From Homer to Harry Potter: A Handbook on Myth and Fantasy

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Need Help? YouTube Channel. O'Hara, David, On Shelf. CMC Steamboat Campus. Quick Copy View. Place Hold. Add To List. The allure of fantasy continues to grow with film adaptations of The Lord of the Rings and J. Rowling's Harry Potter series. But how should Christians approach modern works of fantasy, especially debated points such as magic and witches? Also in This Series.

by Matthew T. Dickerson

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Other Editions and Formats. Choose a Format. Availability On Shelf. See Full Copy Details. More Info Place Hold. More Copies In Prospector. Loading Prospector Copies Table of Contents. We are also thankful to the many students and colleagues at Middle-bury College in Vermont, The Pennsylvania State University, and Augus-tana College of South Dakota, who have read and discussed the stories with us and helped to sharpen our thinking. Finally, we would be remiss if we failed to acknowledge our debts to our teachers over the years, who introduced us to the stories, inspired our continued reading, and aided our understanding: the late Professor Robert T.

Farrell — taught Matthew Dickerson Old English, helped him translate Beowulf, and gave him his first opportunity to teach a course on Tolkien at Cornell University. Eve Adler, who died in , taught at Middlebury College for a quarter century beginning in Dave witnessed her excellence as a teacher in — when she taught him to read Greek and to sing Homer. None could call Greek a dead language while she taught it.

Now that Dave teaches college Greek he has seen with new eyes how well she loved her craft and her students alike. She was a model of scholarship and pedagogy for the faculty at Middlebury College, including Matthew Dickerson who started teaching there in Matthew Davis at St. Augustine would consider the piety of asking the right questions. Douglas R. Anderson patiently guided Dave through his dissertation at The Pennsylvania State University, and continues to show his students the best of Achilles and the best of Odysseus, while embodying none of their faults. These teachers may not have said or thought the same things we have written in this book, and so we cannot blame them for our mistakes, but we can thank them for spurring our thought.

We are grateful to Rodney Clapp and Rebecca Cooper and the entire team of editors and artists at Brazos Press for their help and hard work, and the opportunity to collaborate with them and with each other on this book. For frequently cited sources, we use the abbreviations given below.

Since there are so many editions with different page numberings of The Lord of the Rings, we follow T. Similarly, for references to the seven books in C. This book spans the literature of fantasy over many centuries. The table of contents shows chapters on ancient biblical narrative, Greek myth, medieval legend and romance, and fairy tales from the nineteenth century and earlier.

Given a limitless amount of time both ours and our readers , it would be easy to expand the scope of the book even further to include such examples of fantasy, fairy tale, and myth as Norse mythology, Native American myths, African fairy tales, etc. Indeed, the more we worked on this book, the more we wanted to include or saw that we ought to include. When we originally conceived of this project, however, our purpose was only to provide a guide to modern fantasy literature. In particular, our initial goals were: 1 to suggest a few general principles for how to think about and understand the genre of fantasy; and 2 to illustrate those principles by exploring some specific characteristic examples i.

This was motivated in part by a comment from author Tom Shippey, who at the start of his book J. Tolkien: Author of the Century writes: The dominant literary mode of the twentieth century has been the fantastic. However, modern fantasy literature, especially the deeper and better kind, is steeped and rooted in ancient myth, medieval heroic legend, and fairy tale. To put it differently, modern fantasy —by which we mean the fantasy literature of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, or more specifically fantasy in the post—J.

Tolkien era—is in many ways not so modern! If we follow the thinking of J. Thus, any exploration of modern fantasy should by rights begin with a study of its predecessors. Indeed, accomplishing the former goal would not be possible without some success at the latter. Of course, the study of myth is an ambitious goal, even if we focus only on a subset of Western myth. Much has been written on the subject: reference guides, adaptations, psychoanalytic explorations of symbolism in myth, etc. The same goes for medieval romance and fairy tale.

