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In essays on the subject of centricity, I've most often used the image of a geometrical circle, which, as I explained here,  owes someth...

Saturday, December 4, 2010


In this essay I said:

...for Todorov, once a spooky story decreed that there were no real ghosts, that story fell into the domain of the merely rational.

I later countered that opinion by asserting:

If the reader gets the frisson of horror from a “phony vampire” story, then the story is on the same affective plane as the “real vampire” story, however different their cognitive aspects.

Continuing in my survey of fantasy-criticism, I've now started T.E. Apter's 1982 work FANTASY LITERATURE, which begins promisingly by downgrading some of the psychological investigations of fantasy (both Freudian and Jungian) and declares that the purpose of fantasy in literature "must be understood not as an escape from reality but as an investigation of it." (FL, page 2)

Even more striking is another line on the same page, which almost sounds as if written to counter Todorov's all-or-nothing cognitive approach:

"The problematic fantasies in Hawthorne, Conrad, Hoffman, Kafka, Gogol, Dostoyevsky, Nabokov and Borges cannot be isolated within a generally stable world, nor can answers as to the status of the fantasies solve the questions they raise."

The same principle applies to less highbrow forms of literature. Tod Browning executes both a "real vampire" story (DRACULA) and a "phony vampire" story (MARK OF THE VAMPIRE), yet the latter story does not, as I assume Todorov would maintain, fall conveniently into the domain of the rational simply because the "status" of the vampire is proven fake. The uncanny world of MARK OF THE VAMPIRE may seem a bit more "stable" than the marvelous world in which Dracula is a real threat, but both films evoke a frisson foreign to the world of, say, a thriller in which the possibility of vampires can never come into play at all.

Possible future posts on Apter as I continue her book.

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