Review of The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre (1970)


Tzvetan Todorov (writer).

Todorov’s structuralist typology of literature with respect to the supernatural and, by extension, other large departures from reality. An intradiegetic departure is confirmed in the literature of “the marvelous”, suggested but disconfirmed in the literature of “the uncanny”, and suggested but neither confirmed nor disconfirmed in the literature of “the fantastic”. The Turn of the Screw (1898) is the central example of the latter.

I first read this in high school ca. 2001, when I wanted to write an essay about William Gibson. It was the only significant work of literary studies devoted to anything but conventional realism (hence anything like science fiction, fantasy and supernatural horror) and known at the time to any of my teachers and librarians. I re-read it a couple of years later, in a larger context, when fantasy and SF had cemented themselves in the cultural mainstream. It’s a lovely work.

References here: Sutter’s Cloud, Valis (1981), There Are Doors (1988), “The Paper Menagerie” (2011), Horse Girl (2020), The Invisible Man (2020).

text non-fiction