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The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre
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The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre

3.87  ·  Rating Details  ·  631 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
In The Fantastic, Tzvetan Todorov seeks to examine both generic theory and a particular genre, moving back and forth between a poetics of the fantastic itself and a metapoetics or theory of theorizing, even as he suggest that one must, as a critic, move back and forth between theory and history, between idea and fact. His work on the fantastic is indeed about a historical ...more
Paperback, 190 pages
Published May 31st 1975 by Cornell University Press (first published 1970)
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Chris King Elfland's 2nd Cousin
Jan 03, 2012 Chris King Elfland's 2nd Cousin rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Fans of critical theory
NOTE: This review first appeared at The King of Elfland's 2nd Cousin on January 3rd, 2012. If you enjoy it, you'll find more stuff like it there!

Happy New Year! Now that the formalities are out of the way, I thought I'd take a few moments to share with you what I did between Christmas and New Year's: In addition to remodeling our library, and turning our dining room into a library annex, I also spent the week slowly and carefully reading Tzvetan Todorov's classic book of genre criticism, appro
Robert Wood
Mar 26, 2015 Robert Wood rated it it was amazing
Todorov takes on a double task within this text, to both explore the generic structures of the fantastic, and to challenge previous interpretations of genre, viz. Northrop Frye, in order to develop a structural interpretation of genre and literature. In doing so, he attempts to move away from a static understanding of genre built off of non-literary categories, to produce a dynamic understanding of the structures of literature that builds a vocabulary from its internal dynamics. This itself dra ...more
Soren Sondergaard
Jan 19, 2014 Soren Sondergaard rated it liked it
A frustrating read. Very few parallels are drawn to the fantastic genre and Todorov's rather simple theory is hidden beneath a mountain of academics. Still - most chapters are very good while a few (like chapter VIII) are almost unreadable.
Apr 22, 2008 Ann rated it really liked it
This is one of the classic academic books on the subject. While it focuses on a small slice of the genre of speculative fiction (Todorov defines the fantastic as a kind of hesitation between deciding whether a supernatural event is real or imagined, rather than uncanny where the event turns out to have a "real world" explanation, or the marvelous, where the supernatural event has a supernatural explanation), there are many points about the genre that carry over into the greater category.

He also
Не останах очарован от тази книга... :( Може би затова, след като я прочетох, я изгубих някъде...
May 31, 2016 meeners added it
Shelves: theory
i stopped reviewing academic books here a long time ago, for lots of different reasons, but wanted to make a note of this todorov passage just for my own personal amusement:

