my opinion, a book (regardless of it's genre) is a sweet piece of literature/art to me. I consider any book or a piece of writing as literature. Though I'm glad you asked the question, it's a fantastic topic to discuss. This will sprout tons of different opinions and outlooks. Its always great to know what others' opinions are.
     
  9. bumblebot
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    bumblebot Senior Member

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    I agree, but I think this is true for every genre of books and other things like film, television, and visual art. Only a fraction of any form of media is going to be remarkable. Most of it is going to be mediocre.
     
  10. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    If it's good.
     
  11. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    You're too kind. ;)


    The nice things about 'classics,' whether literature, film, or anything really, is time has a nice way of forgetting the things worth forgetting. Not always, but usually. That's why they're classics.

    The challenge, as you aptly point out, is finding the gems in contemporary works, as then you've got to do your own sifting. Happens in all genres, though I would say the 'literary' genre is at least a bit easier, as they're often being judged on their literary merit, so even if you don't personally like the work you're getting what you expect. It's often tougher in popular genres, because then best sellers are often the books that get attention, and are often bad. Or worse, the books that are 'entertaining' that get recommended to you by not-as-well-read friends as 'great literature' that end up terrible.

    Where, usually, if someone recommends a literary book on the merits that it's 'great,' you at least know it's doing what's expected and may not like it, but it probably at least won't be poorly written and will have things to learn from (which imo is in part the mark of 'literature').
     
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  12. daydreams
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    daydreams Member

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    This is my opinion as well.
     
  13. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Of course fantasy can be literature. The genre doesn’t prevent it from being so. Any work of fiction that is well written can be considered literature.

    I think this should be pointed out: Many famous and celebrated works of literature from the past can be considered fantasy, given the times and conditions in which they were written. Obviously, Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey are fantasies. Shakespeare also wrote fantasies, like Macbeth (with the witches) and Hamlet (with the ghost). Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur is a fantasy. In the past, most people lived their entire lives within twenty miles or so of where they were born (HUGE generalization there, but let’s go with it). They also had little or no knowledge of science or geography. For them, a great many stories that we would consider realistic today were actually fantasies, because they took place well outside their own experience. Moby Dick is a fantasy when you look at it this way.

    Nowadays, fantasy gets a bad reputation because so many hack writers are churning out volume after volume of derivative garbage to satisfy a market that still wants more Tolkien clones or Harry Potter clones. But the existence of large amounts of crap in a genre does not mean that that genre cannot also boast works of great literature.
     
  14. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    The Macbeth witches were real enough to be put in spiked barrels rolled down a hill then the barrel and the contents set alight. I can see part of the hill out of my back window I think (if not it is the next one along that kind of runs into it).

    However:
    Waterbabies
    Narnia
    Midsummer's Night Dream
    The Odyssey
    Five Children and It
    Faustus
    Tam O'Shanter
    The Lady of Shalott
    The Owl Service

    What do you think can fantasy be literature ?
     
  15. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    I think a more interesting thing is would fantasy readers want fantasy considered literature? Countless books by Marxist/Feminist/Structuralist/Queer/Freudian/Postcolonialist/Darwinian/Postmodern/etc theorists deconstructing your favourite pieces of fantasy? 2500 word essays on the elements of fantasy people find least interesting?

    Really, fantasy is already considered literature, and most major universities with decent English departments probably already offer courses that feature some fantasy/scifi. But again, I can't imagine many fans of fantasy to enjoy them. I had to study The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which is a great book and a fantasy classic. But when you study it, you don't sit around talking about how great it is and how imaginative it is and what a fun story it has. You write thousands of words about the moral implications of the lack of a set-piece battle, or how the dragons function in terms of moral development, or whether it can be considered in keeping with the bildungsroman tradition.

    Still sound good?
     
  16. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Yes.

    Just because someone likes fantasy, doesn't mean they don't like or can't comprehend scholarly study.

    I'm sure you didn't mean to condescend to fans of fantasy or such scholarly pursuits, but imo you come pretty close to condescending to both. Mostly by implying there is a separation of tastes, abilities, whatever, when honestly there isn't.

    People, on an individual level, enjoy different things, and it's a bit short sighted to make a point that relies on an alleged group (in this case fantasy readers) to be completely homogenized and lack individual variation.

    There are plenty of people (people, not some unit in a self-perceived group, but individual people) who read fantasy and enjoy scholarly pursuits in relation to all texts, whether fantasy or otherwise. You may not know them or think they exist, and they may not hang out on internet writing forums, but that doesn't mean they don't exist.

    And assuming your assumptions ae even true, why wouldn't readers of fantasy want fantasy to be considered worthy of scholarly attention? Does it somehow lessen their enjoyment of fantasy? Will they somehow be forced to read fantasy in this way?

    It seems to me it's a personal thing as a READER, and adding the qualifier of being a fantasy reader, by it's very isolation, dismisses not only individual variation, but also starts seeming to imply there are different judgments and presumptions about such people, that they can't just be considered READERS, but grouped in only with a certain type of reader.

