Alan Jacobs on the emergence of the fantasy genre

The essay needs to be read in full for this quote to be clear, but I feel the need to document it:

But again, the desire for a world resonant with spiritual meaning, of one kind or another, does not easily die — perhaps cannot die until humanity itself does. Technology is power, but disenchanted power. And so the more dominant mechanical and then electronic technologies become as shapers of the social order, the more ingenious grow the strategies of resistance to their disenchanting force — the strategies by which we deny the necessary materiality of power. In the literary realm, the chief such strategy is the emergence of fantasy genre.

— Alan Jacobs, “Fantasy and the Buffered Self” at The New Atlantis

2 thoughts on “Alan Jacobs on the emergence of the fantasy genre”

  1. I’ve been holding on to this post for, I see now, a month (!), waiting for the chance to look into the linked article more thoroughly. It’s an interesting observation, though I flatter myself a bit by saying so, since it’s so close to one driving much of my thought on science fiction (in this case science fiction as opposed to all other writing, including fantasy, though I know no sharp dividing line can be drawn): that sf seeks to “re-enchant” the world precisely through that which disenchanted it (namely, reason). It’s an enterprise doomed to failure, which is where much of the fascination of sf lies for me.

    Anyway, blah blah, I found the Jacobs article interesting but bothersome in that it seems to reduce discussion of the disenchantment to some kind of a cost/benefit analysis, as if that were all there is to it, and as if disenchantment were some ongoing yes/no option open to Rational Economic Man. I’m unfairly exaggerating, but at any rate if I can just hop in to your comments and rudely shove a book at you, I’d recommend Gabriel Josipovici’s What Ever Happened to Modernism? (and much of his work, in both criticism and fiction) as a discussion of similar issues that I find does a wonderful job of trying to see these issues from within, as living problems.

    (He’s not, to say the least, very sympathetic to fantasy and/or science fiction, but I for one find his work infinitely relevant to both.)

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