AustLit logo


Issue Details: First known date: 2016... 2016 From Middle Earth to Westeros : Medievalism, Proliferation and Paratextuality
The material on this page is available to AustLit subscribers. If you are a subscriber or are from a subscribing organisation, please log in to gain full access. To explore options for subscribing to this unique teaching, research, and publishing resource for Australian culture and storytelling, please contact us or find out more.

AbstractHistoryArchive Description

'This chapter argues that setting is a privileged aspect of the popular fantasy genre, and it analyses setting in terms of both how texts are created and how they are circulated and enjoyed. ‘Plot driven’ and ‘character driven’ are commonplace descriptions of modern fiction, and often mark a distinction between genres of differing value. While these phrases are most usually deployed in non-academic writing such as reviews and other opinion-based works, they have appeared in recent research around reading and empathy. According to Frank Lachmann, readers of so-called literary works scored higher in empathy tests than readers of popular fiction; he suggests that this is because empathy is more readily aroused by ‘character-driven’ fiction where ‘the emotional repertoire of the reader is enlarged’ than by ‘plot-driven’ fiction (2015, p. 144). I note that Lachmann makes no attempt to elaborate on what these phrases might specifically mean, nor is there any consideration of the ‘emotional repertoire’ of, say, romance fiction, which fits his definition of character driven and yet remains the most reviled of the popular genres. While, to my mind, good fiction needs to attend to both plot and character equally well, neither of these necessary aspects of storytelling comes readily to mind as a ‘driver’ when thinking about fantasy fiction. In fact, the big engine of the genre appears to be the exposition and elaboration of the setting, from which characterisation and plots specific to the setting are then generated. Fantasy novels are, in many ways, setting driven, a feature that marks them out as unique among popular genres. Other genres where setting is an acknowledged pleasure are historical fiction (for example the work of Philippa Gregory or Diana Gabaldon) and the exotic travel memoir (for example texts set in aspirational destinations such as Provence and Tuscany); but these at least rely on settings that are real. Fantasy fiction, on the other hand, invites readers to immerse themselves in and admire an incredibly detailed world that is an invention of the author’s imagination.' (Introduction)

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

  • Appears in:
    y separately published work icon New Directions in Popular Fiction : Genre, Distribution, Reproduction Ken Gelder (editor), London : Palgrave Macmillan , 2016 11559068 2016 anthology criticism

    'This book brings together new contributions in Popular Fiction Studies, giving us a vivid sense of new directions in analysis and focus. It looks into the histories of popular genres such as the amatory novel, imperial romance, the western, Australian detective fiction, Whitechapel Gothic novels, the British spy thriller, Japanese mysteries, the 'new weird', fantasy, girl hero action novels and Quebecois science fiction. It also examines the production, reproduction and distribution of popular fiction as it carves out space for itself in transnational marketplaces and across different media entertainment systems; and it discusses the careers of popular authors and the various investments in popular fiction by readers and fans. This book will be indispensable for anyone with a serious interest in this prolific but highly distinctive literary field.' (Publication summary)

    London : Palgrave Macmillan , 2016
    pg. 201-221
Last amended 10 May 2019 10:13:14
201-221 From Middle Earth to Westeros : Medievalism, Proliferation and Paratextualitysmall AustLit logo
    Powered by Trove