    But thankfully, people are more than one genre they may enjoy, and people will either enjoy this sort of scholarly study or not. I personally do, and am thankful fantasy is increasingly being seen for the depth it can provide (that any 'genre' can) and that such opportunities to study and read these works in deeper ways is becoming increasingly more available.

    Example: in an advanced fiction workshop at my local university with an author who is a critically acclaimed literary writer, the students had to read from a list of books the professor deemed worthy of literary study. The list included Hunger Games (and rightfully so, imo). How awesome is that?

    And yeah, that sort of book may be scoffed by some in academia, but increasingly all genres are being accepted on the merit of what's written behind the cover, not the spot it occupies on book store shelves. I for one, as a fan of good writing, no matter the genre, am thankful. And I'm sure there are other 'fantasy readers' who feel the same.
     
  17. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    I would say that Harry Potter is literature. Sure, it is much, much, much easier to digest than LOTR, but there are just as many themes and motifs as other literature. My college even has a class about Harry Potter, taught by a classics professor.
     
  18. K.S.A.
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    K.S.A. Member

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    First things first...let's all understand that LOTR is not the book most current fantasy books are a rip-off of. LOTR itself is a rip-off of the 14th century text, Beowulf, since Hobbit is mostly "inspired" by it and was written before - and was the basis for - the trilogy.

    Now, the first ever book of Fantasy, which inspired me to write in the genre, is the Bible. No, I'm not being disrespectful - being a Christian myself, I'd be the first in line to boo me. It is a simple statement of fact. Fantasy is anything far removed from the mundanity that is our world. And the Bible is the most fantastical of them all, which is why we believe in it - we want to believe that we come from something so wondrous. I doubt that anybody will declaim it as the most remarkable piece of literature, so I guess I've answered your question.
     
  19. Taylee91
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    Taylee91 Carpe Diem Contributor

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    Emphatically, YES! Writing is writing. It shouldn't be judged in what context it's written. Honestly...

    If anyone thinks Fantasy shouldn't be considered literature, then they have another thing coming. It takes just as much work to keep the drama going, to portray believable and sympathetic characters, and to of course weave a good plot.

    Now granted, some works have continued on with our old lore of fairies, witches, wizards, trolls, etc. All derivative of fairy tales. But just because they take known ideas like these that certainly does not mean they shouldn't be considered as literature. It's what the writer does with those similar ideas that's more important. And besides, why do readers come back time and time again to fantasy? They come back to it to escape from reality but to also come back to familiar concepts such as powerful wizards, mischevious trolls, and beyond beautiful fairies.

    And perhaps we writers of fantasy do get a bit of an easier time. We have concepts already laid down that we can use. We have the ability to do whatever we want and name our races, name the specific characters of our stories, and even create the fantasy world. But aside from our ability to be more free, does that free us from the inumerable tasks of telling a good, compelling story? No! The struggle to write something truly good is still there as it is in every genre.
     
  20. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    ^^
    It doesn't, but I've found some fantasy gets so engrossed in world-building that the story ends up lacking.

    To answer the original question, of course fantasy can be literature.

    I personally would not class Harry Potter as such though.
     
  21. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Some, yes--specially the children's classics like Narnia or E Nesbit. And some, I would enjoy studying at uni.

    But a depressingly high amount of fantasy definitely hasn't a high enough standard of writing to come under the heading of 'literature'.

    I suppose you could say the same of 'romance', though.
     
  22. Taylee91
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    Taylee91 Carpe Diem Contributor

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    Fantasy is a genre of literature nonetheless. Aside from works that have come up lacking, the good ones that stand out from the rest should be considered so. Let's not let the many outweigh the significance of the one.

    But if that's not good enough for anyone, then let's all just narrow the question down to what it is -- writing: An artform coming from the deep minds of geniuses. And if you like Harry Potter or not, it's still something other people enjoy. And who's to judge whether you gain satisfaction from it or not? That decision belongs to you and only you.
     
  23. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    There is rubbish in all sections of books and there has been for a long time. There is just an awful lot of fantasy and romance written. In both those genres you get more good and more bad than any other simply because of the sheer volume. When NaNo gets underway the fantasy boards often get more traffic than all the other genres put together. The same here an awful lot of us write fantasy at least sometimes.

    Although personally i would be unimpressed if I got a book put under literary fiction.
     
  24. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    I would say that Tolkien was definitely influenced by Beowulf, but I don't think he ripped it off at all. LOTR was also influenced by Norse, Germanic, Celtic, and Finish mythology; fairy tales, and also Wagners "The Ring Cycle". LOTR's main plot and characters show little resemblance to the plot and characters from Beowulf. Undoubtedly influenced by Beowulf, but definitely not a rip-off.
     
  25. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    This kind of thing isn't really the point. It seems that you are defining literature as "that which gets subjected to endless boring critiques by academics". I regard literature as work that does more than merely entertain or kill time. It's work that provokes thought and arouses strong emotional responses. (I'm not pretending to define the word "literature" here, but I think most of us would know what I mean.) Literature is not defined by the amount of highfalutin academic attention it gets. It's defined more by quality of writing and thinking.
     

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