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Fantastic , also fantastic , is a genre term that is defined very differently in professional circles. Non-scientific, the term “fantastic” describes everything that is unbelievable, crazy, wonderful or great. The origin of the term “fantastic literature” is a translation error: ETA Hoffmann's Fantasiestücke in Callot's manner were translated into French in 1814 as Contes “fantastiques” instead of, more correctly, as Contes “de la fantaisie” .

Definitions of the fantastic

The many definitions of the fantastic suggested by literary scholars can be roughly divided into two categories according to Uwe Durst (* 1965).

Maximalist definition

The maximalist definition includes all narrative texts in whose fictional world the laws of nature are violated. The fundamental difference to the minimalist approach is that a doubt about the intra-fictional factuality of the supernatural plays no role in the definition.

Durst further distinguishes between an ahistorical and a historical variant of maximalist genre definition. Ahistorically, all texts are assigned to the genre that violate natural laws from the point of view of today's natural science, including the Bible ( H. P. Lovecraft ), ancient epics, etc. ( Harald Fricke ). The historical variant, on the other hand, only describes those texts as fantastic that were created after the creation of the realistic literary convention (beginning of the 18th century) and in whose initially realistic world a supernatural event takes place ( Louis Vax , Roger Caillois ). Both maximalism variants can be differentiated into further subgroups. For example, Marianne Wünsch also includes texts in the fantastic literature in which the supernatural event is finally realistically explained away, something that other theorists reject.

Minimalist definition

The minimalist definition was represented for the first time by the Bulgarian-French structuralist Tzvetan Todorov in a lengthy literary work. According to Todorov, the fantastic (as opposed to the wonderful , where the supernatural is beyond doubt) is determined by the indecision of the implied reader. The fictional factuality of the wonderful is in doubt. As soon as the text brings about a decision in favor of a realistic or wonderful classification of the event, it leaves the realm of the fantastic. In various texts, due to divergent information given in the text, the reader is not able to find out until the very end whether the described miraculous actually exists intratextually or is based on a deception of the hero, on a staging by fraudsters, drug use, madness or the like.

Todorov's line of research was u. a. continued by Christine Brooke-Rose (1923–2012) and Thomas Wörtche . Wörtche put Todorov's indecision criterion on a precise narrative-theoretical basis (macro- and microstructural destabilization of the narrative instance as the staging basis of the fantastic ambivalence). In recent times, the structuralist Uwe Durst in particular has emerged with a consistent minimalist theory development. The scientifically based criterion of the supernatural is replaced by the literary-convention-conditioned criterion of the miraculous, which stands in relation to the supernatural in a relationship of relative autonomy. Durst sees the advantage of minimalism primarily in the terminological specification, which also allows an exact description and terminology of texts that are excluded from the genre and assigned to neighboring categories in the course of the implementation of the minimalist concept of fantasy.

Important terms in the fantastic discussion


The image of the crack goes back to a much-quoted definition of fantasy by Roger Caillois . According to this, the “supernatural” reveals itself in the fantastic like a crack in the universal context. The miracle there becomes a forbidden aggression that has a threatening effect and breaks the security of the world in which until then the laws were held to be all-valid and immovable. It is the impossible that appears unexpectedly in a world from which the impossible has by definition been banned ”. The fear criterion additionally represented by Caillois (the fear that the real reader allegedly feels when reading a fantastic text determines the fantastic character of the text) was controversially discussed in the literary debate and is now scientifically outdated. Todorov, for example, scoffed: If you take Caillois' views seriously, "you would have to deduce from this [...] that the genre of a work depends on the nerves of its reader."

Reality system

The concept of the reality system was introduced into the fantasy discussion by Uwe Durst in 2001 and describes the organization of the laws that apply within a fictional world. This is primarily intended to create a distinction from the extra-literary concept of reality and to emphasize the inherent legality of literary laws of reality. According to Durst, the regular reality system (R) is the system that hides its procedural nature (and thus its immanent wonder ) in order to give itself the appearance of identity with extra-literary reality. In realistic texts, for example, the procedural wonder of an omniscient narrator or the pan-deterministic causality of symbolic orders are concealed in accordance with convention. The wonderful reality system (W), on the other hand, allows wonderful events (clairvoyance, invisibility, immortality, vampirism etc.) to appear openly. This wondrousness is either intratextually (in the text itself, i.e. by the narrator or acting characters) or intertextually marked (the wondrousness is evident from the reality systemic difference to realistic texts). In Durst's model, the fantastic is located between the area of ​​the R and that of the W: the formulation of a coherent reality system is impossible here. The fantastic is thus a non-system (N), which results from the mutual negation of the systems R and W.

