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Todorov and after: Kilka refleksji o współczesnych badaniach nad fantastyką
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Literature and History of Ideas, History of Literature.
2012 (Polish)In: Horyzonty wyobraźni: Fantazja i fantastyczność we współczesnej kulturze / [ed] Jakub Kornhauser & Dagmara Zając, Kraków: Wydawnictwo "scriptum" , 2012, 1, 7-23 p.Chapter in book (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Todorov and After. Some Reflections on the Modern Study of the Fantastic


The paper examines Tzvetan Todorov’s theory of the fantastic, formulated in his influential study The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to A Literary Genre (1970, eng. transl. 1975). Special attention is given to the theory’s historical background, its epistemological structure, and its reception in literary criticism. Discussing the genesis of Todorov’s concept of the fantastic, the paper focuses on three fundamental factors determining his investigation: the high status of the fantastic in French literary history and criticism, the development of the structuralist methodology in the sixties, and Todorov’s intimate knowledge of Russian formalism. Drawing on Foucault’s archaeology of knowledge, the paper analyses the epistemes ruling the surface structure and the deep structure respectively of Todorov’s theory. In the surface structure one can observe a considerable epistemological homogenity, based on the episteme of dehumanisation. In the deep structure, however, Todorov’s definition of the fantastic, it is claimed, refers to incompatible notions of imagination rooted in two different epistemes: one pre-Kantian, corresponding to the Greek notion of phantasia, and one post-Kantian, founded on the idea of subjectivity. Todorov’s structural, anti-subjectivist approach to the fantastic, the paper demonstrates, results in a rebirth of the subject. As often the case with groundbreaking works, the reception of  Todorov’s study has been mostly critical. Scholars have found five main weeknesses in Todorov’s concept: a lack of historical, contextual and ideological modes of description, a definitional narrowness, an inability to establish stable and pragmatic genre denominators, an overdimensioned emphasis on narrative categories, and a disregard for non-literary and nonlinguistic media. The revisions of Todorov’s concept that have been elaborated during the last decades have used of a wide spectrum of theoretical models: Goldman’s genetic dialectics, the theory of possible worlds, the notion of intermediality, the cognitive narratology, and the theory of iconic „antiworlds”, among others. With reference to Bloom’s notion of anxiety of influence, the paper argues that the attempts to modify the theory tend to relapse into Todorov’s own patterns of thought, and, paradoxically, confirm his position as leading scholar in the field of the fantastic.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Kraków: Wydawnictwo "scriptum" , 2012, 1. 7-23 p.
Keyword [en]
the fantastic, episteme, imagination, possible-worlds theory
Keyword [pl]
fantastyka, episteme, wyobraźnia, teoria światów możliwych
National Category
General Literature Studies
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-84721ISBN: 978-83-60163-86-3ISBN: 8360163863OAI: diva2:581316
Available from: 2012-12-30 Created: 2012-12-30 Last updated: 2013-06-27Bibliographically approved

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Bak, Krzysztof
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