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

4.15 of 5 stars 4.15  ·  rating details  ·  219 ratings  ·  26 reviews
Explores the impact and importance of Greek mythology, Arthurian legend, fairy tales, and other works of fantasy on the literary culture of today.
Paperback, 272 pages
Published May 1st 2006 by Brazos Press
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I picked this book from the New Books shelf at one of my libraries because I was intrigued by the title and because they had chapters on Ursula le Guin and Philip Pullman (whose Golden Compass books I had just finished reading). It wasn't until I started reading that I realized the authors were evangelical Christian apologists (not a "bad" thing in and of itself).

As Christians, the authors have little use for myth that doesn't conform to their notion of usefulness; and part of that usefulness is...more
Jan 24, 2008 Lynne rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who loves story, fairy tale, myth, and fantasy
Recommended to Lynne by: a bookseller at the CiRCE Conference in 2006
Shelves: about-books, writing
I'm only on page 75 of this 260 page book, but I'm finding it just fascinating and compelling. There have been several 'ah-ha' moments, but it will take much more time to digest them, connect them in my mind, and be able to put them into coherent words. This is one book I wish I were reading with someone - even out loud. It would spark much conversation.

So far, I've appreciated the authors' spectrum of myth, fantasy, and fairy tale and their description of the border between our world and Faërie...more
Rebekah Choat

Opening with a quotation of Tom Shippey's assertion, "The dominant literary mode of the twentieth century has been the fantastic," Dickerson and O'Hara set out to answer the questions, "How should one read and understand a modern work of fantasy?" and "Can works of fantasy really have anything important to say to us?" They begin by exploring definitions of "myth" and "fairy story" and explaining how the understanding of these terms has changed drastically over the centuries of written l...more
Joshua Bertram
The premise of From Homer to Harry Potter: A Handbook on Myth and Fantasy is a basic yet intriguing one, to trace the lineage of common mythic influences from our earliest stories to our most current and endearing. And when the book sticks to that premise, it mostly works. The authors are two Christians, which is fine. However it becomes increasingly apparent that the book is also a "Christian book." Again, this is fine, but when the authors focus less on exploring the roots and common threads b...more
Jacob Aitken
The authors trace the rise and evolution of fantasy and epic literature. My favorite part was the section on Beowulf to Aurthur. The authors note, as do others, that given Tolkien's love of Beowulf, Beowulf must necessarily figure into LotR. But if it does, how come no one can point to a Beowulf analogue? The authors draw from a key image by Tolkien: writing legend is like cooking soup in a pot. You throw a lot of bones in there (e.g., old stories) and mix them together (weave a world). Therefor...more
Sep 01, 2007 Kris rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2007
Dude, seriously. Less time needed to be spent on the Bible, Tolkien and Lewis. If I wanted a study of the Bible, or the Inklings, that's what I would've gotten.
From Homer to Harry Potter: A Handbook on Myth and Fantasy by Matthew Dickerson and David O'Hara gives a comprehensive overview of myth and fantasy: its origins as well as how it has affected some modern works of literature. They frequently reference C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, and analyze how every bit of myth and fantasy has been changed or interpreted throughout the years.

Dickerson and O'Hara really do go from Homer to Harry Potter. Part one of the book, entitled "The Literature of Faerie...more
May 04, 2008 Thomas rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: students of fantasy literature, Christian sceptics of fantasy literature
This is the only attempt at a systematic analysis of fantasy literature that I've seen. [If you, reader, have seen others, please contact me.] This is something I really appreciate, as "fantasy" is a bit of a fuzzy genre. (But then, what genre isn't?)

Initially, the book seems to be intended for a general audience. It defines fantasy. Then it covers those major works of western literature which can be described as fantasy. As it proceeds towards the present day, christian doctrine plays an increa...more
Obviously I'm biased toward the authors, but this was definitely a good read. Dickerson and O'Hara were really cohesive, too, and you couldn't tell (or I couldn't) who was writing which parts.

I'd have to say my favorite chapters were the ones on modern fantasy - Philip Pullman, Ursula LeGuin, and J.K. Rowling. This is where the author's worldviews, somewhat more subtle up to this point, came out full force and either praised or dug holes in the underlying moral lessons of these books. I definite...more
Disclaimer: If you don't possess a powerful love of literature and a tendency to geek out over words, turn back now, for here there be dragons.