System jump

The concept of the system jump also goes back to the work of Uwe Durst. It describes the change of the reality system within a literary text and thus its jump from one side of the spectrum to the other. Durst calls such texts mobile , texts without a system jump immobile . As an example, he cites Lewis Carroll's story Alice in Wonderland . The text changes from a regular (Alice and Cecilia at a picnic) to a wonderful one (Alice follows the white rabbit into Wonderland) and back to a regular reality system (Alice wakes up from her dream). For terminology, Durst developed a formula notation in which he contrasts the finally established reality system with the syntagmatic sequence of reality system states within the text (in the example mentioned: R = R + W + R). The concept of the system jump opens u. a. Questions about the genre-correct classification of system-jumping texts that ultimately establish a regular reality system.

Sequential gap

Hans Dieter Zimmermann has developed an approach for a theory of the wonderful, which he traces back to sequential gaps: A necessary element is missing in a plot line, but the plot still takes place, which generates the wonderful (stepping through a wall without first closing a door create). Zimmermann's approach has been expanded by Durst. Since 2007 he has differentiated three types of sequential gaps: syntagmatic-subtractive (as in Zimmermann; an indispensable element is missing in an action), syntagmatic-additive (two actions are declared as a single action unit, pan-determinism: sawing a jewelry ring kills its owner ) and paradigmatic (an entire action has been deleted from the paradigm of possible actions and thus become impossible, e.g. waging a war in a utopian world). Especially since there are sequential gaps in realistic texts, which are almost a condition of narration, the theory of sequential gaps is a central component in Durst's thesis that the fantastic literature pursues an exposure of the intrinsic wonder of narration and thus not the vampire, but the impossibility of narration itself is the real theme of the fantastic.

Fantasy according to a minimalist definition


In order to make the reader indecisive, procedures are used in the text that destabilize the narrator (shatter the authority of the narrator as the guarantor of the narrated world). Wörtche differentiates between macro- and microstructural destabilization processes. The former exist when several narrators (possibly characters) contradict each other, suspect a lie or insanity (as in Theodor Storm's Der Schimmelreiter ). A microstructural procedure is given when the statements of an individual narrator in his own speech are questioned, e.g. B. by modalization ("it seemed to me") or grammatical disruption (as in Hanns Heinz Ewers ' Die Spinne ). Someone who is not in complete control of their own language may also have lost control of their mind. In this context, assurances not to be crazy should also be mentioned (as in Edgar Allan Poe's The Treasonous Heart ).

Representatives and example works

Political Aspects

Rabbi Löw and the Golem , illustration by Mikoláš Aleš 1899

Under the programmatic title Yes, my dear, we are conservative , borrowed from Alfred Kubin , the German scholar Peter Cersowsky refers to a variety of references and parallels between fantastic literature and politically conservative or right-wing positions such as fundamental political distancing and belief in fate. As an early example he mentions Edmund Burke , the founder of conservatism , who with his aesthetic considerations played a central role in the gothic novel and horror story of the 18th and 19th centuries; Cersowsky also names the 1904 publication and translation of Edgar Allan Poe's works in Germany by Arthur Moeller van den Bruck (a central representative of the Conservative Revolution ) as the prelude to a previously unseen wealth of fantastic literature in Germany. A multitude of technical utopias running in parallel, from the robot to the Atlantropa project to Hermann Oberth's space travel books , are closely linked to the technically oriented fantasy and early science fiction .

Cersowsky sees a continuity in this respect beyond the 1920s; because (humorous) “when the revolution failed to materialize, the 68ers put their Lukács aside and passed the time with Lovecraft.” Nevertheless, Cersowsky does not come to the conclusion that fantasy is necessarily reactionary.

Lars Gustafsson is different , who sees the fantastic in the example of Lovecraft as fundamentally reactionary - and weddings of the fantastic (and esoteric) combined with social regression; Lothar Baier and Peter Cersowsky contradict this thesis and, in contrast, name the element of crossing borders, rifts and utopia as potentially emancipatory and as a vehicle for social and technical innovation.

