Challenging literary histories that locate the emergence of fantastic literature in the Romantic period, David Sandner shows that tales of wonder and imagination were extremely popular throughout the eighteenth century. Sandner engages contemporary critical definitions and defenses of eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century fantastic literature, demonstrating that a century of debate and experimentation preceded the Romantic's interest in the creative imagination. In 'The Fairy Way of Writing,' Joseph Addison first defines the literary use of the supernatural in a 'modern' and 'rational' age. Other writers like Richard Hurd, James Beattie, Samuel Johnson, James Percy, and Walter Scott influence the shape of the fantastic by defining and describing the modern fantastic in relation to a fabulous and primitive past. As the genre of the 'purely imaginary,' Sandner argues, the fantastic functions as a discourse of the sublime imagination, albeit a contested discourse that threatens to disrupt any attempt to ground the sublime in the realistic or sympathetic imagination. His readings of works by authors such as Ann Radcliffe, William Beckford, Horace Walpole, Mary Shelley, Walter Scott, and James Hogg not only redefine the antecedents of the fantastic but also offer a convincing account of how and why the fantastic came to be marginalized in the wake of the Enlightenment.
David Sandner is Associate Professor of English at California State University, Fullerton. He is author of The Fantastic Sublime and editor of Fantastic Literature: A Critical Reader.
Prize: Shortlisted for the 2013 Mythopoeic Scholarship Award for Myth and Fantasy Studies sponsored by the Mythopoeic Society 'Critical Discourses of the Fantastic puts forward a convincing and relevant argument about the significant role that fantastic fiction plays in the processes by which we continually (re)construct ourselves and our world.' BARS Bulletin '... it is a fascinating insight into the world of Wordsworth and Keats to see how much their worldview was a product of the fantastic. ... an invaluable analysis of the relationship between certain forms of the fantastic, specifically those works involving the supernatural, and eighteenth-century ideas about the sublime that were instrumental in the rise of the Romantic movement.' Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts ''[Sandner's book] offers the reader stimulating arguments about the significance of the fantastic within eighteenth-century arguments about the sublime, connecting these to the rise of the Gothic novel and the development of Romantic poetry ... Critical Discourses of the Fantastic provides a challenging overview of critical debates on fantasy's contested position from the eighteenth century to today.' Journal for Eighteenth Century Studies