Further: by the very fact that we must use ordinary language in order to speak of literature, we imply that literature transmits something which could be designated by other means. By if this were true, why should literature exist at all? Its only reason for being is that it says what non-literary language does not and cannot
May 11, 2016 Ron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Todorov's comprehensive report on the definition of fantastic literature wrapped in an exhaustive introduction to structuralist narratology is a classic example of structuralist finickiness producing interesting theory of limited practical use. The concepts he introduces are entertaining exercises in mental athletics: In order to qualify as genuine fantastic literature a text has to be right on the edge between the real and imaginary world. The hint of the supernatural and marvelous has to be be ...more
Dec 12, 2012 Polly rated it it was ok
It was really easy to read, but I absolutely have no use for Todorov's Definition of the Fantastic.
Isadora Wagner
Dec 03, 2011 Isadora Wagner rated it it was amazing
Shelves: gothic
This book came to me highly recommended by a friend of the uncanny, and has truly become one of my most trusted reach-to favorites. You know that ailment that's been bugging you, but you didn't have the name for it and didn't know how a bunch of symptoms were actually related until you went and saw a specialist? Todorov's structuralist breakdown of the marvelous, the fantastic, and the uncanny--with the fantastic mediating in the middle through uncertainty--was the holy grail of aha! moments for ...more
Adam Fisher
Sep 09, 2011 Adam Fisher rated it really liked it
Begins wonderfully, quickly loses steam. His initial definition of fantasy as a type of 'hesitation' is wonderful, (compare with Lacan's definition of the 'real' in similar terms for bonus points) but after this point is made, he clearly has little else revealing to part with on the subject. In addition, the type of fantasy literature that he discusses is clearly dated, his most recent named author being (by my guess) H.P. Lovecraft, though this is less important because his very definition of f ...more
Paulo Vinicius Figueiredo dos Santos
Eu me sinto mais burro depois de ter lido este livro do Todorov. Eu devia imaginar que a leitura seria arrastada como foi A Conquista da América. O livro me ajudou a pensar em algumas características do estilo fantástico e do maravilhoso na literatura. Mas, de fato, não é uma leitura para qualquer um.
Não recomendo para iniciantes.
Güneş Eser
Jan 19, 2015 Güneş Eser rated it really liked it
özellikle eski fantastiğe ve fantastik kurgunun gelişimine dair çok şey öğretiyor ama gel gör ki bazen "fantastikten yıldım, bu ne eleştiri bu ne yaklaşımı öğreten dolaylı anlatım eyvahlar olsun" da diyebiliyorsunuz.
Ismael Serna
May 28, 2015 Ismael Serna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Es evidente que para leer literatura fantástica no es necesario conocer este libro, sin embargo, su lectura y análisis te encamina a cualquier amante del género del imaginario hacia una estructura profunda del relato fantástico. Un ensayo ameno y completo.
Dec 24, 2007 Elizabeth rated it liked it
Recommends it for: anyone interested in fantastic literature
An analytical view of the fantastic and its contribution to literature as a whole. I find this book delightfully philosophical about my favorite topic: literature. Todorov's theories about defining the fantastic are direct, correct, and applicable. Sometimes I read things on literary analysis, and I wonder why it matters, but, for some reason, I was completely drawn into Todorov's arguments and never once questioned why I couldn't just enjoy a book for what it's worth and move on. He inspired an ...more
Ted Omo
Mar 27, 2015 Ted Omo rated it liked it
First 70-80 pages were great. The rest was just bleh.
Jan 26, 2015 Alejandro rated it it was amazing
While I won't pretend that I fully understand every last concept laid out by Todorov, I still think that his very methodical, almost empirical style makes him one of the most readable (in translation, obviously) theorists I've ever had the pleasure of reading. His formulations of genre are really interesting, even from a contemporary standpoint. I'll probably be coming back to The Fantastic quite a bit.
May 25, 2010 Soulecito rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Es uno de los libros sobre teoría literaria que más me gustan, plantea los temas y estrategias fundamentales de la narración fantástica, además hace una interesante diferenciación entre lo fantástico, la fantasía y lo maravilloso. Todorov fija las bases sobre las que, hasta el día de hoy, se apoyan o remiten los estudios sobre este subgénero.
Sep 24, 2014 Gregory added it
Shelves: non-fiction
I'm pretty sure this is the one that I read: the title in French was "introduction a la litterature fantastique". Interesting, but I didn't like the condemning tone that he applies to actual fantasy in contrast.
Richard K. W. Hsu
Sep 05, 2007 Richard K. W. Hsu rated it really liked it
Shelves: lit-criticism
Read it for thesis writing.
I have to say that Todorov is very clever, though this book is really boring for its strong background on structuralism. However, the discussion of narratology is still worth-reading.
João Ricardo
Apr 20, 2009 João Ricardo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to João by: Douglas Dickel
Livro excelente para compreender as diferenças entre o fantástico, o estranho e o maravilhoso. Apesar de não estar incluído em seu texto ajuda a compreender o gênero da fantasia.
Amy Layton
This was such a good resource! I'm glad to have added it to my repertoire. I'm using it for my French capstone, and it's just as good in English as it is in French.
Tina Romanelli
Feb 17, 2008 Tina Romanelli rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 03, 2011 Andreea rated it liked it
Shelves: comp-lit-2a
In fact quite underwhelming. Overall, the discussion about themes in literature and how they work structurally was more interesting than the one on the fantastic.
Aug 15, 2012 Noora rated it it was ok
Fantasian tutkimuksen klassikoita, joka tuli luettua vasta nyt ja samalla tuli todettua, että eipä se liity juurikaan omaan tutkimukseen. Ei kovin kummoinenkaan kirja.
Aug 11, 2008 Liz rated it it was amazing
One of the more amazing works on the fantastic in literature, and an excellent entry point into narratological analysis! Thoroughly enjoyable reading.
Dec 05, 2009 Katya added it
I freely admit I don't understand all that's going on here.... even when (inevitably) read in small doses, there's a lot of salient stuff to unpack. yum
Oct 08, 2015 Alcieta rated it it was ok
Shelves: school, classics
This book was fine. I had to write a paper on it though, so I think I got a little too much of it. It was just ok in the end.
I liked his arguments in the first few chapters, but I quickly lost interest in chapter five and onwards.
Mar 02, 2010 Eirin rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010
Wonderful book, even if it was a bit outdated. There's still some very good points in there.
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In Bulgarian Цветан Тодоров. Todorov is a Franco-Bulgarian historian, philosopher and literary theoretician. Among his most influential works is his theory on the fantastic, the uncanny and marvellous.
More about Tzvetan Todorov...

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