Okay, so maybe that's a touch melodramatic, but I do think this book will challenge anyone without those two particular predilections. It is a well written, philosophical look at classical literature and its influence on a selection of modern fantasy authors. That said, I do think the title is a trifle misleading, as the author's focus large sections of t...more
The analysis of modern fantasy was generally informative and well-informed. The same cannot be said about the author's treatment of the Bible. Misunderstandings abound in that chapter and then serve as the foundation for later arguments. The book also seemed to lack a sense of cohesion and felt more like an extended monologue by a Tolkien/Lewis fan-boy. It was difficult to really get a feel for exactly why Dickerson felt compelled to write this book. What was he hoping that the reader would thin...more
I liked the entire first half - it got into what makes a fantasy, how to distinguish fantasy from myth, why that matters, what fantasy and myths do for culture, etc. The analysis of Greek literature all the way through nineteenth century fantasy lit was great. When it got to modern fantasy, though, the book became too wrapped up in talking about the literature within the frame of Christianity and the Christian views of morality, and that's where it lost my attention. It's definitely worth pickin...more
Jacob Meiser
I really enjoyed reading this book. Essentially, they take up the ideas about story and myth of Tolkien and Lewis and examine several myths in light of them.

I think that if this book were written from a less explicitly Christian perspective, it could have been more effective in what they were trying to do. Although, as a Christian, I appreciated this, it seems that they could have explained their points just as effectively without excessive references to biblical narrative.

Great book and good...more
I would read this just to access Tolkien's thoughts on the Faery Tale, because he is the one who redefined and shaped fantasy for the 20th Century ... His ideas are really, really interesting.

The other parts I've read (about Harry Potter and His Dark Materials) are also thoroughly enjoyable, too, though. I see the Christian story interacting with at least 99% of what I encounter anyway, but it's interesting to see the connections that others may draw.
If nothing else this books provides a fitting analysis of the power of mythical literature, and fantasy. On page 259 I read, "Myth, fantasy, and fairy...challenge us to live lives governed by the transcendent, eternal, moral, and unseen realities, not by the mundane, temporal things that seem so real and physical and commonplace." The good ones raise us up and inspire us, as they should.
This book is a great resource to consider myth and fantasy from a biblical foundation. These guys aren't playing around; they are very adept at discussing myth and fantasy in literature. Some of the authors covered are Ursula LeGuin, Homer, Walter Wangerin, Jr., J.K Rowling, Philip Pullman, and others. Highly recommended!
Oct 20, 2007 Patricia rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Those who are interested in where authors go for ideas.
I enjoyed reading this book. It showed me that all authors have a well to dip into to find ideas. It make me realize that you need to be well read in you favorite topic to bring together excellent plots.
Richard Harden
A work that explores the myth behind much of modern literature, this book guides one's understanding of much more than just myth and fantasy. Well worth reading!
I didn't read the whole book because it ended up being a little boring. The "fathers" of fantasy were referenced way too much; kinda drolled on!
Even though I enjoy reading scholarly material, I found this to be surprisingly "heavy." It just wasn't what I had expected.
Ben Wanamaker
Absolutely stimulating as a work of literary, cultural interpretation and criticism.
Dec 27, 2010 Michelle marked it as to-read
Rec. in CCM magazine. Handbook for navigating famous fantasy literature.
Mildly interesting. The authors tend to prove their point more than explore it.
A good reference for those of us who like, study, or teach myth.
Dec 27, 2007 Fran rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: academics and fantasyophiles
Very interesting but not really for the casual reader.
Carolyn Sugimoto
Carolyn Sugimoto marked it as to-read
Aug 29, 2014
Kayla Boesche
Kayla Boesche marked it as to-read
Aug 28, 2014
Gaijinmama marked it as to-read
Aug 26, 2014
Kristy Hutchinson
Kristy Hutchinson is currently reading it
Aug 26, 2014
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Matthew Dickerson (PhD, Cornell University) is a professor at Middlebury College in Vermont, a writer, and the director of the New England Young Writers’ Conference at Bread Loaf. His previous works include From Homer to Harry Potter; The Mind and the Machine; Narnia and the Fields of Arbol: The Environmental Vision of C. S. Lewis; and Ents, Elves, and Eriador: The Environmental Vision of J. R .R....more
More about Matthew Dickerson...
Following Gandalf: Epic Battles and Moral Victory in The Lord of the Rings A Hobbit Journey: Discovering the Enchantment of J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth Ents, Elves, and Eriador: The Environmental Vision of J. R. R. Tolkien Mind and the Machine, The: What It Means to Be Human and Why It Matters Hammers & Nails: The Life and Music of Mark Heard

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