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The Marvelous

Related: fantastic - greatness - fantastique - supernatural - the uncanny

Theory of marvelous literature: Tsvetan Todorov

"Let us not mince words: the marvelous is always beautiful, anything marvelous is beautiful, in fact only the marvelous is beautiful." --Surrealist Manifesto (1924) - André Breton

The term marvelous has two meanings. The first is causing wonder or astonishment (such as supernatural phenomena), the second denotes something of the highest or best kind or quality. [Jun 2006]

The cinematic, modern marvelous is popular, and the best and most exciting films are, beginning with Méliès and Fantômas, the films shown in local fleapits, films which seem to have no place in the history of cinema. --Kyrou, Ado. “The Marvelous is Popular.” The Shadow and Its Shadow: Surrealist Writings on Cinema. ed. Paul Hammond. London: British Film Institute, 1978, p 68

Historically speaking, prior to what we refer to as the "Enlightenment," there could be no such hesitation [by which Todorov defined the fantastic]. The supernatural was accepted as a part of life. Witches and God co-existed with men and women, and a story could, in Todorov's terms, be "marvelous," but never "fantastic." Examples abound: Sinbad the Sailor, fairy tales, chivalric romances. At the other end—our end—of the nineteenth century, with the psychoanalytic discovery of the unconscious, there is again no hesitation. The witness to bizarre events, or at least the reader of the story, knows them to be the creations of his or her own mind. A story then may be "strange" (étrange, inexplicably translated as "uncanny" by Richard Howard), but, again, never "fantastic," science fiction and Todorov's careless remarks about it notwithstanding. For Todorov, science-fiction is a species of the marvelous, but the sense in which "robots, extraterrestrial beings, the whole interplanetary context" are supernatural is entirely different. Here the marvelous and the strange intersect without creating that cognitive hesitation characteristic of the fantastic, for the explanation of the events, while currently impossible (we as yet know no interplanetary beings) is implicitly rational (we recognize the possibility that we will know such beings in another time). --http://www.depauw.edu/sfs/backissues/6/lemtodorov6forum.htm

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