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Late Victorian and Edwardian Fantasy: A College Course
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 25 September, 2020 12:17PM
The 25 years 1887-1912 may be considered the Golden Age of Modern Fantasy. Twenty-five years ago I had the opportunity to develop a one-shot college course that makes that case.

In this 25-year period, science fiction, fantasy, and "horror" were not distinguished as genres as they have come to be. However, seminal works that are still much enjoyed were published then. In 15 weeks of instruction it wasn't feasible to include all of the classics. I wanted to give a sense of the breadth of "fantasy" and to introduce a bunch of important authors. The syllabus of readings was as follows:

A.Novels

Rider Haggard's SHE (1887)
Wells's THE WAR OF THE WORLDS (1898)
Doyle's THE LOST WORLD (1912)
Chesterton's THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY (1908)
George MacDonald's LILITH (1895)

B.Short Stories and Poems

I created an anthology for the course containing these works:

1.Lucy Lane Clifford's story "The New Mother" (1882)
2.William Butler Yeats's poems "The Stolen Child" (1889) and "The Song of Wandering Aengus" (1899)
3.Harold Monro's poem "Overheard on a Salt Marsh" (n.d.)
4.William Allingham's "The Fairies" (n.d.)
5.Kipling's "The Mark of the Beast" (1891)
6.Machen's "The Black Seal" (1895)
7.William Morris's romance THE WELL AT THE WORLD'S END (excerpt; 1896)
8.W. W. Jacobs's story "The Monkey's Paw" (1902)
9.M. R. James's story "'Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad'" (1904)
10.Dunsany's tales "The Fortress Unvanquishable, Save for Sacnoth" (1908) and "The Hoard of the Gibbelins" (1912)
11.Blackwood's story "The Wendigo" (1910)
12.Saki's story "Sredni Vashtar" (1911)
13.Walter de la Mare's poem "The Listeners" (1912)

Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was one year too early for inclusion, alas. I couldn't include everything that might have deserved a place in the course, such as Hodgson's House on the Borderland (1908). I left out Dracula (1897).

Anyway, there's the syllabus of readings in case anyone wants to discuss it, work through the list, whatever.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 25 Sep 20 | 12:23PM by Dale Nelson.

Re: Late Victorian and Edwardian Fantasy: A College Course
Posted by: Minicthulhu (IP Logged)
Date: 25 September, 2020 12:58PM
Nice list, though mine would be utterly different. :-)

Re: Late Victorian and Edwardian Fantasy: A College Course
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 25 September, 2020 01:02PM
Dale Nelson Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> The 25 years 1887-1912 may be considered the
> Golden Age of Modern Fantasy. Twenty-five years
> ago I had the opportunity to develop a one-shot
> college course that makes that case.
>
> In this 25-year period, science fiction, fantasy,
> and "horror" were not distinguished as genres as
> they have come to be. However, seminal works that
> are still much enjoyed were published then. In 15
> weeks of instruction it wasn't feasible to include
> all of the classics. I wanted to give a sense of
> the breadth of "fantasy" and to introduce a bunch
> of important authors. The syllabus of readings
> was as follows:
>
> A.Novels
>
> Rider Haggard's SHE (1887)
> Wells's THE WAR OF THE WORLDS (1898)
> Doyle's THE LOST WORLD (1912)
> Chesterton's THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY (1908)
> George MacDonald's LILITH (1895)
>
> B.Short Stories and Poems
>
> I created an anthology for the course containing
> these works:
>
> 1.Lucy Lane Clifford's story "The New Mother"
> (1882)
> 2.William Butler Yeats's poems "The Stolen Child"
> (1889) and "The Song of Wandering Aengus" (1899)
> 3.Harold Monro's poem "Overheard on a Salt Marsh"
> (n.d.)
> 4.William Allingham's "The Fairies" (n.d.)
> 5.Kipling's "The Mark of the Beast" (1891)
> 6.Machen's "The Black Seal" (1895)
> 7.William Morris's romance THE WELL AT THE WORLD'S
> END (excerpt; 1896)
> 8.W. W. Jacobs's story "The Monkey's Paw" (1902)
> 9.M. R. James's story "'Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come
> to You, My Lad'" (1904)
> 10.Dunsany's tales "The Fortress Unvanquishable,
> Save for Sacnoth" (1908) and "The Hoard of the
> Gibbelins" (1912)
> 11.Blackwood's story "The Wendigo" (1910)
> 12.Saki's story "Sredni Vashtar" (1911)
> 13.Walter de la Mare's poem "The Listeners"
> (1912)
>
> Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr.
> Hyde was one year too early for inclusion, alas.
> I couldn't include everything that might have
> deserved a place in the course, such as Hodgson's
> House on the Borderland (1908). I left out
> Dracula (1897).
>
> Anyway, there's the syllabus of readings in case
> anyone wants to discuss it, work through the list,
> whatever.

If you had any specific comments you used for the class about the Kipling story, I'd certainly be interested.

I'm familiar with a few of the selections and may read the de la Mar poem, but this material tends to gradually veer away from where my interests lie in fantasy--not sure why.

What do you make of Eddison? I realize it's from a later period, but...

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: Late Victorian and Edwardian Fantasy: A College Course
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 25 September, 2020 01:59PM
Sawfish, I've had the three Zimiamvia books for decades and yet haven't read them. I read The Worm Ouroboros twice in the 1970s and have tried to reread it since but didn't persevere. My hunch is that I'd really like it if I were in just the right mood. Whether that mood will occur, and at a time when I can indulge it, I don't know.

