Towards a philosophy of the fantastic
Widgren, Kenneth David
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The fantastic is an inherently problematic genre. There exist as many definitions of the fantastic as there are critics of the fantastic. In fact, perhaps the only definable characteristic of the fantastic is its very indefinability. This difficulty is discussed in the introductory chapter. What is proposed in this dissertation is not a new definition but a new approach to the fantastic, specifically as pertains to 19th century French fantastic texts. In chapter two, I discuss the sublime as developed by Kant, Burke and Schiller and then show how the fantastic is a literary representation of an experience with it. In chapter three, I show how language does and does not work in relating the fantastic event, based upon thinkers such as Merleau-Ponty, Saussure and Benveniste. In the chapter four, I explain how narrators in these stories make use of phenomenological reduction as a means to understand their perceptions. Additionally, we as readers are also forced to use the same process when we engage with these troublesome texts. Finally, in the conclusion, I show that the fantastic is, by nature, an inherently philosophical kind of text, evoking many of these concepts long before they are fleshed out by later thinkers. Moreover, while active involvement of the reader in any text is required, this is even more important in the fantastic, a genre which seems to defy easy categorization.