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Le fantastique

Parents: fantastic - genre - narratology

By medium: fantastic literature - fantastic film - fantastic art

The French term le fantastique denotes a genre of fiction which is known in English as fantastic, uncanny or fantasy. However, since the French are the most ardent fans of this genre and the ones who have documented it most scrupulously, I use the term fantastique. The parent category for this literary genre in English is speculative fiction. [Jun 2006]

The fantastique was introduced in France by Jean-Jacques Ampère with his 1829 translation of ETA Hoffmann's 1814 collection of tales titled Fantasy Pieces in the Manner of Callot, which contains the novella, The Golden Pot. [Aug 2006]

Related: fantastic - gothic novel - grotesque - the marvelous - the uncanny - Das Unheimliche - Midi- Minuit Fantastique - speculative fiction

Midi- Minuit Fantastique 18-19 (12/1967)


Fantastique is a French term for a literary and cinematic genre that overlaps with parts of science fiction, horror and fantasy. It is not a specifically French genre. The conventional usage in French encompasses many non-French authors who may be categorised differently in their own countries.

What is distinctive about fantastique is the intrusion of supernatural phenomena into an otherwise realist narrative. It evokes phenomena which are not only left unexplained but which are inexplicable from the reader's point of view. In this respect, fantastique is somewhere between fantasy, where the supernatural is accepted and entirely reasonable in the imaginary world of a non-realist narrative; and magic realism, where apparently supernatural phenomena are explained and accepted as normal. Instead, characters in a work of fantastique are, just like the readers, unwilling to accept the supernatural events that occur. This refusal may be mixed with doubt, disbelief, fear, or some combination of those reactions.

Fantastique is often linked to a particular ambiance, a sort of tension in the face of the impossible. There is often a good deal of fear involved, either because the characters are afraid or because the author wants to provoke fright in the reader. However, fear is not an essential component of fantastique.

Some theorists of literature contend that fantastique is defined by its hesitation between accepting the supernatural as such and trying to rationally explain the phenomena it describes. In that case, fantastique is nothing more than a transitional area on a spectrum from magic realism to fantasy and does not qualify as a separate genre.

Fantastique literature is often considered close to science fiction. However, there is an important difference between the two: science fiction is situated in a different time and place than the reader, and irrational seeming events are actually held to be rational in the framework of future or perhaps alien science and technology.

A great deal of literature, from every part of the world and dating back to time immemorial, falls within the category of fantastique. Fairy tales like The Book of One Thousand and One Nights and epic literature like the Romance of the Holy Grail are within the scope of this genre. Among the precursors of modern fantastique are such luminaries as Voltaire and Jonathan Swift, who hid satire behind non-realist stories, as well as the noir fiction of William Beckford (Vathek) and Matthew Gregory Lewis (The Monk). Elements of fantastique can be found in the works of many 19th century authors like Honoré de Balzac (La peau de chagrin), Guy de Maupassant who exorcises his own demons in Le Horla, Jules Verne explaining the supernatural with science in Le château des Carpathes, Oscar Wilde working along more philosophical lines in The Picture of Dorian Gray, Mary Shelley who takes up the myth of the Golem in Frankenstein, and Bram Stoker's famous Dracula. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fantastique [Oct 2004]

Method in Madness: Control Mechanisms in the French Fantastic (2005) - Jutta Emma Fortin

Method in Madness: Control Mechanisms in the French Fantastic (2005) - Jutta Emma Fortin [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

While researching Jacques Cazotte's 1772 The Devil in Love I came across the book above by Jutta Emma Fortin, which gives a round-up of all the theories explaining the fantastic in literature, including Todorov's.

Method in Madness looks at the ways in which nineteenth-century French literature of the fantastic reflected what psychoanalysis would later define as mechanisms of defence. Each chapter of the book is dedicated to a particular mechanism – fetishization, projection, intellectualization, mechanization, and compulsion – and to a representative set of texts which illustrate and embody the process concerned. The book thus systematizes what has remained up to now a rather vague perception of the psychological processes at work in fantastic narrative and of the relationship between the fantastic and the emerging science of psychoanalysis. Although centred on French works, including texts by Gautier, Mérimée, Balzac, George Sand, Maupassant, and Villiers de l’Isle-Adam, the study necessarily deals with the German tradition of the fantastic, notably Hoffmann and Freud. It argues that mechanisms of defence not only take place in fantastic literature, but that the fantastic itself in fact consists in translating defence into the real, thus making clear to the reader the very processes by which defence occurs. The book finds that the defence mechanisms "fail" in the fantastic, because in this literature defence involves adding a real danger to a merely psychic one, thereby intensifying the anxiety and displeasure which the mechanisms of defence are ideally designed to minimize.

Contents Introduction History and Theories of the Fantastic The Fantastic and Psychological Defence Outline 1 Fetishization Fetishization and the Fantastic Balzac’s "Le Chef-d’oeuvre inconnu" Maupassant’s " La Chevelure " Gautier’s " Le Pied de momie " 2 Projection Projection and the Fantastic The Uncanny Sand’s "La Fée aux gros yeux" George Sand and Idealism Mérimée’s "Carmen" 3 Intellectualization Intellectualization and the Fantastic Mérimée’s "La Vénus d’Ille " Mérmimee’s " Carmen " 4 Mechanization Mechanization and the Fantastic Hoffmann’s "Der Sandmann" Villiers de l’Isle-Adam’s L’Ève future The Mechanical Monster 5 Compulsion Compulsion and the Fantastic Maupassant’s "Madame Hermet" Maupassant’s "Fou" Conclusion Selected Bibliography

See also: Jacques Cazotte - madness - French fantastique - fantastic literature - fantastic

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