Introduction (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
The term “fantasy” refers to all works of fiction that attempt neither the realism of the realistic novel nor the “conditional realism” of science fiction. Among modern critics, the primacy of the realistic novel is taken for granted. Realistic novels not only describe normality but also constitute the normal kind of fiction; fantasy, in dealing with the supernatural, seems to be almost perverse. Prior to the rise of the novel in the eighteenth century, however, this was far from being the case. Prose forms such as the imaginary voyage, the dialogue, and satire blurred even the basic distinction between fiction and nonfiction, let alone that between “realistic” and “fantastic” subject matter. The separation of realistic and fantastic began not with the casting out of fantastic genres from the literary mainstream, but rather with the withdrawal of a realistic genre—the novel—from a mainstream that had easily accommodated fantastic motifs.
(The entire section is 150 words.)
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