See also

Portal: Phantastik  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the topic of fantasy

Secondary literature

  • Ulf Abraham : Fantastic in literature and film. An introduction for schools and universities. Berlin 2012.
  • Lucie Armitt: Fantasy fiction: an introduction. Continuum, New York 2005, ISBN 0-8264-1685-3 .
  • Neil Cornwell: The literary fantastic: from Gothic to postmodernism. Harvester Wheatsheaf, New York 1990, ISBN 0-7108-1376-7 .
  • Uwe Durst: Theory of Fantastic Literature. Update, corr. u. exp. New edition Lit, Berlin 2007, ISBN 978-3-7720-2766-6 .
  • Uwe Durst: The limited wonderful: On the theory of wonderful episodes in realistic narrative texts and in texts of magical realism. Lit, Berlin 2008, ISBN 978-3-8258-1531-8 .
  • Manfred Engel : The birth of fantastic literature from the spirit of dreams? Dreams and Fantastics in Romantic Literature. In: Christine Ivanović, Jürgen Lehmann, Markus May (eds.): Phantastik - Kult oder Kultur? Aspects of a Phenomenon in Art, Literature, and Film. Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2003, ISBN 3-476-45277-8 , pp. 153-170.
  • Jens Malte Fischer: Literature between dream and reality. Wetzlar 1998.
  • Marco Frenschkowski : Fantastic . In: Gert Ueding (Hrsg.): Historical dictionary of rhetoric . Darmstadt: WBG 1992ff., Vol. 10 (2011), Col. 886-900.
  • Marco Frenschkowski: Is fantasy post-religious? Religious studies contributions to a theory of the fantastic. In: Clemens Ruthner, Ursula Reber u. Markus May (Ed.), After Todorov. Contributions to a definition of the fantastic in literature. Tübingen: Francke 2006, 31–51.
  • Gerhard Haas : Structure and function of fantastic literature. In: active word . 1978, No. 5, pp. 340-356.
  • Christian Heger: Telling children about children. Childhood as a fantastic narrative category in literature and film. In: Ders .: In the shadow realm of fictions: Studies on the fantastic history of motifs and the inhospitable (media) modernity. AVM, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-86306-636-9 , pp. 86-106.
  • Martin Horstkotte: The postmodern fantastic in contemporary British fiction. WVT, Trier 2004, ISBN 3-88476-679-1 . (= Horizons; 34)
  • WR Irwin: The game of the impossible: a rhetoric of fantasy. University of Illinois Press, Urbana 1976, ISBN 0-252-00587-2 .
  • Rosemary Jackson: Fantasy: the literature of subversion. Methuen, London 1981, ISBN 0-416-71170-7 .
  • ST Joshi , Stefan Dziemianowicz: Supernatural Literature of the World An Encyclopedia. (Three volumes), Greenwood Press, 2005, ISBN 0-313-32774-2 .
  • Joachim Körber : Bibliographical lexicon of utopian-fantastic literature. Corian, Meitingen 1985 ff. (Loose-leaf work in continuations).
  • E. Schenkel, WF Schwarz u. a. (Ed.): The magic typewriter. Essays on the tradition of the fantastic in literature. Vervuert, Frankfurt a. M. 1998, ISBN 3-89354-268-X , pp. 327-385.
  • Stanisław Lem : Tzvetan Todorov's theory of the fantastic. In: Zondergeld, RA (ed.), Phaïcon  : Almanach der phantastischen Literatur 1 . Frankfurt a. M. 1974, ISBN 3-458-01769-0 , pp. 92-122.
  • Florian Marzin: The fantastic literature: a genre study. Lang, Frankfurt a. M. 1982, ISBN 3-8204-7156-1 .
  • Dieter Petzold: Fantasy in Film and Literature. Winter, Heidelberg 1996, ISBN 3-8253-0414-0 .
  • Sanna Pohlmann: The fantastic and the fantastic in literature. On fantastic children's novels by Astrid Lindgren. Johannes Herrmann J & J-Verlag, Wettenberg 2004, ISBN 3-937983-00-7 .
  • Marco Prestel: Wonderful confusion. An introduction to the theory of fantastic children's and youth literature and the poetics of fantasy. In: Children's literary myths translation. For the construction of fantastic worlds with Tove Jansson, CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien. Edited by Gunda Mairbäurl, Ingrid Tomkowiak, Ernst Seibert u. Klaus Müller-Wille. Praesens Verlag: Vienna 2013, pp. 25–54, ISBN 978-3-7069-0717-0 .
  • Eric S. Rabkin: The fantastic in literature. Princeton University Press, Princeton 1976, ISBN 0-691-06301-X .
  • Frank Rainer Scheck (ed.), Priest of death. German fantasy from the spirit of decadence . Blitz Verlag, Windeck 2011 [including the introduction to the ed.], ISBN 978-3-89840-279-8 .
  • Annette Simonis: Crossing Borders in Fantastic Literature: Introduction to the theory and history of a narrative genre. Winter, Heidelberg 2005, ISBN 3-8253-5021-5 .
  • Simon Spiegel: In theory fantastic. An introduction to Tzvetan Todorov's theory of fantastic literature. p.machinery, Murnau 2010, ISBN 978-3-942533-12-6 .
  • Jörn Steigerwald: The fantastic imagery of the city. To justify the literary fantasy in ETA Hoffmann's work. Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann 2001 (series of the Foundation for Romantic Research XIV), ISBN 3-8260-2010-3 .
  • Jörn Steigerwald: The fairy tale, the fantastic tale. In: Romantic Prose Fiction . (Comparative history of literatures in European languages) Ed. Gerald Gillespie / Manfred Engel / Bernard Dieterle. Amsterdam / Philadelphia 2008, pp. 325-344.
  • Christian W. Thomsen, Jens Malte Fischer (ed.): Fantasticism in literature and art. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1985, ISBN 3-534-08293-1 .
  • Tzvetan Todorov : Introduction to Fantastic Literature . Translated from the French by Karin Kersten, Senta Metz, Caroline Neubaur. S. Fischer, Frankfurt a. M. 1992, ISBN 3-548-03191-9 . (Original: Introduction à la littérature fantastique. Paris 1970)
  • Thomas Wörtche: Fantasticism and indecision: the structural criterion of a genre. Investigations on texts by Hanns Heinz Ewers and Gustav Meyrink. Corian, Meitingen 1987, ISBN 3-89048-113-2 . (= Studies on fantastic literature; 4)
  • Marianne Wünsch: The Fantastic Literature of Early Modernism (1890–1930). Definition, historical context, structures. Fink, Munich 1991, ISBN 3-7705-2643-0 .
  • Rein A. Zondergeld (Ed.): Phaïcon. Almanac of Fantastic Literature. 5 volumes, Frankfurt a. M. 1974, 1975, 1978, 1980, 1982.
  • Rein A. Zondergeld: Lexicon of fantastic literature. Frankfurt a. M. 1983; extended new version (together with Holger E. Wiedenstried), Stuttgart 1998.
  • Rein A. Zondergeld (ed.): Shadow play. Fantastic stories from the Third Reich. Karolinger Verlag, Vienna 2008, ISBN 978-3-85418-129-3 . (In it especially the afterword of the editor.)

