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Charul Patel

Charul Patel

Research Student, Associate Lecturer

County College
Lancaster University
United Kingdom

Location: B 191

Current Teaching

Associate Lecture for English 100 Groups 7 and 14

Office Hours are Thursday @10am-12pm

Thesis Outline

My thesis will be examining paradoxes and binaries that are encoded in the epic fantasy genre. For the purposes of this thesis, the epic will be defined by a journey (literal or metaphorical) through which the hero(s) achieve transcendence. The concept of transcendence would also indicate that some conception of a higher power must be necessary in the work in order for it to be defined as the epic fantasy genre.

While the genre contains binary structures, these binaries are not in opposition to each other. For example, the fantasy genre is typically viewed as a genre of good versus evil, but this ideology is wrong. The central protagonist must be a character with shades of gray, with the potential to become the antagonist himself. Instead of ‘good versus evil', the epic fantasy genre probes the dualities between order and chaos, and the protagonist is aligned with both forces. The protagonist must overthrow the existing regime through an act of chaos, to bring new order to the world. Moreover, because the narration follows a constant cycling between order and chaos at the conclusions of the novels, epic fantasy sets up a model of eternal recurrence in its narration, that may be revisited by sequel series.

There are several models of time and space working in epic fantasy. Eternal recurrence suggests a cyclical model of time, instead of a linear one. But the genre also encodes tensed and tenseless times. When a prophecy is delivered in an epic fantasy novel, the prophet is indicating his or her ability to see into a (closed) future, thereby suggesting a fated world. Yet, the prophet rarely predicts that the protagonist will succeed, and instead only suggests the emergence of a protagonist who is capable of succeeding, thereby suggesting that the future is open and changeable. This binary is essential to the genre, as it combines the idea of the destined hero, with a free character who is allowed to make choices. The protagonist is able to navigate both tensed and tenseless time in the same moment.

Just as the protagonist travels different models of time, the central character is only able to cross into different spaces. The hero is the only character that is able to cross into the space of the underworld, or understand and accept death, thereby achieving a type of transcendence. The protagonist must be a character that is comprehends both death and life.  This transcendence will then allow him or her to return to the living world, and bring both order and chaos so that society can move to the next phase of the cycle.

Which such unstable chronotopes, it is in the language where fantasy fiction finds materiality. The “magic language” in fantasy fiction suggests that language is not mere semiotics, but instead, taps into the inner essence of being. Furthermore, the fantasy genre itself is often defined by its extraordinary world-building, and this technique is rooted in the details and materiality of the language of the author.

Whereas previous scholars in fantasy fiction have examined the genre in relation to other contemporary (realistic) novels, or have expounded on the history of the genre, this thesis will examine the binaries that are encoded in epic fantasy, in order to suggest that the binary is necessary for the narrative function of the texts.

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