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David Sandner: Romanticism, Fantasy Literature, Politics. Resistance in the Age of Gaslighting

Jul 18, 2019

Dr. David Sandner

Dr. David Sandner

20.09.2019, 18:00 (Hörsaal / Lecture Hall)

Fantasy literature is routinely dismissed from serious discussions of politics because it is considered “escapist,” a running away from the world and its problems. Its politics have been called regressive—nostalgic and irrational—even reactionary. Placing fantasy back in the context of its roots in Romanticism, and the claims of a radical Romantic Imagination, reveals fantasy’s potential as resistance to illegitimate claims to power. Fantasy deals knowingly with the matter of creating worlds; what is lost in just pretending, or in potentially self-indulgent power fantasies, may be regained in the ability of the fantastic to question our “situatedness” inside what only seems to be the obvious and implacable systems of control that inform our reality. 

Comparing radical sublime moments in work by American fantasist Ursula Le Guin and Romantic poet Percy Shelley demonstrates how fantasy can, as Shelley writes in “Mont Blanc,” “refute large codes of fraud and woe.” Both Le Guin and Shelley claim the imagination has a unique role to play in our experience of what is true in the world; and both argue that the imagination has political consequences. For both, the political emerges out of the very moments, fundamental to the fantastic itself, when the imagination becomes unbound. These moments, the very moments that have led fantasy to be dismissed from serious consideration of the things that matter in our shared reality, can also raise powerful critiques of our experience of the real—political critiques—that have long been underappreciated.

Bio: Dr. David Sandner is Professor of English at California State University, Fullerton. He is the author of the Mythopoeic-Award-nominated Critical Approaches to the Fantastic, 1712-1831 and The Fantastic Sublime: Romanticism and Transcendence in Nineteenth-century Children’s Fantasy Literature, and editor of Fantastic Literature: A Critical Reader and The Treasury of the Fantastic (co-edited with Jacob Weisman). He runs The Frankenstein Meme (frankensteinmeme.com), an online archive and searchable database exploring the literary influence of Mary Shelley’s novel. Forthcoming is an edited collection, Philip K. Dick, Here and Now. Sandner is also a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and the Horror Writers of America. Forthcoming is a novelette from Fairwood Press, “Mingus Fingers,” co-written with Jacob Weisman. He is currently working on scholarly works related to the Frankenstein archive and a novel related to the novelette. His website is davidsandner.com.