78 Fantasy Then, Now, and Forever: Anna Vaninskaya (EF, JP)

Elizabeth and John talk about fantasy’s power of world-making with Edinburgh professor Anna Vaninskaya, author of William Morris and the Idea of Community: Romance, History and Propaganda, 1880-1914 ( 2010) and Fantasies of Time and Death: Dunsany, Eddison, Tolkien ( 2020). Anna uncovers the melancholy sense of displacement and loss running through Tolkien, and links his notion of “subcreation” to an often concealed theological vision. Not allegory but “application” is praised as a way of reading fantasy.

Listen to episode here

John asks about hopeful visions of the radical politics of fantasy (Le Guin, but also Graeber and Wengrow’s recent work); Elizabeth stresses that fantasy’s appeal is at once childish and childlike. E. Nesbit surfaces, as she tends to in RtB conversations. The question of film TV and other visual modes comes up: is textual fantasy on the way out?

Tiny tree is growing on a submerged log.
Lonely coast Douglas-fir at Fairy lake. Vancouver island, BC, Canada. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Mentioned in the Episode:

David Graeber and David Wengrow, The Dawn of Everything.

In “From Elfland to Poughkeepsie” Ursula Le Guin perhaps surprisingly praises the otherworldly prose style of Anna’s beloved E. R. Eddison, best known for The Worm Ouroboros (1922)

J. R. R. Tolkien, “On Fairy Stories“; and his two admitted allegories, “Leaf by Niggle” and “Smith of Wootton Major

James Gifford, The Radical Fantastic

E. Nesbit The Phoenix and the Carpet

Lord Dunsany, King of Elfland’s Daughter

Ursula Le Guin The Books of Earthsea

Recallable Books:

Sylvia Townsend Warner, Kingdoms of Elfin (and read this lovely Ivan Kreilkamp article on her earlier strange great Lolly Willowes)

Lloyd Alexander Chronicles of Prydain

N. K. Jemisin, The Fifth Season

Read transcript here

Upcoming episodes: We return to a delightful conversation John and Gina had with Madeline Miller, author of Circe. In May, we return to poetry to round out the spring season: John and Ulka Anajaria chat with brilliant poet, translator and memoirist Rajiv Mohabir.

Elden Ring, https://www.trustedreviews.com/reviews/elden-ring; Creative Commons License

Author: plotznik

I teach English (mainly the novel and Victorian literature) at Brandeis University, and live in Brookline.

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