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Tzvetan Todorov: Introduction to Fantastic Literature. Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1992, ISBN 3-596-10958-2 (French: Introduction à la littérature fantastique . Paris 1970. Translated by Karin Kersten, Senta Metz and Caroline Neubaur).
  2. ^ A b Peter Cersowsky: Yes, my dear, we are conservative. Political aspects of German-speaking fantastic authors from the 20th century to National Socialism. In: Franz Rottensteiner (Ed.): The dark side of reality. Essays on the fantastic . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1987, pp. 33-59.
  3. Quoted from Peter Cersowsky: Yes, my dear, we are conservative. Political aspects of German-speaking fantastic authors from the 20th century to National Socialism. In: Franz Rottensteiner (Ed.): The dark side of reality. Essays on the fantastic. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1987, pp. 33-59.
  4. Lothar Baier: Is fantastic literature reactionary? On Lars Gustafsson's theses. In: Akzente 16, 1969, pp. 276-287.
  5. ^ Peter Cersowsky: Fantastic literature in the first quarter of the 20th century. Investigations into the structural change of the genre, its intellectual-historical prerequisites and the tradition of the 'black romanticism', especially by Gustav Meyrink, Alfred Kubin and Franz Kafka. Fink, Munich 1989, ISBN 3-7705-2133-1 .