There is a variety of literature on these subjects.

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We seek to provide only an introduction and some background that will enable readers to understand the importance and influence of an important part of our literary culture. Another point should also be made. Though there has been some very helpful commentary and criticism of myth and fairy story, much of what has been written is either reference guides that help the reader find some myth they once read, or books that intend to dismiss myth as outdated, unimportant, dangerous, or merely symbolic.

Of course as soon as we mention exploring characteristic examples of modern fantasy, every reader will wonder which books and authors we have in mind as characteristic. One of the things we realized from the start was that whatever authors we choose to include would also by virtue of space limitations result in other authors being omitted. And probably every reader of this book will feel that some vitally important author has been unfairly left out. Our decisions have partly to do with taste and familiarity; we are unapologetic about the fact that we know and like some authors better than others.

But the most important consideration was to find a broad range of characteristic works that will best illustrate the principles we present.

From Homer to Harry Potter : a handbook on myth and fantasy (Book, ) []

Indeed, our goal is to help our readers to become more discerning and understanding readers, to help them to learn to understand fantasy literature, and not to tell them what to think about specific works. To that end, it is far better that we omit important authors so that our readers can apply the principles on their own.

There are two exceptions to this approach. Those glancing through our table of contents will notice no chapters on J. Tolkien or C. Lewis, arguably the two most important authors of fantasy in the twentieth century, and who will likely remain the most influential fantasy authors through the twenty-first. The reason for this omission is twofold. First, unlike with the genre of fantasy in general and most of the authors we explore in particular, there is already an abundance some would say even a glut of critical work on these two authors.

Some of this work is very fine scholarship, much of it is accessible to a general audience, and some of it even achieves both of these qualities.

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Readers seeking to explore more thoroughly the writings of Tolkien and Lewis are encouraged to see the recommended reading list at the back of this book. Second, and more centrally, the ideas of Tolkien and Lewis permeate our writing. One of the things we have done in this book is taken critical ideas about myth and fairy stories scattered throughout the writings of these two luminaries, ordered and structured them in a single place, and then applied the ideas to a new body of literature that did not exist when they wrote, and that has come into existence largely as a result of their pioneering work.

There is no shortage of books on some important fantasy authors especially J. Tolkien and C.

Science Fiction & Fantasy A Handbook on Myth and Fantasy From Homer to Harry Potter

Lewis , but there are very few book-length works that take modern fantasy seriously as a literary genre and address the issues of the roots and sources of the genre and how to understand and think about works of that genre as a whole and not just one or two important authors. By romance we—and Tolkien—are using the term in a historical sense, referring broadly to medieval romance especially what is known as Arthurian romance and to the nineteenth-century romantic movement in literature, and not to the modern romance or romantic novel.

The word Fay itself is an older word for fairy and refers to a broad range of magical or supernatural creatures of myth and folklore, including elves, dwarves, goblins, and the like. Today there are several derivatives and variants of the word Fay. Throughout this book, we use the modern word fairy to refer to all Fay creatures, and fairy story to refer to the narrow genre of traditional fairy tales such as the nineteenth-century collections of the Brothers Grimm and Andrew Lang.

At the end of the book, a suggested reading list is given for the reader interested in further study. In the foreword to his book J. Tolkien: Author of the Century, Tom Shippey makes a startling and important observation about the importance of fantastic literature to modern culture.

Though Shippey rightly includes science fiction and horror along with fantasy as the Literature of the Fantastic, his own book focuses specifically on fantasy literature, which claims at least an equal share with science fiction as the dominant literary mode of the twentieth century. As one of the leading philologists of our time, and one who has served on the English faculty at Oxford, as the chair of English Language and Medieval Literature at Leeds, and currently as an English professor at St. Louis University, Shippey has strong credentials to make such a judgment. The literary genre of fantasy has blossomed in the twentieth century and continues to flourish into the twenty-first.