I wrote study guides for some of the works in the syllabus, but not, I think, on "Mark of the Beast," so when I post on it my remarks will be based on a reading this month.

The Lilith notes were posted by the George MacDonald Society. If I were writing or editing them now, I might change some things, but this document should be pretty close to what I'd still say. In note #63, the summary of the Jewish folktale has been added by another hand.

[www.george-macdonald.com]

I'd have to get into my files to see which stories had notes -- I remember there were notes on Machen's "Black Seal." These notes haven't survived onto my present computer. They were made back in the floppy disk era... I think the larger floppies, in fact.

Re: Late Victorian and Edwardian Fantasy: A College Course
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 25 September, 2020 02:30PM
Thanks, Dale!

WRT Eddison, had troubles with his stuff in the 70s, but re-read The Worm maybe 2 years ago and really enjoyed it for what (I think) it is: a very mannered tale of a war of heroes, almost Greek, with the associated intrigues.

Pleasantly archaic language, too. I can recall a chapter prologue being something like:

"Lord Blusco fares to the Iron Isles, and is there ensorcelled."

ENSORCELLED!!! :^)

The "noble" family of Demonland was pretty well-drawn, so far as differentiating heroes from one another (how does Ares differ from Apollo?), and the king of Witchland was a suitably "bad dude".

I plan to vacation there again, soon.

Unfortunately, the others in the trilogy don't hold up for me, so I limit it to The Worm.

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: Late Victorian and Edwardian Fantasy: A College Course
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 25 September, 2020 05:32PM
I wrote, "In this 25-year period, science fiction, fantasy, and "horror" were not distinguished as genres as they have come to be." I meant to add immediately: They were all fantasy.

These were the works and the authors -- not all of them but I should think most of them -- that would have been modern fantasy for the Inklings and the Weird Tales guys as they grew up.

If I'd had a few more weeks, what might I have included? Almost certainly Hodgson's House on the Borderland. Morris could have been represented by a complete work, not an excerpt: The Wood Beyond the World could have been one weekly evening's principal selection. Of the Morris romances I have read, Wood, The Well at the World's End, and The Water of the Wondrous Isles, I'd say the last-named is my favorite. C. S. Lewis said it was the most romantic of Morris's long romances. I haven't yet read The Sundering Flood -- nor The House of the Wolfings or The Roots of the Mountains, which I gather are more borderline as fantasy. I think I like Morris more now than I did when I first began to read him almost 50 years ago.

I could simply have said the Golden Age was 30 years rather than 25 and added The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I think something by Ambrose Bierce would've fit in the period.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 25 Sep 20 | 05:40PM by Dale Nelson.

Re: Late Victorian and Edwardian Fantasy: A College Course
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 25 September, 2020 06:48PM
Here's--to me--an interesting thought, as it applies to setting for a story with elements of fantasy.

Typically, you'll have a story set in a place that's a lot like the world you know--The Beast was one such. Alternatively, you may have it set in a place that is, from the very get-go, "not like here"--immediately, on starting the story or novel, you know that you're not in Kansas any more. The Worm Ourboros, or for CAS, the themed tales (Hyperborea, Zothique, and even Averoigne) are not Kansas.

So what does this do?

If you, the reader, knowingly and willingly enter a world "not like here" it makes the author's job easier because the reader halfway expects that such trivialities as physics or biology, as we know them, might work differently, and so you're freed from trying hard, in some fashion, to establish verisimilitude.

But set your story in modern suburbia, for example, and right away you're going to have to work *real hard* to avoid looking ridiculous. Lots of direct explanation, or plausible, but anomalous hints.

What do you think?

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: Late Victorian and Edwardian Fantasy: A College Course
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 26 September, 2020 04:24PM
Sawfish, that reminds me of my own experience of writing fiction. As a teenager, fantasy was very appealing to me in part because, as I can see now, I could make up as much of the scenario as I liked without needing to know real-world things. So the world of my stories was obviously -- as a glance at the map would show -- modeled on Europe; but it was all made up. I knew very little European history, so this was convenient.

However, as I got older, I lost interest in writing imaginary world stories. My stories would have backgrounds reflecting my knowledge of real geography and history, whether set in Sweden in the first half of the 19th century, or in late Victorian Britain, or (with some name changes) in the Oregon coast town where I taught high school.

I can still enjoy some imaginary world stories (William Morris, for example), but a lot of that material has little interest for me now, whether to read it or write it. Conversely, fiction that I would never have bothered with as a teenager, like Walter van Tilberg Clark's The Ox-Bow Incident, can really engage my imagination now. I've gained far more, as reader and as writer, than I've lost.

Re: Late Victorian and Edwardian Fantasy: A College Course
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 26 September, 2020 04:58PM
CAS' stories are among the few examples of the imagined world setting I enjoy, and this is partially because of how important such elements as poetry, pathos, irony, rich detail, and other artfully relatable qualities are in the creation of his weird narratives. Young adults who write stories of other worlds rarely impress me, because they lack both artistic taste and cultivated experience to flesh out these worlds convincingly. I've never read Morris before, but if he stands out enough to impress you I'll be glad to try.

From my own experience with writing, I never lost interest in other worlds, but as I grew older and expanded my literary tastes and personal experiences, I learned how to make mythical lands more nuanced and life-like. At least, compared to my younger stuff, which read like superficial copies of CAS, Dunsany, and William Beckford, interested in being weird and exotic but not thoughtful enough to write forests, deserts, cities, or people believably.

In a sense the way I write now, or rather the way I attempt to write, is something of a combination of both styles he described.



Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 26 Sep 20 | 05:10PM by Hespire.



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