Author(s)McKinney, Sarah Katherine
Contributor(s)Dr. Allen Stein, Committee Member
Dr. John Kessel, Committee Member
Dr. Mary Helen Thuente, Committee Chair
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AbstractLiterary scholarship has largely ignored the genre of medieval fantasy, dismissing its library as derivative, formulaic and repetitive. In this thesis, I argue that medieval fantasy is more productively framed as myth and folklore, and that what some call "repetition" would be better named "iteration." By functioning via the folkloric process of incremental repetition, various fantastic tale-types adapt to individual novels' purposes in the way that the ancient oral tale once adapted to audience. The advent of the literary fairy tale, which has culminated in the work of Walt Disney, has halted the natural storytelling process and "frozen" many traditional tales in place. Medieval fantasy actively fights such narrative distillation&#8212;which inevitably leads to dogmatic didacticism&#8212;by rejecting master narrative and regenerating the active, meaning-making relationship between author and reader. A particular type of fantasy, called "metafantasy," makes calling attention to the process of story its primary aim. In so doing, metafantasy fights the tendency to Disneyfication and the appropriation of myth by dominant ideologies. I explicate the folkloric processes of three metafantasy novels here: The Last Unicorn, by Peter Beagle; The Princess Bride, by William Goldman; and Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials series.