Thursday, December 14, 2006

Childish literary criticism

In the New Statesman, Ursula Le Guin defends fantasy in fiction. She says that by the mid-19th Century, when literature was dominated by realism, fantasy literature, "in which magic works, or animals speak, or the laws of physics yield to the laws of the human psyche", took refuge in children's books. It flourished so well there, she says, it began to be perceived as being for children only.
The modernists extended this misconception by declaring fantastic narrative to be intrinsically childish.
They did? Which modernist made this declaration? Le Guin leaves us guessing. Was it the author of A Report to the Academy, The New Advocate and Josephine the Singer? Maybe it was that arch-modernist from Buenos Aires who wrote Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius? How dare they look down on talking animals and fantastic tales about physics!

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